Maureen Aversa stepped to the lectern with a piece of paper in hand during the Carroll County Board of Education’s public comment session Wednesday night. But she wasn’t reading for herself. She was speaking the words of Lucinda Diehl, a student at Winters Mill High School.
Diehl, through Aversa, said as a Chinese American girl she has faced both sexism and racism in Carroll County schools. By ignoring students’ struggles and not spending enough class time on the contributions people of color, the school system contributes to this problem, said Aversa reading from Diehl’s statement.
She added the voices of people of color, as well as queer Americans, are often suppressed.
“An Asian, Black or Hispanic child should not feel their skin or culture is a burden,” Diehl said through Aversa. “Sexual orientation and gender identity should not make a student feel less than.”
With the board set to discuss and approve its state-mandated strategic master plan, several speakers weighed in on the school district’s direction.
The 357-page document explains how “all students regardless of cultural background, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or other personal circumstances are afforded equitable access to resources that support their diverse learning needs.”
Before the meeting, a swarm of people clad in orange stood outside the school administration building with signs saying “equality is about respect across the board” and “diversity makes us stronger.” They were there to speak, or support the those who spoke, about equity for students of color and students in the LGBTQIA community.
One of the students outside was Sofia Cabrera, a sophomore at Liberty High School, who said she’s not only speaking about equity but also in favor of voting rights for the board’s student member. She and members of Carroll Kids for Equality were wearing black shirts with the name of their group on the front.
Standing near them were adults wearing white shirts with the words “Equality not Equity.” They belonged to the Concerned Parents of Carroll County group, which has spoken at previous board meetings criticizing mask policies, calling critical race theory racist and condemning equity.
One of the Concerned Parents of Carroll County members, Belinda Lawson, was first to speak during the board meeting’s public comment portion.
“We are not the enemy so stop treating Concerned Parents like we’re a bunch of terrorists,” Lawson said.
She claimed indoctrination is happening inside the schools and parents are fighting to save their children from it.
“We are not sending kids to school to be social justice warriors,” Lawson added.
Bryan Thompson, a fellow Concerned Parents member, said other parents are concerned with what is being said in the classrooms, and “advocates of teachers” are sharing “destructive ideas” like anti-racism, gender fluidity and victim culture that he thinks “are not healthy for our next generation.”
Sumiya Rahaman, a student at Westminster High School, said during the meeting that CCPS does not provide a safe place for students of color and there is a culture of hate. Black students are called the N-word and other racist comments are often overheard, she said.
One of the adult speakers was Tom Scanlan, a former teacher and candidate for the board of education was wearing orange that day. He said part of his message is to “let educators do their job” and not to waste time policing what’s said in a classroom.
Board member Ken Kiler said he’s concerned about some of the comments made about bullying and said students and parents need to know they can report incidents to school administrators.
Fellow board member Tara Battaglia said she has been wanting CCPS to implement a global citizen course where students discuss their differences instead of dividing and bullying.
Superintendent Steve Lockard said the district will continue to focus on providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students. And noted the board’s equity policy states every student has the access, opportunities, resources and educational rigor that they need for academic success and social emotional well-being.
“Every student is valuable to us,” he said.
During the business portion of the meeting, the school board did approve the master plan, officially called Every Student Succeeds Act.