A routine letter sent to parents of a Maryland school district has landed an official in trouble for supporting Black Lives Matter. Dr. Andrea Kane, superintendent of schools in Queen Anne’s County, emailed the letter on June 5 in part to go over the 2019-2020 school year’s successes. However, a section calling for increased dialogue about racism has some parents accusing Kane of radicalizing their children.
A Routine Letter
Kane began the email by highlighting the recent “Green” certification of several schools in the district, as well as changes to the district’s summer meals program. However, Kane also used three paragraphs of the message to address ongoing controversy over the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
“Racism is alive in our country, our state, in Queen Anne’s County, and our schools,” Dr. Kane wrote.
She also took the opportunity to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“As a Black woman with two Black sons (whom I worry about in ways that only a mother of Black sons in America understands), when I say ‘Black Lives Matter’ it is not meant to disparage any other race,” wrote Kane. “It is an acknowledgment of the disparate brutality and overt racism that is only experienced by Black people in America, including me.”
A Swift Backlash
Dr. Kane’s statements immediately drew backlash from some parents in the Queen Anne’s community, many taking exception to the idea that racism persists within it. On June 14, they formed the Facebook group Kent Island Patriots in response.
The group’s administrator, Gordana Schifanelli, told the Baltimore Sun that Queen Anne’s County “has no significant problem with racial hatred.” The attorney and mother of three also alleged that Kane’s statements broke a Maryland statute prohibiting government employees from “engag[ing] in political activity while on the job during work hours.” In addition to the letter, Schifanelli cited Kane’s attendance at two Black Lives Matter rallies.
“Dr. Kane is absolutely entitled to her opinion, but promoting her political views by using her public school platform and her position is in direct violation of the law, and we want her to stop,” said Schifanelli. “We opposed the radical indoctrination in our schools.”
Politics or Human Rights?
Responding to Schifanelli’s claims, Kane acknowledged her support for Black Lives Matter and her attendance at the two peaceful rallies. However, she also said she supported BLM “not as a political movement, but as a human movement.”
The superintendent cited interactions with students of color in the 85% white school district. She said these included private meetings where minority students told her of experiencing discrimination by students and faculty.
“With such small percentages of students of color here in Queen Anne’s County, the isolation and impact caused by racism is amplified,” Dr. Kane said at a school board meeting following the letter. “I know this firsthand.”
Dr. Kane has also said it’s essential to include white students in conversations about racism.
“If we are going to talk about people’s experiences with racism in a safe way, it’s not just children of color who are involved in that,” she told the Baltimore Sun. “All children are involved in that.”
Support for Superintendent Kane
While the Kent Island Patriots group currently has over 2,000 members, another contingent of locals has emerged to support Dr. Kane. One of these is Lee Franklin, a retired teacher from the area. Franklin and her husband, Jeff, host the Sunday Supper Community, a weekly discussion group focused on racial matters in the US.
Franklin pointed to a 1994 study of schools in the area that found that minority students received more severe punishments than white students for similar offenses. According to Franklin, local schools never adopted recommendations to curb these trends.
Franklin’s Sunday Supper Committee has created a Change.org petition calling for Queen Anne’s County Commissioners to support Dr. Kane and her message, and to “denounce the vitriol currently aimed” at her. The petition currently holds more than 5,000 signatures.
On August 5, the school district released a statement to the Baltimore Sun addressing the weeks-long controversy. “The members do fully support Dr. Kane with her efforts to bring awareness of injustice and discrimination,” the statement said.
Following this statement, over 100 people attended a rally on August 9 at the school board supporting the superintendent. Attendees at the event, organized by Millenials Demanding Change, agreed that support for Black Lives Matter is a human rights issue rather than a political one, reported WMDT.
“Obviously I don’t feel that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is a justifiable reason for her to lose her job,” said Marco Garcia, a member of Millenials Demanding Change.
Preparing a Response
Meanwhile, the Sun reports that the Kent Island Patriots are planning their own rally in Queenstown, Maryland next month.
The group has also created their own Change.org petition to “[s]top the BLM from accessing our children and creating political indoctrination!” The petition currently has just over 900 signatures out of a goal of 1,000.
Andrea Kane Superintendent — Sources
The Baltimore Sun
Change.org – “Stop radicalization of our Public school children”
Change.org – “Support Dr. Andrea Kane and the Board of Education addressing racism in Queen Anne’s Co.”
WMDT – “Protesters gather at Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Board of Education in support of superintendent”
WMDT – “Queen Anne’s Co. Superintendent voices support for Black Lives Matter, comments face scrutiny and support”