The civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Education is investigating allegations that recent decisions by Montgomery County officials to close schools and alter boundaries in the Montgomery Blair High School area may have violated U.S. law against racial discrimination.
Dewey Dodds, director of the federal office, notified Montgomery school officials Jan. 5 that his office will review charges that the school board decisions "increase racial isolation" at Montgomery Blair and "have resulted in a denial of equal educational opportunity for minority students" there.
The investigation will focus on the effects of decisions to funnel students from elementary schools to Einstein High School north of the Beltway instead of to Blair, which is in Silver Spring. The county could be denied federal funds if found guilty of discrimination.
Such an outcome is unlikely according to Ronald Gilliam, Dodd's deputy. Virtually all cases, he said, are resolved without such drastic action. He said a team of investigators will travel here to discuss the complaint, filed by an unidentified individual, with local educators.
"I'm very glad somene filed," said Barbara Cantor, chairman of the Blair Advisory Council, a committee of citizens in the Takoma Park-Silver Spring area. "A lot were going to file but never did. So much is in limbo right now . . . "
School Supt. Edward Andrews currently is at work on a report reviewing three alternative plans for Blair. He noted that two prior complaints concerning the board's actions involving other schools were dismissed last year but declined to predict the outcome of the latest investigation.