Some fellow elected leaders in Prince George's County are leaping to the defense of an elected Board of Education member who was turned away from a graduation stage by police Thursday.
"It's outrageous" said Prince George's County State Senator C. Anthony Muse, who represents the same south county area as Board of Education Member Ed Burroughs, who was banished from the stage.
A Board of Education member, who did not want to be identified because the member feared retaliation by administrators, called the incident a case of bullying.
"They are trying to degrade him and put him in his place," the board member said.
Muse said the episode at the Potomac High School graduation being held at the Showplace Arena in Upper Marlboro Thursday appears to be a case of police being used by administrators to suppress dissent.
"That is not okay in this country," Muse said.
Burroughs has a reputation as a reformer unpopular with the administration of School CEO Kevin Maxwell.
Burroughs' video recorded the incident as police threatened him with arrest if he attempted to take a place on the stage, which numerous officials in Prince George's County said is normal and customary.
The conflict began the day before at the graduation of Oxon Hill High school at the same location.
Witnesses said Burroughs infuriated Deputy Superintendent Dr. Monique Davis Wednesday by offering his speaking time to two student government leaders who Burroughs believed had been overlooked in the program.
Video showed the microphone being cut after the girls took the stage. Witnesses reported Davis then sharply reprimanded the girls, leaving one in tears.
Police were ready for Burroughs when he arrived at Potomac's graduation the next day. He was ordered out by officers who were backed up by a representative of the PGCPS administration.
Prince George's County school spokesman Raven Hill explained that Burroughs was not included in the printed program and was therefore not allowed on stage according to Prince George's County School System policy.
"Ed was not being bullied. Ed was not following the rules," Hill said.
Officers told Burroughs he would be allowed to sit in the audience with the general public but could not take a place on the stage.
Muse called the explanation laughable.
"Any elected leader is welcome to a seat on a graduation stage, even if they're not in the program. I've done it myself," Muse said.
Former Board of Education Member Peggy Higgins called the episode an "abuse of power" and said she had been seated on graduation stages repeatedly during her years on the board without her name being listed in the program.
Current Board of Education Member Beverly Anderson said it is "normal and customary" for any board member to take a seat on the stage of any graduation.
"It's not unusual," she said.
Anderson witnessed the encounter between Burroughs and police and was left in tears.
Burroughs has served on the Board of Education since he was a non-voting student representative. He has been elected in his district three times.
Burroughs is 24 years old, but despite his age he is the longest-serving member of the board. He is a reformer who is frequently at odds with schools CEO Maxwell and has called for CEO's resignation repeatedly. Burroughs is also frequently in the minority on board decisions.