The Baltimore County school board joined others in condemning a state delegate’s Facebook comments, saying the board “strongly denounces any form of violence or bullying, either direct or indirect against students or employees.”
The board’s statement, released late Wednesday, follows the remarks of leaders of two NAACP chapters who said earlier this week they were outraged by about Del. Robin Grammer’s Facebook comment that they and others say evokes the use of lynching for public school officials.
Grammer, an Essex Republican, made the comment in a Facebook group called BCPS Parents & Teachers for Equitable Facilities & Portable AC, responding to a post on Friday by Michael Darenberg, a member of the Baltimore County School Board Nominating Commission.
Darenberg suggested that remaining members of disgraced Baltimore County Schools CEO Dallas Dance’s leadership team should resign, saying: “If you do, we stop digging up dirt on you and you can move to another school system and take advantage of them.”
“No deal,” Grammer replied. “Hang them high and leave it for the village to see.”
In the statement, the school board said it did “not approve of violent threats directed at anyone in our school community” and that it wanted to work toward greater equity.
School board chair Kathleen Causey said the statement was in response to the Grammer comments. “This is something board members felt was important to set a positive tone,” she said.
Baltimore County NAACP President Anthony S. Fugett said he intends to speak to members of the county’s General Assembly delegation to determine whether the elected officials intend to hold their colleague accountable.
“This is not the right thing for a delegate to be doing,” Fugett said. “You would think an elected official would be the last person who would want to incite something like this.”
Grammer said Tuesday he removed the comment because such language is “not what I’m about.” He had previously said the comment was “absolutely not” a reference to lynching.
“Lynching is reprehensible,” he said Tuesday. “It goes against everything I stand for and my record in Annapolis makes that clear. Even the people who are critical right now would agree that’s not what I’m about.”
Grammer said what he meant to say is that school officials who violate the public’s trust should be held accountable and not allowed to “sweep it under the rug” by leaving the district.
Ray Moseley, president of the Randallstown NAACP, called the initial comment “inexcusable.”
“It’s despicable the way he expressed himself in this day and age,” Moseley said. “When a public official feels he has the right to say anything, we have reached a very low tide here.”
He pointed out that the House of Delegates in February censured Democratic Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County for her use of a racial slur, which members said “brought dishonor to the entire General Assembly of Maryland.”
In a Facebook post Monday, Del. Stephen Lafferty, a Towson Democrat, called his colleague’s comment “grossly inappropriate, intolerable, insensitive” and said it “suggests lynching since he insinuates that all of those who worked in the BCPS with Dance are criminal and unaccountable.”
“This is not the wild west nor is it a time when any suggestions of lynching should be acceptable,” Lafferty wrote. “He clearly fails to understand the implications of his comments in a school system that is majority-minority and where the superintendents during the past fifteen years have been African Americans.”
The Facebook conversation that Grammer was involved in asserts that others in the school system should be prosecuted for crimes besides Dance.
Dance pleaded guilty last year to perjury for failing to disclose to the public and the school board that he earned $147,000 in consulting jobs while superintendent. He went to jail for four months. No other school official has been accused of a crime. And an audit completed earlier this spring did not find other wrong doing by school officials.
“Dance’s behavior was illegal, unacceptable and damaging to the BCPS,” Lafferty wrote. “No one else has been implicated and it is time for Del. Grammer and others to move on and allow the new Superintendent to begin his work.”
The school board last week named a new superintendent, Darryl L. Williams, passing over Interim Superintendent Verletta White. White, who worked under Dance as chief academic officer, will continue as interim superintendent until June 30.
Cheryl Pasteur is a new member of the county’s first-ever elected school board and one of its two African American members. The former principal of Randallstown High School said she was saddened that the school system has to deal with such comments, especially in a state with a history of lynching.
“I find this absolutely reprehensible,” Pasteur said. “It’s breathtaking.”
Even if Grammer did not intend to evoke lynching, Pasteur said the comment still endorses violence, a sentiment that she said will worry her as she attends board meetings open to the public.
Moalie S. Jose, another new board member, agreed.
“It’s alarming that an elected official would make a threat of violence like that,” Jose said.