February 26, 2010

ACLU invades Montgomery County

The ACLU is at it again. This time, they are demanding an apology from a Montgomery County, Maryland, public school teacher. Behind this demand is, as always with this federally-funded outfit, the bludgeon-like threat of a huge lawsuit.

What was the teacher’s offense? Apparently, the teacher threatened a student with detention if she refused—as she repeatedly did—to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher sent the student to the counselor’s office for her refusal to stand.

The ACLU immediately invoked the Supreme Court’s ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). That case is often cited as a hallmark of American civil liberties, especially remarkable because it was handed down while the United States was engaged in a world war to defend democracy.

But the Court in 1943 said that students cannot be required to salute the flag or recite the Pledge. That was quite right.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

The Court did not say that students could not be required to stand quietly while other students recited the Pledge of Allegiance. If we stop for a moment, we can all readily agree that it would be wrong to require, for instance, the children of legal resident aliens to pledge their allegiance to our flag. In the famed 1943 case, the parents of the children who declined to take part in the flag salute and pledge were Jehovah’s Witnesses. These people had a religious conviction that led them to regard pledging allegiance to the flag as a violation of the Commandment against making graven images. We should not force these students to violate their consciences.

February 25, 2010

MC can shorten school year

Spring break is in significantly less peril for public schools in Maryland after the State Board of Education decided Tuesday to allow schools to request waivers for the minimum number of days they must be in session this year.

A snowy winter has forced many school districts to come up with creative ways to make up for lost time, including lengthening class days and, in Frederick County, shaving two days off spring break. The state board's decision, which allows school systems to dip up to five days below the 180-day minimum school year, makes it likely that most other districts won't follow suit.

"Hopefully, we won't get any more snow," said Tanzi West Barbour, a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County schools, which has nine days to make up. A five-day waiver would extend its school year by four days.

Montgomery County schools, which had planned a 184-day school year, doesn't plan to extend its year at all -- for now.Loudoun County doesn't plan any changes either, a spokesman said.

February 22, 2010

Springbrook defeats Whitman, 69-67 in Montgomery County 4A boys basketball

Demetric Austin arrived at Springbrook this school year as a sophomore and immediately joined the starting lineup of the two-time defending Maryland 4A champions. Within a month, though, the 6-foot-6 forward had trouble finishing under the basket, and he found himself on the bench, looking for confidence.

"It got in my head," Austin said of his benching. "I went home saying to myself, 'I'm not there to be a ghost. I'm there to dominate.' "

Austin put his words into action in the Blue Devils' 69-67 home victory over Whitman on Thursday night. Austin scored a career-high 28 points, including 17 in the second half as the ninth-ranked Blue Devils erased a 17-point first-half deficit and held off a furious rally in the final 90 seconds by the Vikings, who missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.

Springbrook (18-1) had already clinched the top seed in the Maryland 4A West Region tournament, and Whitman (12-6) was assured of the region's third seed. Yet that didn't temper the pace or emotion of the game.

PHOTO: Springbrook's Demetric Austin, who scored a career-high 28 points, shoots a layup over Whitman's Charlie Waugh (10). (Ricky Carioti - Washington Post)

Federal Disaster Funds Heading To Maryland

President Barack Obama has declared eight Maryland counties disaster zones, making them eligible for federal aid. The funds will go towards storm damage during the month of December.

”"I expect emergency designation for the February storms to be approved soon after Gov. O'Malley makes his request and for Maryland to be reimbursed in a timely manner."
- Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Gov. Martin O'Malley issued a statement Saturday following Obama's official Disaster Declaration for Maryland's December snowstorm, which brought more than 20 inches of snow to many parts of the state: "Late yesterday, President Obama issued a Major Disaster Declaration for the December snowstorm, which allows the State and local jurisdictions to recover some of the extraordinary costs associated with that event," O'Malley said.

O'Malley also thanked Senators Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin Cardin, Leader Steny Hoyer, and Congressmen Dutch Ruppersberger, Chris Van Hollen and Elijah Cummings for their hard work over these past several weeks to ensure recovery of funds related to both the December as well as the most recent February storms, as state and local governments continue to struggle with snow removal costs during this extreme winter season.