Robert Small is a parent in Towson, Md., a Baltimore County town known in the area for the quality of its schools. Several years ago, the district quietly adopted the national Common Core standards, a group of educational “standards” created by the federal government and backed by big industry that have been adopted by governors in 45 states and bring big dollars to school districts.
When the school board held a meeting to answer the questions of parents about Common Core last week, Small showed up in the hopes of getting just that: answers. But questions had to be submitted in writing, and real discussion of any kind was not welcomed. When Small stood up to ask about the alarmingly low performance metrics of the standards — interrupting Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance — things got contentious. From the Baltimore Sun’s account of the incident, this is what happened:
When Small started speaking, Dance told him that he believed his question would be answered, but Small continued to talk. After a couple of minutes, a security guard confronted Small, saying, “Let’s go. Let’s go.”
Small, 46, asked him if he was an officer and the security guard, an off-duty Baltimore County police officer, showed him a badge. The officer grabbed Small’s arm and pulled him toward the aisle. The audience gasped and some people sitting nearby got out of their seats.
As he was being taken out, Small said, “Don’t stand for this. You are sitting here like cattle.” Then he said, “Is this America?”
The officer pushed Small and then escorted him into the hall, handcuffed him and had him sit on the curb in front of the school. He was taken to the Towson precinct and detained. Small was charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, which carries a fine of $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison, and disturbing a school operation, which carries a fine of $2,500 and up to six months.
The police report said that Dance’s chief of staff, Michele Prumo, who was standing on the side of the auditorium, had asked the officer to walk over and calm Small down. The report also said Small had attempted to push the officer away when he first confronted him.
One of the attendees at the meeting took a video of the event. Watch it for yourself and see what you think. Did this justify an arrest? Did Small actually at any point assault the police officer? (If he did, I certainly can’t see it):
After the story — and the video — garnered national attention through conservative news outlets and social media, the Baltimore County prosecutor’s office dropped the charges. But here’s the rub: the prosecutor’s office didn’t drop the charges because they were found to be without merit. In a statement to local radio station WBAL, State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger claimed that:
” it was clear that Mr. Small violated the rules of the meeting and disrupted the meeting. It was also clear that the Officer acted appropriately and did have probable cause to make an arrest on both charges.
“The Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office has just received and reviewed the facts of this case. In the interest of justice, further prosecution will not accomplish anything more. Therefore, the charges have been dismissed.”
If the officer “acted appropriately” then I’m not sure how justice is served by not pursuing the charges. Of course, it’s clear to me that the charges are baseless. The accused broke the meeting rules, he did not commit a crime.
Every time something like this happens, it sticks in the back of people’s minds. As it was, only a couple of voices were raised in protest at Small’s treatment by the school board. Now, with people realizing that the government can and will levy serious charges against people speaking out against their pet programs, they are likely to be even more reticent to speak out. Coincidentally, this story hits at the same time as a Gallup Poll indicating that a majority of Americans believe the government has too much power.
Intimidation by government has no place in a free society, and Common Core deserves all the scrutiny that can be thrown at it. From the teachers resigning over the changes to what they must teach to the astonishingly poor academic standards it sets to the troubling data gathering aspects of the program, parents have a right to be wary. These standards are being adopted in many Catholic schools as well, and I’ve even heard rumors that some states may impose them on homeschoolers. Even if they don’t, standardized testing — like SATs — will be re-tooled to reflect the Common Core initiative.
In my opinion, Robert Small is a hero for standing up and challenging the Baltimore County school board. I hope that more Americans find the courage to stand up against the imposition of Common Core in their schools.