School Board Flirting With Concerning Changes
This letter is written with all due respect to Editor Steve Green and in response to the editorial he penned in “Between the Lines,” The Dispatch, November 24. Editor Green writes of a proposal made by BOE member Dr. Jon Andes that the BOE consider requiring school media specialists to create an “older teen collection for ‘cringe-worthy’ books.” This collection would, presumably, have to be shelved separately from the main library stacks and would require parental permission for access to them.
Dr. Andes’ suggestion came at the end of a long and horrendous public comment section of the November meeting of the Board of Education, during which one parent expressed strong feelings that his four children should not have to attend a school with trans or LGBTQ students. Grant Helvey, former candidate for County Commissioner, District 5, made a remark that he hoped the Board of Education would soon lose its “fascination” with LGBTQ issues and begin to “view those issues the way we now view slavery.” (A transcript of his remarks is available online as is the livestream video of the Board of Education meeting.)
At one point the public comments became so disturbing that student Board Rep Treston Melvin, a trans and LGBTQ student from PHS, left the room. Treston must certainly have felt targeted by many of the cruel and debasing comments.
Many accusations were made by that evening’s speakers: some accusing teachers of indoctrinating students, some accusing the Board of Education of promoting pornography. Some were diatribes against inclusion, equity, and diversity. Some showed disdain for social-emotional learning, as well as for a modern curriculum. The extent to which commenters, in praise, mythologized the segregated public schools of the 1950s was astonishing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the US high school graduation rate in 1950 was 34.3%. In 2019, the last year for which statistics are available, that number had grown to 90.1%.
Significant progress has been made in the area of public education. I am not certain that progress is what the book banners want. Nor do they want compromise. Segregating books about LGBTQ issues, and referencing them as “cringe-worthy,” will not satisfy those who spoke at that meeting. The gesture of segregating books will only serve to embolden a very vocal and persistent minority to further push their agenda, which probably looks a good deal like what is happening in Florida.
My view on the dangers of this suggestion was strengthened by a motion made by Board member Katie Addis after the majority of the public had left the meeting. The motion would give ALL “stakeholder/taxpayers” in Worcester County the privilege of challenging any book in any school in the county. Dr. Andes, asking for clarification, did extract from Mrs. Addis the assurance that the motion would be limited to “residents” of Worcester, then seconded the motion.
To me, red flags were flying everywhere and yet not a single member of the BOE seemed to see them. That motion should have been immediately shut down. If passed, it will allow “residents” who send their kids to Worcester Prep or The Salisbury School, to local Christian schools or who homeschool their children, the same privilege as parents and grandparents of kids who actually attend a Worcester County public school: the privilege of challenging any book in any school in Worcester County. That motion is like a ‘Welcome’ mat to Moms for Liberty. That the motion was tabled for discussion did little to assuage my fears that the common tactic of conservative extremists to beat the rest of us down into an exhausted submission just might be working in Worcester County. For all of our sakes, I hope not.
Assateague Gateway Needs Protection
I was delighted to read in your newspaper (Open Invitation to Discuss, Nov. 24, 2023) that Mr. Todd Burbage now wants to publicly discuss what he intends to do if his request to remove environmental restrictions limiting further development of his Ayres Creek property is approved by Maryland’s Critical Areas Commission.
Unfortunately, instead of telling readers about his intentions, he opted to muddy the conversation by attacking the messenger. Yes, I have publicly pointed out he is not entitled to develop the property commercially or even more intensely than he has already done. And, that he can’t develop further unless he gets a public subsidy in the form of an extension of the County’s wastewater treatment facilities.
The development limitations he wants eliminated were put in place in 2002, long before Mr. Burbage purchased the old, bankrupt golf course. His plan for a new campground failed, and all we know about his current plan is he wants to make more money than is possible with the development restrictions in place.
The site isn’t scheduled for sewer service now, but there is ample evidence publicly funded sewage treatment service is extended by Worcester County when prominent developers ask. Already, a budget request–$6 million and more—is being presented to the County Commissioners for Mystic Harbor sewerage system upgrades needed to fuel development along the Rt. 611 corridor. The taxpayers, not the developers, will pay.
I welcome Mr. Burbage’s recent offer to talk, but I must say he is simply wrong when he claims those opposed to his request have not asked what his intentions are. We asked when his application went before the County Commissioners in 2021. They mumbled he doesn’t have to disclose.
We asked again when Worcester County submitted the application to the Maryland Critical Area Commission, pointing out that the County could not do a valid environmental assessment without knowing what was being proposed. We asked again after the application was withdrawn and quickly resubmitted because the resubmission said nothing more than the original.
I also asked Mr. Burbage in an email on October 30, suggesting he attend the Critical Area Commission’s public hearing that evening in Snow Hill “and tell your neighbors about your plans.” I haven’t seen the email Mr. Burbage quotes in his letter. However, the whining email I refer to was sent October 30 by Mr. Burbage to one of his friends. A copy was forwarded to the South Point Association. It reads:
“Remember when we could ride 3 wheelers and dirt bikes from the Golf Course to the boat ramp unobstructed? I happy that all these people are here, but Jesus Christ, they sure don’t remember when they built their houses Additionally- not one has ever asked what I want or why. Never-zero. Not one.”
I think those words meet Webster’s definition of whining.
Mr. Burbage didn’t attend the public hearing and his attorney did not elaborate on his intentions. At the recent fundraiser honoring his attorney, Mr. Burbage did proclaim he will prevail, predicting that when the full Critical Area Commission meets next month in Annapolis its subcommittee’s recomendation to reject his request will be overruled. Perhaps.
The facts we know are these: Mr. Burbage’s supporters in Worcester County already gave him special legislation so he could lease the shuttered golf club, a maneuver that gave him the opportunity to use the old septic system for the homes he has and is building on land that won’t perc. The septic system has no more capacity. His attorney said it is likely he will seek zoning for more intense commercial development if environmental restrictions are eased.
Gambling your name alone can get a rule change doesn’t mean Mr. Burbage is entitled to do or build whatever he wants. He needs the limits on development removed so he can increase the return on his speculative investment. And he needs a wastewater solution.
We have never been unwilling to meet and listen if Mr. Burbage wants to publicly disclose his plans. This should be a public conversation, because the conservation protections are a promise made to the people by the government. The promise is what Mr. Burbage wants reversed.
Most if not all of us residing on the peninsula south of Mr. Burbage’s property live here because we prefer natural, open space to the concrete, traffic and congestion in West Ocean City. We are taxpaying residents, not tourists. We like the gateway to Assateague as it is now.
School Safety Suggestions
(The following was addressed to Worcester County Board of Education members.)
I know you are all engaged in one of the, if not the, most important undertakings that you can do — securing our schools, protecting our most treasured loves, our children. Options have been considered but allow me to offer another. To some of you this option will be abhorrent and too emotional to consider. I think it will be the most effective.
Try to get in the very disturbed, sick mind of a would-be assassin. For reasons only known to him or her, they have a desire to kill and maim and bring misery to as many people as possible with as little risk to themselves as possible. They look for an easy target that will offer no opposition. I think we can safely assume they have thought the assault through and calculated the risks to themselves. They fully understand that a school is a “gun-free-zone”. This means that the bullets they project will not be returned to them. They know that the overwhelming number of people are good, law-abiding citizens and will not violate a gun-free zone. This will give the would-be perpetrator a secure, enabling feeling and will enable them to feel the horrendous act will probably go down unopposed. When you think about it, this line of security and reasoning is quite realistic. Who will stop them or even slow them down, reducing the carnage? As things are right now, no one.
Posting a sheriff or an armed guard in the school will be known to the assassin. The inherent problem with this is that the killer will know his first target. Kill the guard and he is home free among “gun-free-zone” law abiders.
The next thing I am going to suggest will immediately illicit a negative emotional response from some, due to the fact that they have a distorted, unrealistic notion of what the organization is, its history and what it stands for. The National Rifle Association, the oldest civil rights organization in America, has a program to train school personnel in the safe and proper handling of a fire arm in schools. The cost effective training course is dedicated to those schools that want to harden their resistance to mad killers and effectively protect their students. The operative term here is “effectively”!
I propose the board solicit school staff personnel who volunteer to be licensed and trained in the safe proper use of a concealed weapon. These weapons will be concealed on these staff members at all times that they are on school grounds. The names of these staff members, (Notice I did not say teachers?) will be kept as confidential as possible. The would-be gunman will know that he or she stands an excellent chance having fire returned to them from defenders he has no way of determining. Some will say, “So we are going to have a “shoot-out”? Yes, but this time the bullets will be going the other way and not last very long for a trained gun user will also be trained in accuracy. Just think how the carnage can be reduced.
Remember the adages: “A good man with a gun always stops bad man with a gun,” This applies to law enforcement and the military. Also, “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”
I know some will call me a nut and say that this is ridiculous. I will call you a shallow thinker who allows emotions to control your ability to think logically. Consider this, how many school shootings do you hear about in Israel who are surrounded with thousands who want to annihilate Jewish children? Some will say that this is a poor analogy and their situation is different. Think about it deeper, both there and hear we have killers that want to kill as many as possible. In Israel the teachers are armed.
Also consider how many American facilities are protected with armed guards but our children in schools are not. Why is that? Some will say that there are too many guns we don’t need more. Yes we do, we need them in the hands of good people that will use them to protect you. Now we have the good people, AKA law abiding, who are not armed, which leaves the bad people, AKA outlaws to carry them. People are too emotional about guns and fail to read how many people are saved from death and destruction each year because a good person had a gun to protect themselves and others? Guns are tools for protection not just tools for killing. There very possession, not firing, deters crime. This is a statistic you don’t hear about.
In conclusion can I suggest the Worcester County Board of Education, maintaining an open mind, contact the NRA and learn what they have to offer in terms of training for school personnel. You will be surprised.
God forbid we have a school shooting. But if we do, would any of you who oppose this solution and stopped it implementation feel any guilt? If not so much for the actual incident but for the extent of the carnage which could have been lessened?
Dennis W Evans