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Superintendent Dallas Dance's retweet controversy draws attention at school board meeting

Baltimore County Public Schools meet over controversial tweet. (WJZ)

Some parents and students fought back against criticism of Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dallas Dance at the school board meeting Tuesday night, saying that he was right to show concern for students who might be fearful the day after the election.

Dance came under criticism for a retweet he made on election night that asked educators to reach out to students who may have felt maligned during the U.S. presidential campaign.

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The tweet from Josh Starr, a former Montgomery County superintendent, said: "Educators: tomorrow pls show your muslim, black, latino, jewish, disabled, or just non-white St's, that you love them and will protect them!"

June Keating, a 10th-grade student at Towson High School, said she was not a fan of Dance's but that she felt compelled to speak up on his behalf. "The post he retweeted called for love and support, not for hatred, discrimination or divisiveness," she said. She said as a white student, she did not feel it was racist against white students, as some of Dance's critics have contended.

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"The rights of white students have not been threatened and therefore the superintendent was under no obligation to console" them, she said.

Brooks Morales, a Baltimore County parent and Baltimore City teacher, said there is a need to show compassion to children who are fearful.

"We have a president-elect who strikes fear in the hearts of many, including — and especially — children," she said. "In the days after the election, I have dried tears of kindergarten students who are afraid that their families won't be safe, and my response to them is the same that any of yours would be: You are safe at school."

Signs in the back of the school board meeting room said "Love for All Students" and "We Stand With Dallas Dance." On the other side were signs that read "Done with Dance" and "Remove Dance."

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None of those who spoke at the meeting criticized Dance. The board did not comment.

The tweet was posted on a Baltimore County parents' Facebook page and drew fire from some Baltimore County politicians. The debate continued with parents, legislators and school board members on both sides of the issue having fights over Facebook.

Some parents have suggested that Dance should resign over the incident or be fired. The majority of the board, however, appears unconcerned by his tweet.

Ann Miller, a conservative member of the board, wrote a letter to Dance shortly after the election saying that she didn't think it was appropriate for him to suggest teachers "have a discussion about the results framed in bigotry, fear, and hate, and that's why our non-white kids need to be reassured."

Miller, who has often criticized Dance, said she is concerned that his comments "are creating an environment of fear where there is no evidence it is warranted. People are welcome to their feelings, but that doesn't mean those unproven opinions should drive the type of conversation I think you are suggesting we as a school system should initiate. That borders on schoolhouse activism."

Cathy Forbes, a parent who has advocated for education causes over the past decade, criticized Miller's comments about Dance and said she has been an obstructionist on the board. Forbes said the board needed to refocus efforts on education.

A letter with more than 1,000 signatures from educators, alumni and parents was delivered Tuesday to Del. Joseph Cluster, who had called for Dance's resignation. "These children are not just at the margins, but they were also targeted in the 2016 election season," the letter said in part. "Therefore the statement encouraging others to ensure that they feel safe and loved is timely, relevant, and nondiscriminatory."

twitter.com/lizbowie

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