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Anti-abortion activist targets Howard County schools

Friday - 1/17/2014, 5:06pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- The protester shows up near Howard County schools alone and holds up a graphic image of a fetus.

Howard County school officials say the demonstrator appears to be an abortion opponent. While the image is jarring, there's nothing they can do about it.

Police told the school district that because the protester does not go onto school property or otherwise interfere with the school day, the cannot remove him or her.

Hammond Elementary parent Bryan Glassman says he's not opposed to people having their say, but when he got the note sent home to parents at the end of the school day Thursday, he was not happy.

"I'm not for or against whatever your abortion stance is," he says. "There's a right time and a right place," for that kind of protest.

"Place being the key word here." he adds.

Howard County police say they were contacted by school officials about the protester's presence at about 8:30 Thursday morning, but by the time they got to Hammond Elementary and Middle schools -- the two share a campus -- the protester had left.

Glassman says his young son didn't see the demonstrator, but wonders what kind of conversation that would have prompted if his son had seen the image held up by the protester.

"He's only 6 years old," he says. "How do you explain something like that?"

Howard County school officials and police say it's not clear who is behind the protests that have cropped up outside various schools throughout the academic year, so it's not clear why the schools appear to be the target for the demonstrations.

This is the message that went home to parents Thursday:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

This morning during middle school arrival, an anti-abortion protester was present near school property with a large sign that displayed a graphic picture of a fetus. The protesters have been present at several schools throughout the school year, and in each instance, the Howard County Police Department has been notified. These protesters are within their legal rights since they remain off of Howard County Public School System property, and it is possible that they may return in the coming weeks.

In situations such as this, school administrators monitor the protesters' presence and ensure that there is no interaction with students. At the elementary level, the only children who may have witnessed the protester were the children who participate in the before care program, and they were with their parents. Our Student Services staff can provide resources for parents to facilitate conversations, upon request. Please feel welcome to call us at 410-880-5890.

Kimberlyn S. Pratesi Principal Hammond Elementary

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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