A part-time teacher has been reprimanded and will be transferred to another position in the Montgomery County schools after students said that she called the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a communist, a school spokesman said yesterday.
In a press release issued last night, Superintendent Wilmer S. Cody said Karen J. Collins, a part-time music teacher at Bel Pre Elementary in Silver Spring, received a written reprimand from Principal Aileen Craig. She will enroll in the school system's human relations course and has been placed on leave with pay until she is transferred, Cody said.
"Although the specific statements made by Collins are in dispute," Cody's release said, "the investigation confirms that Mrs. Collins did express her displeasure at having to implement a special program about Dr. King as prescribed by the school system . . . . "
School spokesman Bill Henry said it was unclear whether she would be transferred to another teaching position.
Collins could not be reached for comment.
Henry said the disciplinary action follows a two-day personnel department investigation begun Thursday into comments Collins, who is white, allegedly made a week earlier to a black teacher about Collins' preparations for a program to observe King's birthday. Henry said the conversation was overheard by some sixth grade students.
The investigation was begun after a parent of one student sent a letter last week to Craig, according to Montgomery County NAACP President Roscoe Nix.
The NAACP had asked that Collins be dismissed if officials determine that she did call King a communist. Nix said yesterday that he still thinks she should be dismissed.
School spokesmen said this week that Collins did not call King a communist but that she said she had read that King had communist friends and was a communist supporter. Last night's release said Collins' attitude was "based upon an article she had read" stating that King was supported by communists.
Cody added in the statement that "while Mrs. Collins has the constitutional right to express her personal opinions, her expressions cast doubt on her ability to successfully implement the program and goals of this school system."
Nix said he did not know if the NAACP or the parents would seek further action.