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Candidates Clash, Sarahan Drops Out

It happened at the School Board meeting March 6, when Sarahan says he showed up intending to criticize a comment of Wolf's quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch March 1. The comment was related to a recent lawsuit to force the school system to make its schools accessible to the disabled, in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the article, Wolf said Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, by appealing the ADA suit, was "continuing to stand in the schoolhouse door" — a reference to Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace's efforts to block integration.

"I don't think anybody should be comparing the mayor to George Wallace," Sarahan says. So he called School Board Chairman David L. Ballard, requesting that the board formally censure Wolf for her comment.

Ballard said no, Sarahan says.

Then Sarahan showed up at the March 6 board meeting, after calling all board members except Wolf to let them know, armed with copies of the newspaper article. He saw that Wolf had brought her son Dale, a 13-year-old with disabilities, to the meeting.

When he spoke, Sarahan said Wolf was trying to "firebomb" the budget discussions by insisting ADA compliance come first. "I said, 'Firebomb was what I associated with George Wallace,'" Sarahan says.

As Sarahan criticized Wolf, he says, Wolf's son became visibly and audibly upset. Wolf confirms that Sarahan's comments upset her son.

Exactly what Sarahan said is unclear, because the official audio recording of the meeting omits his comments. School Board clerk Willi A. Williams blames technical problems and says Sarahan spoke as he was walking to the podium, before he got close to the microphone.

Sarahan felt terrible, he says. But he believes Dale's presence was intended to make him feel that way, he says, because Carol knew he was coming to criticize her. "Carol is intent on bringing her sense of victimization into the meeting with her, and her son is a prop in that performance," he says.

Wolf says Sarahan's allegation is "preposterous," as Dale has attended several board meetings. He was simply there doing his homework, she says, because she couldn't find alternative care arrangements. Wolf knew Sarahan planned to speak that night, she says, but didn't know it was about her.

Because of the incident, Sarahan says, he's decided against running for the 3rd District seat. Sarahan also has a teenage son, Chris, who has serious disabilities.

Wolf says Sarahan's wrong to call her son a "prop."

"In all of my work on the School Board with exceptional education, with disability rights," Wolf says, "I have kept Dale in the far background on it, and I have refused, and people can bear this out, to allow him to be used as any poster child, so to speak."

Furthermore, Wolf says, she believes anything said at a School Board meeting should be appropriate for anyone's child to hear. "We need to be models of civility and decorum," she says. S

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