MCPS implements new initiatives to fight hate
March 2, 2020
According to WTOP, local hate and bias incidents have increased in the last few years, especially since this fall. A lot of these incidents have occurred in heavily populated schools such as Walt Whitman High School and Churchill High School. Superintendent Jack Smith recently held a meeting that mainly focused on hate and bias in schools.
Smith recently released a new plan to make schools safer learning environments and teach tolerance. “I want to be very clear in saying that these are priorities to represent diversity and a safe space for our students,” Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight said. The initiative, titled Policy ACA, or Nondiscrimination, Equity, and Cultural Proficiencey, would help to control anti-Semitism, racism and all other discrimination.
Policy ACA’s purpose is to promote equality for everyone and eliminate discrimination in schools. It also serves to promote Montgomery County’s Board of Education’s five core values- learning, relationships, respect, excellence and equity to create a better learning environment for everyone.
Policy ACA has three main parts: responsive actions, restorative actions and preventative actions. According to Patch, the MoCo has partnered with a number of groups in the community, including the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington and the Black and Brown Coalition. This partnership will help the county implement Policy ACA.
“MCPS recognizes that we cannot allow swastikas, harassment and bullying of Jewish students, or any kind of hatred to be normalized in our schools,” Associate Director of the JCRC Guila Franklin Siegel said. “Hate doesn’t disappear overnight—it takes hard work to build a culture of mutual respect.”
The plan will provide staff and students with educational and mental health resources, and help students connect with the community more easily. “MCPS hopes that by engaging staff and students in conversation, officials can get a better sense of a school’s culture and environment,” McKnight said.
To help with this MCPS is making its “Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation Reporting Form” more accessible to students. Policy ACA will also create a new project called “Project Interrupt.”
Project Interrupt will enlarge the role students play in preventing bias and hate, and it will train teachers, staff and students to respond to hate so that learning can continue. Project Interrupt will first be implemented in schools with the most discrimination.
Additionally, the The NAACP Parents’ Council in Montgomery county and other community groups will offer more reflections days and town hall meetings to prevent bias and hate. “In being preventative, we actually can be proactive in starting these conversations at the very beginning of the year when students arrive,” McKnight said.
Many RM students feel that these policies are especially necessary with the new wave of xenophobia from the COVID-19, or novel coronavirus, outbreak. “I know someone who got a tinfoil ball thrown at them, and the people who threw it shouted ‘corona’ as they threw the tinfoil at her because she’s Chinese,” freshman Phoebe Freeman said.
However, students believe that talking to closer family members or friends is more effective. “I would rather talk with my friends and parents than the school, because I feel like the school is more general,” Sharon Liu said. “My parents would probably know more of what I feel like because we’re all a different race, and my parents watched me grow up.”