Dallas Dance clearly supports all Baltimore County children
As Donald Trump took the lead in the presidential race on election night, Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance retweeted someone else’s message calling for educators to show students who might feel threatened under a Trump administration — among them people who are Muslim, black, Jewish or disabled — “that you love them and will protect them.”
The move has since come to be known as “retweet-gate” by some in the county, given the outsized reaction to it. There has been a call for Dr. Dance to retract his social media retweet, to publicly apologize and even to resign — all based on a misconception that the message suggests Dr. Dance is inclined to support only marginalized children.
Let me clarify that grossly incorrect sentiment: The needs of white students have always been — and will continue to be — protected. That retweet was simply a reminder to stand up for those groups that have not always enjoyed the same privilege in our country.
I’d prefer to think that those who so grossly overreacted to this social media post from our young, black superintendent were led by their emotions and not by rational thought. To that end, I say to those politicians, community members and fellow members of the BCPS Board of Education who let their judgment be clouded: It’s OK, it can happen to the best of us. But it’s time to admit the mistake and move on.
I’m a proud, committed and openminded member of the Board of Education for Baltimore County Public Schools, with four children of color in our school system. I am not a trained educator, but it is undeniable to me that it is up to our educators to help protect all children from the ugliness of hate and teach them to reject it. And it is irrefutable that our marginalized groups of children feel unsafe and vulnerable, perhaps more so now than ever. How can you deny the existence of racism, sexism, homophobia or any other form of bigotry given so many examples of it? Just take a look at the animosity, hate and violence that has unfolded in the last year — or in the last week, with a racial slur scrawled in the bathroom of one of our state’s elementary schools, swastikas found in a Maryland middle school, and a Baltimore city middle school teacher losing her job this week after a parent posted video of the woman screaming at her largely African-American class, calling them “idiots” and using the N-word.
I’ve heard an “us vs. them” narrative more than a few times from my seat on the dais at the school board meetings, particularly during the past couple of months. But I still don’t know who this “us” and this “them” is. We serve every one of our 112,000 students here in the 25th-largest school system in the country. Collectively, our system’s graduation rate has risen to 88 percent, marking five years of consecutive gains, and the programs we offer are for the benefit of everyone: thousands of new student-learning devices, expanded ESOL and magnet programs, the placement of full-time social workers in high schools to support the social and emotional development of our students, and increased funding to help support our growing population of students with severe disabilities. In addition, 40 of our elementary schools have received “passports” for Spanish language instruction, and our facilities are being improved. In just the last year, we opened or renovated five school buildings, including two high schools and three elementary schools. In just the last five years we installed central air conditioning in 37 schools, and we have a plan to finish the remaining projects within just a few years. These are all system-wide initiatives, so who is “us” and who is “them” in Team BCPS?
My hope for the next few months and beyond is that we can all continue to talk and engage with one another. It has become even more essential to discuss our differences to take the mystery out of them, while at the same time recognizing we are one human race. We must spread compassion during these times of turmoil.
Our students need to know we are here for them. Parents need to know we are fully committed to the success of their children. And the community needs to know that the path to equity, inclusion, respect and communication is clear — and it is not going away.