Upset over the dismissal of a Glenwood Middle School teacher and the treatment of some pupils who support her, a group of parents is planning demonstrations for next week.
About 15 parents and four pupils attended an organizational meeting last night at Glenwood Senior Citizen's Center on Route 97.
With the demonstrations, the group hopes to bring about the reinstatement of Kristine Lockwood, who has not been in class since Friday, and an independent review of her performance and dismissal.
It wants an end to what it termed "oppression of students" by having Glenwood Middle's principal, Dan Michaels, temporarily assigned to another school until the review is completed.
The group also seeks appointment of a "neutral party to be in the school to watch for infractions of the First Amendment."
Lockwood, a seventh-grade language arts teacher, was in her second year at Glenwood. In the fall, she ran unsuccessfully for Howard County school board on a platform that the the school system has serious weaknesses that are routinely overlooked, including treatment of special education students and support for new teachers.
The school board voted last week not to renew her contract for the next academic year, based on the recommendation of Superintendent Michael E. Hickey and Michaels.
Neither would say why Lockwood's contract was not renewed, noting the confidentiality of personnel records. But Lockwood released some records that showed Michaels thought she did not plan classroom lessons properly and often was unprepared.
Lockwood, who is not tenured, alleges she was not recommended for renewal as retaliation for her comments during the school board campaign and for grievances that she filed on the job.
The situation sparked several protests -- from parents and pupils who attended the school board meeting April 27 and from seventh-graders who staged a sit-in Friday after recess. Police were called both times, and a parent was arrested for trespassing during the sit-in. Several other demonstrations have been staged since then, including a news conference called by parents and pupil sit-ins with fewer participants.
Glenwood pupils who participated in the sit-ins and other demonstrations -- such as handing out fliers -- say they have been singled out by teachers and administrators, humiliated in class and intimidated.
"Kids are being retaliated against and they continue to be retaliated against," said parent Gail Smith, "and my kid is one of them. These kids are being singled out. They're being humiliated in class and the list goes on and on. What are we going to do about that?"
Members of the group, which includes former school board candidates and Lockwood, agreed to start a letter-writing campaign. Some have contacted Howard County Council members and state senators by telephone or by e-mail asking for help. Another called County Executive James N. Robey to discuss the situation.
One parent has applied for permits to hold at least three protests -- tentatively scheduled to take place near Glenwood Middle School, the county office building in Ellicott City and near state legislators' offices in Annapolis.
No clear date has been set for the protests, but a seventh-grader said more pupil sit-ins are planned this week.
Parents at the meeting said as long as the children are not disrupting classes, they have the right to express themselves.