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Baltimore County school board members: Inequality persists but progress has been made

Even as Baltimore County's population grows more diverse, the schools are becoming more segregated by race and class. In the fall of 2015, with overcrowding at several Catonsville-area schools, the county school board ordered boundary lines redrawn.

Members of the Baltimore County school board acknowledged that racial inequality persists in their schools and reaffirmed their ongoing work to make their schools diverse.

"This county is still segregated, but we have done a very good, diligent job of addressing race and saying words like 'inequality,'" Marisol Johnson, vice chair of the board, said during the group's meeting Tuesday night.

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Member Kathleen Causey urged the board to consider ways to address the inequality more broadly as part of a 10-year strategic plan. The board members' discussion of school segregation followed a Baltimore Sun article Sunday that examined a redistricting process that fell short of diversifying Catonsville-area schools.

The article was the first story in series called "Bridging the Divide" that  examined how Maryland schools are becoming more segregated even as the state population is diversifying.

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Maryland was the third-most-segregated state in the nation for black students in 2014, the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles reported last year.

Baltimore County schools Superintendent Dallas Dance was quoted in the Sunday story and said that board members would have fired him if he had tried to force integration. He said he believed in diversifying the schools but that effort had to come from and be supported by parents and community members.

Causey said Dance's job would not have been at risk had he tried to push for integration.

"He might have discovered that there are board members who experienced that sort of integration in their own public school experience, like me, and would want to engage," Causey said.

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The superintendent, however, has made strides in breaking down racial divides, Johnson said.

"To say that Dr. Dance does not address segregation, race, inequities, education gaps is completely false," she said. "I thank the superintendent. ... The disrespect that this black superintendent sees and I hear is astounding."

Board member David Uhlfelder praised the reporting, but said he was reserving full judgment until he read the rest of the series.

The four-part series continues through this week. Read it here.

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