Condom flap reveals childish school board

Howard County school board doth project too much in dispute over condom remark

Recently, I've been heartbroken watching current Howard County Board of Education leaders damage the sacred trust in a school system that I love so much. What a difference between the current school board leadership and the amazing educators, students, administrators, volunteers and senior management of the school system!

I read with disgust the recent letter written by Ellen Flynn Giles ("Howard board right to censure Vaillancourt over condom remark," Oct. 14). Actually, I was at the dinner in question and have an ethical obligation to clarify the facts.

In the play Hamlet, Polonius said, "The lady doth protest too much" when referring to the disingenuous Queen Gertrude. Unfortunately, a couple "Queen Gertrudes" on the school board "protest" others with trumped up charges, yet they are the guilty parties themselves.

Since being elected, Vice Chair Ann DeLacy has accused fellow member Cindy Vaillancourt of confidentiality breaches. Without any proof, the board sanctioned Ms. Vaillancourt for this allegation.

Then there is Chairwoman Giles' letter filled with disingenuous moral concerns for protecting youth. Ironically, there are numerous examples of Ms. Giles making inappropriate communications to youth including when she accused a Howard High senior of being "academically dishonest" for her testimony in support of weighted grades during a board meeting.

To clarify, Ms. Vaillancourt raised the issue of restrictions on purchasing condoms at the Hickory Ridge Giant before a group of school system leadership during a taxpayer-financed dinner recess of a board meeting. The student member of the board present was 18 years of age at the time and had already graduated from the Howard County Public School System. He was not a "child in our care" and he was in an elected position to be discussing school curriculum, public policy and public health. What ensued was not "palpable silence" but a discussion among those in attendance about the issue. If a policy violation was committed by participating in this discussion, then every single adult in the room — including the superintendent's staff and six members of the school board including myself and Ms. Giles — should be held "accountable."

For those who know me, they know I'm a pretty conservative fellow. Over the past four years, I'm the only board member who ever objected to instructional materials on grounds that they were objectionable for youth. If I thought that Ms. Vaillancourt's comments were inappropriate, I would've said something right there and then and not waited months for a complaint. I didn't object that night and neither did any others in the room. Ironically, the other student there was a "child" at the time and neither he nor his parents issued a complaint.

If it's true that this adult HCPSS graduate was offended, then I want to personally apologize to him. Beyond an apology, it's not a violation of board policy or law to offend an adult with a discussion about contraception. Judging from the community's reaction, the good people of Howard County clearly see the actions taken against Cindy Vaillancourt for what they are — adults being childish instead of adults acting in the best interests of children. Let's stop detracting from the important mission of Vision 2018.

Brian Meshkin, Ladera Ranch, Calif.

The writer was a member of the Howard County Board of Education in 2010-2014.

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