Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Big Lie and the Extremely Tiny Lawsuit


It seems that any chance for Howard County Student Member of the Board Zach Koung to seek out the “witness protection program” is now past and in fact he may soon find himself a star witness in a case that hopes to destroy the SMOB role, not only in Howard County, but throughout the state of Maryland. 

Yesterday news broke that some disgruntled school parents have filed suit to take away his right to vote.

Howard County parents file lawsuit challenging student board member’s voting rights , Liz Bowie, Howard County Times

See also: Student school board member faces Md. constitutional challenge , Steve Lash, Maryland Daily Record 

Mind you, Mr. Koung’s right to vote on certain, well-defined aspects of board business is a part of his job description as outlined in Maryland State Law. He is elected by middle- and high-school students in the Howard County Schools as a part of an organized and transparent annual process. The policy for the HCPSS Student Member of the Board was adopted in 1992.*

But because a vote on the possible reopening of schools did not result in a decision that satisfied the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, they have decided to characterize his vote as something that it was not for the purposes of legal action. 

This is not a deeply philosophical case. It is not about “the principle of the thing.” Quotes from both the lawyer and the parents themselves in the news articles linked above clearly show their intent to misrepresent the events of the meeting of November 16th by taking a big old Sharpie and circling the inconvenient presence of a duly elected Student Member of the Board as a distraction from the actual issues at hand.

“It didn’t go the way we wanted. The Board didn’t do what we wanted. Oooh! Look over here!” 

Listen to their words. Look at everything they say. They are not objecting to the constitutionality of a Student Member of the Board. They don’t like how he voted.

If Zach Koung had cast a vote that evening that was in congruence with their goals to reopen schools there would be no lawsuit today.

Here is where I say: look, I’m no lawyer, but, what kind of lawsuit is that?

Not included in the lawsuit, but, extremely relevant to how we as a community should view this case is that some of the very same people who support it have been unabashedly critical on social media of this Student Member of the Board’s words and actions since he began his service. 

They don’t like what he does, they don’t like what he says, they don’t like how he says it. They don’t like his facial expressions and his body language. And let’s look at the kinds of things they object to:

  • Speaking to racial equity issues
  • Supporting the removal of SRO’s from schools 
  • Anything that could be characterized as “Progressive”
So deeply embedded with this spurious legal challenge is an assumption that, if the sort of candidate you like is not elected, an appropriate re-action would be to completely and irrevocably destroy the validity of their role. I hope that none of these people are graduates of the Howard County Schools because this is a highly inaccurate interpretation of the law and their American Government teachers would be wincing at the intellectual laziness of those who espouse it.

This isn’t just a bad case. It’s predicated on a lie. Mr. Koung did not cast a tie-making vote. That’s not how the rules work here, and, probably for good reason. But if the plaintiffs and their attorney can make you believe in that illusion, they’ll be able to shift your focus from who they are and what they really represent. 

Don’t let them.

*H/T @ HoCo School Equity for the date and background documents here.

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