The Montgomery County Human Relations Commission voted last night to censure the county school board's four-member conservative majority because of the board's vote Thursday eliminating a requirement that all school employees take a course in black culture.
The action by the 15-member commission, the first of its kind in the commission's 16-year history, amounts to a "protest on behalf of the community," according to Charirman Joan R. Thompson. Commission members also passed a resolution asking the board to appear before them to discuss the implications of last week's decision regarding the black culture course.
"Despite the advice of the NAACP, the National Council of Christians and Jews and the [school system's] Minority Relations Monitoring Committee, the school board's majority has gone ahead and needlessly exacerbated racial tensions in the county," said commission member James E. Cronin.
The board's majority, made up of its president, Marian Greenblatt, and members Joseph Barse, Carol Wallace and Eleanor Zappone, passed what it called a compromise resolution Thursday that made the controversial 45-hour black culture course voluntary for the school system's 12,000 employes.
Upon learning of the human relations commission's censure vote, Greenblatt said last night, "they simply overreacted. We worked for a compromise and feel we've attained it."
The board's resolution established a mandatory one-and-a-half-day annual course in minority education for school employes and authorized its staff to develop television programs in Asian, black and Hispanic cultures.
But the board's action failed to mollify the many black parents and civic leaders who have threatened, among other things, to picket future board meetings.
The human relations commission, an advisory group to the county government, was founded in 1962 to investigate and conciliate public complaints of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin. Its members are appointed to three-year terms by the county executive. The vote last night came after a 30-minute debate.
Commission member John Nehemias was the only person to vote against the censure resolution. He argued that the commission should first attempt to establish a dialogue with the board's majority.
Cronin, who wrote the resolution, said the board majority has proven "that they will not listen to anyone. They need to know our position on this thing before we even try to talk to them."