- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jerry Weast, the enlightened superintendent of Montgomery County’s public schools, was prepared to sacrifice the safety of the students to preserve the working status of illegal aliens.

Mr. Weast advised the school board not to vote on Maryland House Bill 531, which would require contractors for the state’s public schools to conduct background checks on their employees.

His fear was that background checks would lead to the uncovering of illegal aliens in the work force and result in their prosecution and deportation.

Alas, this fear trumped the fear of sex offenders laboring in the vicinity of what they view as prey.

It is a fear that has haunted Melissa Andersen, a 42-year-old Kensington resident who has two children in the Rock View Elementary School. Hers is a fear that haunts all parents.

“The point is, when a superintendent is hired, you would think the safety of the students would be one of the primary concerns,” Mrs. Andersen said. “It’s just kind of disgusting.”

It is unacceptable, is what it is, that a school superintendent would be more concerned with the plight of illegal aliens than the prospect of innocent children possibly being put in harm’s way of a sexual predator. And that is not a hypothetical prospect.

Mrs. Andersen tells the story of a parent volunteer who recognized a construction worker at Rocky Hill Middle School last year from a photograph posted on the Maryland Sex Offender Registry. The principal, of course, responded accordingly and had the sex offender banned from school grounds.

But that prompted many of Montgomery County’s parents to wonder how this could happen, only to discover an unsettling policy that asked too few questions and left a gaping hole in the system’s security apparatus.

The county public school system was functioning with a double standard. It required its employees to undergo background checks but waived that requirement for the contractors it employed.

Mrs. Andersen recognizes the unfortunate political dimension of her safety concerns. She has followed the work of CASA of Maryland, an advocacy group that champions the rights of illegal aliens, however obtuse the notion is. There is an incredible failure to comprehend the word illegal that comes before alien.

Mrs. Andersen knows that being tarred as an anti-immigration zealot, or worse, is intended to silence otherwise lucid views.

“Unless you are a Native American, we are all immigrants, aren’t we?” she said.

Mrs. Andersen is hardly a political operative. Her motivation is maternal.

She sees what we all too frequently see on cable television — the disturbing report of another missing child. So she feels obligated to protect her children from a world that can be cruel, a belief that puts her in the parental mainstream but on the political fringe in the county.

Not surprisingly, the school board members were reluctant to embrace the issue of background checks for contractors until they saw which way the political winds were blowing in Annapolis. It was only then they unanimously voted to support House Bill 531.

“That was real courageous of them,” Mrs. Andersen said.

Montgomery County’s feebleness on illegal aliens is well-documented. The county long ago put out the welcome mat to those whose first act in America is a lawbreaking one. The county’s leaders long ago abdicated their responsibilities to uphold all the laws.

In this context, Mr. Weast, being a political creature as a superintendent, felt no duty to stand behind the students whose interests he is employed to serve.

Instead, he came down on the side of the illegal aliens, which all Montgomery County parents should take as an insult.

They should remind Mr. Weast of the axiom: “Children come first.” The axiom does not come with an addendum: Children come first, after illegal aliens.

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