Published September 23, 2013
A Baltimore-area police chief is reviewing the arrest of a man who rose at a town hall-style meeting to challenge the national Common Core standards and wound up in an angry confrontation with an off-duty police officer.
Robert Small, 46, showed up at the public forum Thursday night in Towson, but when he began asking questions about Common Core, the police officer, who was providing security at the meeting, shut him down.
“My question is how does lowering educational standards prepare kids for ... college, because that’s what it’s all about?” Small asked in a scene caught on videotape.
But audience members had been told to submit their questions first in writing, and when Small went off script, the police officer moved in. He was forcibly dragged out of the room, while exhorting the crowd to join his cause.
The forum was held by the Maryland State Department of Education to explain the new K-12 standards, backed by the federal government and adopted by 45 states. While Common Core is not itself a curriculum, but a standard evaluated through a national test, new textbooks and lesson plans are tailored toward it. As it is being implemented, objections have grown.
Small, who was charged with disturbing school operations and second degree assault, declined to comment on Monday. His wife said the family has hired a lawyer and would not address the case on the attorney’s advice. Each charge carries a $2,500 fine, but Small faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of assaulting an officer.
The police report said Small had attempted to push the officer away, though in the video, Small is not seen doing anything that could be construed as assaulting the officer. The video did not capture the entire sequence.
Maryland PTA President Ray Leone, who was present at the meeting, declined to comment on whether an assault actually took place.
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson said he will review the incident, but in a statement, said that the police officer intervened only after Small refused repeated requests by to take his seat and follow the prescribed format.
“While [the Baltimore County Police Department] strongly supports a citizen's right to exercise his or her First Amendment rights, it also recognizes that meeting organizers have the right to establish rules of order,” the statement said.
The police report said Small had attempted to push the officer away when he first confronted him.
Small is a research manager for the Department of Veteran Affairs and has a second-grader and a sixth-grader who attend Howard County schools.