Anger and sup­port af­ter tweet by schools head

Post-elec­tion mes­sage from Dance ig­nites con­tro­versy

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Liz Bowie liz.bowie@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/ lizbowie

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz af­firmed his sup­port of county school Su­per­in­ten­dent Dal­las Dance on Fri­day, af­ter Dance came un­der fire for tweet­ing a com­ment that ed­u­ca­tors should reach out to stu­dents who may have felt ma­ligned dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

Dance retweeted com­ments by Josh Starr, a for­mer Mont­gomery County su­per­in­ten­dent, who urged ed­u­ca­tors to “show your mus­lim, black, latino, jewish, dis­abled, or just non-white St’s, that you love them and will pro­tect them!”

Some par­ents and law­mak­ers called the tweet of­fen­sive, and they chas­tised Dance for push­ing a mes­sage they saw as racist against white stu­dents. Del. Joe Clus­ter, a Repub­li­can from Bal­ti­more County, said he found the lan­guage in­sult­ing.

“I am putting a let­ter to­gether ask­ing for his res­ig­na­tion,” Clus­ter said. “That view­point is racist and bi­ased to­ward white stu­dents.”

De­fend­ers of Dance be­gan re­spond­ing Fri­day morn­ing.

“Su­per­in­ten­dent Dance con­tin­ues to have my full sup­port,” Kamenetz said. “His sen­si­tiv­ity to­ward stu­dents with eth­nic­i­ties, re­li­gions, color, and gen­der that were un­der at­tack dur­ing this elec­tion should be com­mended, not rep­ri­manded.”

Af­ter the tweet was posted on a Bal­ti­more County par­ents’ Face­book page, it drew a long and steady stream of commentary from par­ents on dif­fer­ent sides of the is­sue. The con­tro­versy seemed to en­cap­su­late the di­verg­ing and an­gry voices of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

While some ex­pressed hurt or anger that white stu­dents had been left out, oth­ers said they be­lieved chil­dren of eth­nic back­grounds and re­li­gions that had been sin­gled out by Don­ald Trump might feel un­set­tled by his elec­tion. White stu­dents, they said, had not been tar­geted.

“I think Dr. Dance’s at­tempt to ad­dress the con­cerns of a di­verse pop­u­la­tion doesn’t threaten the whole stu­dent body, and when teach­ers are con­cerned about cul­tural and racial sen­si­tiv­ity in the class­room, ev­ery­one ben­e­fits,” said county par­ent Yara Cheikh. Dance re­sponded to crit­ics Thurs­day. “As the Su­per­in­ten­dent of one of the largest most di­verse school sys­tems in our coun­try, I al­ways lead from an eq­uity lens with an in­tense fo­cus on all stu­dent pop­u­la­tions and en­sur­ing they feel welcome and sup­ported,” he said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Com­ments were made that dis­en­fran­chised sev­eral groups of stu­dents we serve in Bal­ti­more County Pub­lic Schools. As our na­tion moves for­ward, it is our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure all stu­dents feel safe and know we are their ad­vo­cates.”

Dance’s spokesman said the su­per­in­ten­dent has no plans to resign.

Ann Miller, a con­ser­va­tive mem­ber of the county school board, wrote a let­ter to Dance late Thurs­day say­ing it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate for him to sug­gest teach­ers “have a dis­cus­sion about the re­sults framed in big­otry, fear, and hate, and that’s why our non-white kids need to be re­as­sured.”

Miller, a reg­u­lar critic of Dance, said she’s con­cerned that his com­ments “are cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment of fear where there is no ev­i­dence it is war­ranted.”

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