For the second straight year, Charles County Board of Education member Margaret Young has declared that she will not support a resolution recognizing February as African American History Month.
"I cannot support any resolution that uses race and gender to compartmentalize history," she said at Tuesday's school board meeting. The board will vote on the resolution next month.
Last year, Young was the sole board member who voted against the resolution. Her stance then infuriated the African American community in Charles and sparked a wider debate on the role of any celebration that focuses on a specific group. Also last year, Young and fellow board member Collins A. Bailey declined to sign a proclamation designating March as Women's History Month.
The county public school system, like many others throughout the nation, historically has celebrated the two months with special lessons and activities. Young's refusal to sign the resolution on African American History Month last year sparked public criticism from members of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and the Charles County branch of the NAACP, who interpreted her comments as a sign that she wanted the celebration to end.
Young had said that her intent was not to abolish African American History Month but to urge the implementation of a year-round, fully integrated multicultural curriculum. At Tuesday's meeting, Young said the board should review the entire kindergarten to 12th grade history curriculum.
"Ethnic and minority contributions must be integrated into their appropriate and rightful places within our curriculum, not merely added or highlighted," she said to the hushed room.
"The purpose of history education is to teach children the mistakes and accomplishments of previous generations," she continued. "Segregation is a mistake from the past. It should not be modeled to our children through this resolution. If we want our children to be aware of the accomplishments and respect the rights of all people, then we cannot endure preferential treatment in our schools."
The rest of the school board appeared reluctant to comment on Young's statements, but after some hesitating, a few members did respond.
"I don't want to get into a controversy like we did last year, but . . . I respectfully disagree with my colleague," said Sharon W. Caniglia. She added that she disagreed with Young's assessment of the county's history curriculum.
"I think we've done a really super job over the last couple of years," she said.
At that point, board Chairman Wayne Cooper pointed out that Young's statements did not represent the view of the entire Board of Education. "The reflection of an individual is not the reflection of a board," he said.
Despite that, Caniglia said she wanted "to put it on the record that there are some misstatements" in Young's remarks.
The only other board member to comment publicly on Young's position was Donald Wade, the only African American member on the board.
"It would be really sad if I sat here today and did not say anything," Wade said. As support for the need to continuing observing African American History Month, he cited examples of racial hate crimes and continued disparities between minorities and nonminorities, such as the disproportionate number of black men in prisons.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Young raised concerns about a resolution that, if approved at the next meeting, would designate Feb. 7 to Feb. 11 as National School Counseling Week, asserting that the school board's agenda is often clogged with resolutions honoring each individual component of the school system. The school board typically votes at each meeting on several resolutions recognizing weeks that celebrate particular groups or the accomplishments of individuals in the county.
"I'm not sure we need any resolutions for these types of things," she said. "Isn't the mere fact that we employ guidance counselors in each of our schools enough of a recognition that we find them important?"
Mostly silent during the earlier discussion on the African American History Month resolution, Cooper said the board approves such national resolutions "out of respect" to particular groups.
"Some people may not get any recognition except for these resolutions," he said.