The Harford County NAACP's charges that the school system discriminates in hiring and promotion of blacks, and in its severe discipline of black students, hit like a bombshell.
With black members sitting on the school board and black teachers and administrators in ready evidence, Harford has come a long way from the 1960s when separate black and white school systems were integrated after much delay. There was little immediate indication of the broad-based discontent reflected in the accusations.
While the Harford branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People may have some legitimate concerns, the way in which the organization delivered its message, and its exhaustive list of every imaginable complaint without specifics, was not designed to encourage a cooperative response.
The minority rights group sent a letter three months ago to the state schools superintendent demanding an investigation. The letter was referred to the county school administration and the school board, who said they had not been informed of the grievances. NAACP President Joseph Bond contended that he went directly to the state because his group's policy is "to go to the top."
About 5 percent of Harford County's teachers are black, while 6 percent of the population and 10 percent of the student body are black. Black principals and teachers are not confined to predominantly black schools, either.
Quotas are a uniformly bad solution to discrimination. We hope that is not what the NAACP is asking for. But Harford and other school systems must recognize the need for diversity in the teacher corps, to reflect the outside world to students.
Strains of racism persist in our society, without question, and unfair or insensitive personnel decisions are sometimes made. George D. Lisby, a former black educator and immediate past president of the county school board, is as aware as anyone of those possibilities. But he rejected the NAACP's assertions of discrimination, while noting that more progress in minority hiring and promotion could be made. A meeting with school officials to discuss details was postponed by the NAACP last week. That meeting is badly needed to clear the air and determine the validity of the charges.