The following statement was delivered by HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano at the Board of Education virtual meeting, December 22, 2020, as part of the Superintendent’s Remarks:
Recently my staff and I have witnessed online behavior and comments on social media that have propelled me to address a multitude of unconscionable acts of bullying by adults in our community.
Litigation was issued against the Board of Education to eliminate the voting rights of the Student Member of the Board, fueled by the disagreement of some with the results of recent Board votes. The lawsuit will run its course through the legal system in due time, however, several adults in our community have felt empowered to harass, demean, and aggressively bully our current student Board Member, Zach Koung, and I find these actions to be reprehensible.
We, as Howard County residents, should be mortified that a community that prides itself on civility has neighbors that would stoop so low as to harass any person, but particularly a student in order to silence their voice.
I admire the grace and class in which Zach has handled the public attacks that he has received, but it is my responsibility to act any time one of my students is attacked.
The position of Student Member of the Board is clearly established in state law and the Howard County Student Member of the Board position has had voting rights since 2007. But now, because of policy disagreements, people feel empowered and justified to bully and eliminate the voice of a student simply to change the results of a democratic vote.
I fully value the voice of our students and I have placed increased attention on enhancing the opportunities to encourage more students to express their opinions. The pinnacle of that voice and representation comes via the role of the Student Board Member. That voice should not be squelched or silenced but enhanced and encouraged not just by me – but by all adults. As a staunch defender of students I will continue to speak out against those who are harassing our current Student Board Member.
I expect that my remarks today will ruffle some feathers and I encourage those who take exception to my words to look in the mirror and ask yourself why my defense of a student being bullied by adults would ever cause you concern. It is my job as superintendent to protect all of our students and I believe that I share that role with every adult in the community.
In conclusion, I call on all members of our community – no matter your opinion of recent Board votes – to lend your voice to mine and speak loudly against those who wish to do harm to a student. In this season of peace and goodwill, let us all reflect on how we can be better people now and in the new year. Our young people are watching and our actions should always speak louder than our words. We’re better than this. Don’t choose civility – practice it.