The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide

The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

The Tide


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MCPS staff spread controversial opinions online

Katherine Woo
The Israeli-Palestine conflict has sparked numerous teachers to spread their opinions on platforms including X.

Once opinions get blended in with education, students aren’t free to form thoughts separate from the facts they are presented with. More problematically than that, many opinions are centered on hate that would make students feel unsafe.

To reflect this idea, most school systems have attempted to separate controversial politics from the school environment. Yet, in a modern society such as the one we live in, where social media disintegrates boundaries between work and personal life, the line can become blurry as to where teachers’ constitutional right to free speech overpowers such rules. MCPS itself admits, in its listing of best practices on social media for employees that, “The line between professional and personal is often blurred in the digital world.”

MCPS’ policy on teacher social media use is that they must post on social media “in a manner that is not prejudicial to [their] effectiveness as an MCPS employee and recognize that criminal, dishonest and other inappropriate activities may have an adverse impact on [their] employment with MCPS.” They later list out more specifically what said “inappropriate activities” are, including any kind of discrimination, violence, or hate.

In recent months, MCPS has placed two teachers, Tilden Middle School’s Sabrina Khan-Williams and Takoma Park Middle School’s Angela Wolf, on leave for what they deemed as inappropriate social media use. Both teachers’ posts contained graphic information regarding the current Israel-Palestine conflict.

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Khan-Williams spread misinformation on X (previously known as Twitter), claiming that the Hamas attack on Israel wasn’t real. According to Montgomery Community media, she also posted, “Palestinians are being killed and their organs are being sold. How is real life scarier than movies??” based on the falsehood that Israel was harvesting Palestinian organs.

According to Montgomery Community Media, principal Sapna Hopkins of Tilden Middle School sent a message to the community addressing the issue and set expectations for all Tilden staff. She also notified the Office of Student Welfare and Compliance and reported the issue to MCPS board members.

“‘I expect staff to respectfully engage students, build positive relationships and provide a rigorous education that meets the diverse needs of all students,’’’ Hopkins wrote in the letter addressed to the community.

Wolf reposted pro-Palestine posts, including a post by cartoonist Carlos Latuff, complimenting bus drivers who refused to transport Zionists to a pro-Isreal rally.

Both middle schools placed the teachers on administrative leave and sent out similar statements to accompany them, saying they did this as an attempt to promote a no-hate environment.
These decisions have sparked numerous questions regarding the validity of the issue. Are there any circumstances when the use of social media is reasonable and requires no outside intervention?

“ I feel like [since it’s] social media, it’s permissible because that’s their personal lives. It’s when their own, personal opinions start influencing the way they run a classroom and the way they conduct their school and work behavior, that it becomes a problem,” sophomore Maia Inati said.

Some believe it was correct to suspend the teachers as they see their comments as hateful, while others think that MCPS is censoring opinions without needing to.

“As long as they’re not sharing information about their students, I feel like there’s no problem with teachers sharing opinions online, because teachers are adults, just like other adults, and they’re perfectly entitled to share their opinions,” Inati said. “As long as that doesn’t cross the line into things like making racially derogatory comments at immigrants or saying that people should be locked up, or they should be killing people like that, that’s where I would personally draw the line.”

Another MCPS teacher, Hajur El-Haggan from Argyle Middle School, was also suspended for pro-Palestine messages where she put “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” in her email signature.

“I would say that that crosses a line,” senior Shoshana Peck said. “First of all, that is…within work. And that is a statement that I know is controversial but also is seen by many people as something that’s threatening and not okay. To have that in your email signature means that you are sending that directly to students.”

According to CNN, the Council on American Islamic Relations filed a complaint on MCPS’s suspension of El-Haggan, saying that “the slogan ‘From the river to sea, Palestine will be free’ is, at its core, a call for Palestinian freedom, dignity, and self-determination.”

With ongoing discussion revolving around the degree of MCPS’ consequences for the nature of different situations, the actual rules and regulations of what can and cannot be posted have become unclear.

“I think there are a lot of values that as a public school system, MCPS hasn’t really stayed in one way or another. Some of the more basic things like being anti-racist and all that is pretty standard, and I think that teachers should adhere to that. [But] there are a lot of gray lines of what even are MCPS’s values,” Peck said.

According to MOCO 360, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington views the social media posts and email signatures as acts of antisemitism.

As stated by the MCPS Code of Conduct, “The line between professional and personal is often blurred in the digital world.”

If you would like to voice your opinion on an issue you feel is relevant to our community, please do so here. Anyone is able and welcome to submit a Letter to the Editor, regardless of journalistic experience or writing skills. Submissions may be published either online or in a print issue.

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