06.21.2013 0

How could this happen here?

By Rick Manning

People across the nation can learn from the wake-up call that residents of Calvert County, Maryland received in the last month — ignore your local elections at your own risk.

In the past month, two separate faux gun incidents have rocked this small Washington, D.C. exurban community that features a tobacco leaf on the county flag.  Ranked as the 13th wealthiest county in the nation as measured by median household income, Calvert’s population is under 100,000, and holds the distinction of having Republicans hold all five of its county commission seats.

This relatively conservative bastion in the midst of a state known for liberal extremism was hit hard when it became national news that a kindergarten boy, whose mom is a school teacher in Calvert County schools, was held for two hours, questioned intensely by his school principal, all because he brought a cap gun to school.  The school principal was later reported to have said that if the five year old had brought caps for the gun, he would have been punished all the more severely.

The follow up news that the child’s ten day suspension was not being lifted by the school district administrators at a time when cooler heads should have prevailed, has put the issue squarely in the laps of the elected school board.

Another similar issue erupted at the same time, as a fifth grader in Calvert County was suspended because he had the audacity to say that if someone were to attack his school, he would like to have a gun with him so he could save everyone.

Horrors! One kid disobeys his parents and takes an obvious toy to school and gets terrorized by the principal to such a degree that he pees his pants.  Do the administrators call the parents immediately, like any person with a lick of common sense would do?  No, they hold and traumatize the kid like a criminal for two hours with zero parental notification.

The other kid engages in a standard superhero fantasy, resulting in a county sheriff at their door demanding to know if they have any guns in the house.

How did a small, rural community where hunting and fishing are common, and motorcycles and tattoos even more common, end up with school administrators who are so far out of touch?

As a resident of Calvert County, this question is vexing and troubling.

The problem lies in the nature of elected school boards.  People know their kids’ teachers, and probably the principal at the school, but most don’t get too worked up over who gets elected to the school board.  In fact, in Calvert County, in spite of its heavily Republican leaning, the school board is dominated by Democrats, and it has been difficult to even find a Republican willing to run.

The painful lesson for everyone across the nation who believes that “it can’t happen here” is that it can.  It can if people ignore the importance of their local governance as they fight for limited government on the state and national levels.

If someone believes in local control, it becomes all the more important that they focus their efforts on making certain that the control in their localities reflects their own beliefs and standards.

The cruel lesson being taught through the tears of a five year old, and the fear imposed on an idealistic fifth grader is that eternal vigilance must start with city hall, the county administration building and yes, the local board of education.  Otherwise, you might find that one day you wake up, and no longer recognize the place you call home.

Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is a former Chesapeake Beach, Calvert County, Maryland town councilman and is the Vice President, Public Policy & Communications for Americans for Limited Government.

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