In an unprecedented show of support for their principal, more than 100 Aberdeen High School students ditched class Monday morning to protest the demotion and reassignment of principal Tom Szerensits by Robert Tomback, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools.
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Students had lined the sidewalk in front of the school by 7:30 a.m., waving signs and chanting “Save Mr. S.” while passing motorists honked their horns in approval. One student played a guitar, and a van full of students blasted Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” through an open window as they arrived in the parking lot. Some students wore homemade T-shirts to send their message. In all, the protest drew a crowd of 150 to 200 people, according to Aberdeen Police, including some parents.
Police were on the scene and briefly shut down Paradise Road in front of the school as a safety measure after some students spilled onto the edge of street, according to Lt. Fred Budnick, public information officer for the Aberdeen Police Department. Budnick told The Dagger that while he wasn’t expecting any problems, Aberdeen Police had met with school officials late last week to develop an “operational plan” to handle the protest.
Sometime before 9:00 a.m., Szerensits made an appearance. According to a source, Szerensits thanked students for their support and asked them to return to class, which a majority did, the source said.
Several students told The Dagger that they hoped their outpouring of support would convince Superintendent Tomback to change his mind and reinstate Szerensits as principal. Aberdeen parent Wendy Cline echoed the students’ message, saying that she had never protested about anything before in her life, but she was out early Monday morning to support Szerensits.
A number of Harford County Public School officials were also on hand, including Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications, who on Saturday told The Dagger that the school system was expecting Monday to be a “normal instructional day.” Bob Benedetto, chief of security for HCPS, said that students were not being locked in the building, despite reports to the contrary.
Benedetto said that students were free to leave, but would be marked with an unexcused absence and a call would be made to parents, per standard procedure. He also said that students would be let back in the building at any time. Despite the fact that students had assembled on the sidewalk outside the school, Benedetto said that students were allowed to protest on school property as long as they weren’t disruptive to those inside the building. “If they’re peaceful, let it play out,” Benedetto said.
By 9:00 a.m., the crowd was gone and Paradise Road had been reopened, but the may not be over.
Updates to the “Save Szerensits” Facebook page showed plans being made for students, parents and alumni to carry their message directly to Tomback, at a school board meeting scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the A.A. Roberty Building on Hickory Avenue in Bel Air.
Photo credit: “Save Szerensits” Facebook Group