Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 1, 2023

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – December 1, 2023

At last week’s Worcester County Board of Education meeting, Board member Dr. Jon Andes, the former 16-year superintendent of schools, suggested a potential compromise measure after hearing from citizens concerned about some books available to students in libraries. Andes suggested the school system consider creating “an adjustment to the policy” to have media specialists create an older teen collection for the “cringe factor” books. The collection would only be available to students who have parental permission.

I opined here last week the idea had merit for consideration. While still applauding the effort to seek a middle ground on the controversial nationwide topic of book bans, the concept of separating out certain books, such as those discussing and featuring alternative lifestyles, is going too far. I have heard the criticism of the position and agree it’s wrong for the school system to create separate areas. A standalone section of books on LGBTIQA+ issues will unnecessarily separate the interested students, leading to even more alienation of those whose lives are different. It also could be argued it’s censorship, a claim the Maryland Association of School Librarians made in a statement after Cecil County adopted a similar policy. A statement read, “Currently, Cecil County requires students to have a signed permission slip to access the ‘Older Teen Collection.’ Worcester County is also exploring this model. The practice of using permission slips and prejudicial labeling as a mechanism for controlling access to certain titles is based on value judgements amounts to censorship. MASL is concerned that using permission slips to access restricted titles will spread …”

I do not think books should be banned in public school libraries. There are safeguards available to parents who do not want their students reading about certain things in books from libraries. However, the irony is the majority of today’s teens will not seek out a book on a topic they want to learn more about at their school libraries. They will first privately turn to their phones and computers and investigate themselves.

At last week’s school board meeting, it was disturbing to hear a few speakers maintain there is some sort of indoctrination taking place inside public schools because certain books are available to students. The claim is not accurate and lacks evidence to prove there is some sort of liberalizing and brainwashing of kids taking place in local classrooms. In the week since the board meeting, a new group of concerned citizens has been formed called Worcester United. An organizational meeting was held this week and the intent seems, at the most basic level, to offer some balance to the school board. On its Facebook page, Worcester United says, “the primary purpose of this group is to support all students by ensuring an inclusive school environment.”

Media specialists are fully capable of handling these decisions under the current protocols in place. There is a system in place that’s fair and should be allowed to continue. The school board is wise to follow its earlier decision to not engage in book banning and be weary of any changes to current policies.

The judicial process continues to play out in Gavin Knupp’s 2022 death by hit and run.

Last August the case was dismissed by a visiting judge in Worcester County Circuit Court because he believed the case should have first been heard at the District Court level. State’s Attorney Kris Heiser immediately filed an appeal to Appellate Court of Maryland

The alleged motorist, Tyler Mailloux, is now represented by the Office of the Public Defender. The Public Defender filed a response to the Office of the Attorney General’s brief last month. With both briefs now filed, the Appellate Court of Maryland can now schedule oral arguments before a written decision is issued.

In a statement, Heiser explained her reasoning for filing charges against Mailloux at the Circuit Court level.

“We appealed the judge’s decision in the Mailloux case because we think it is incorrect (and so does the Attorney General, as you can tell from reading their brief) and we believe the circuit court is the most appropriate court to hear the case,” she said. “We have always charged these types of offenses in the circuit court, and have continued to do so since the judge’s decision in Mailloux was handed down.  Charging in circuit court is not a new legal theory – it is something prosecutors across the state in every single jurisdiction use every day.  One of the main reasons prosecutors charge in circuit court is so that the victim’s family is not subjected to two trials.  Defendants have an automatic right to appeal district court cases to the circuit court if they don’t like the outcome, and so the result can often be two bites at the apple for the defense.  You can imagine how much more traumatizing two trials would be for witnesses and the victim’s family.”

It’s good news the Worcester County Fair could be getting funding and manpower support from the county government in future years. The Fair Board does a great job with its limited resources pulling off this event each year, but the county and board collaborating could greatly improve and grow the event.

How much money the county will devote to the fair is unknown, but it was stated this week the funding ask would be more than the $38,500 the county allocates to the Harbor Day at the Docks event each year. With the commissioners support last week for a partnership, county staff will now engage with the Fair Board, starting with whether the approved date of July 12-15, 2024, is flexible as there was some initial comments the John Walter Smith Park may be better than Byrd Park, used this year.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.