Muslims Protest Shift by the School Board

January 9, 2007

Author: Gina Davis

Source: The Baltimore Sun,0,6308888.story

Area Muslim leaders are protesting a change in the Baltimore County school board's policy on public comments at board meetings, saying that using a lottery system to determine who can address the panel stifles their criticism of education policies.

Leaders of the Baltimore-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have pressed the school system to close schools on certain Muslim holidays as they do for Jewish observances, and have criticized the makeup of a committee formed to study school calendar issues. They have spoken frequently at board meetings in recent years - and are sometimes the only speakers during the public comment session. Last week, they reiterated their call for the resignation of board member Joy Shillman, who, they say, has failed to pay attention to their remarks.

"That is not true, but I don't want to talk about it," Shillman said yesterday.

Under the new system, instituted in November to replace a first-come, first-served process, 10 names are drawn from a box. Each speaker is limited to three minutes at the end of the meeting and must avoid talking about matters that are subject to an appeals process, such as personnel issues.