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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Incidents of hate and harassment prompt questions regarding Code of Conduct

Mayah Nachman
Students and staff members walk through Main Street during the school day.

RM has faced multiple incidents of hate and harassment this school year, leading to deeper scrutiny of how the school and MCPS handle such incidents. 

In March, swastikas were found drawn around RM on three different occasions. RM Principal Alicia Deeny wrote a message to the RM community on March 12 after the swastikas were found drawn onto stalls in the boys bathrooms. Ms. Deeny sent an additional email on March 19 after more swastika drawings were found in a stairwell and door at RM. In her emails, Ms. Deeny confirmed that any student involved with incidents such as these would be dealt with in accordance with the MCPS Student Code of Conduct. 

This incident caused many students to feel unsafe at school and sparked worry about similar incidents occurring in the future. 

“When I heard about the swastikas drawings I was extremely disappointed and worried, but not surprised. With the climate of antisemitism at our school I felt that it was only a matter of time until we saw a manifestation of hatred in the form of something like this.  It is terrifying to see,” said  senior Jillian Hilwig, founder of RMs Students Against Antisemitism Club. 

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While many students felt this incident was addressed appropriately by RM’s Administration, many still have concerns about the implications of the swastika drawings, the students responsible for the incidents and what consequences are according to the MCPS Code of Conduct.  

“It’s scary to me that we did not get closure with the second incident, as well as the first really. I don’t know whether the student who did the initial drawing is back in school and how they were punished, and since the second student was not found I don’t know whether they’re still here, capable of doing the same thing or worse,” said a jewish junior who asked to remain anonymous to maintain their privacy. 

In regards to how incidents such as these are handled, many students are unsure what the Code of Conduct says about how students should be held accountable. 

“I think we heard a lot about the students caught being treated according to the MCPS Code of Conduct, but it isn’t really clear what [the Code] outlines as adequate punishment for such behaviour,” said a senior who asked to remain anonymous in order to help maintain their privacy. 

The MCPS Code of Conduct is a document that outlines MCPS’s philosophy of discipline, expected student conduct and staff responsibilities as well factors affecting disciplinary decisions, disciplinary responses and rights to continued access to instruction.

According to the Code, the tiers of disciplinary action relevant to graffitied hate symbols are levels four and five. Level four addresses serious incidents while keeping the student in school and could include measures such as, parent/guardian and student conferences with an administrator, loss of privileges/removal from extracurricular activities or in-school suspension. Level five responses would remove a student from the school environment due to the severity of behavior they exhibit and could include measures such as out-of-school suspension (long-term (4–10 days) or extended (11–44 days)) and expulsion (exclusion from regular program for 45 days or longer).

According to the MCPS Code of Conduct, Maryland State Law requires that school systems’ disciplinary methods are “primarily proactive and preventative, there are accountable responses to the harm and there is a focus on repairing relationships”. 

Ms Deeny affirmed that RM follows this instruction in her March 12 email, stating that RM students and staff continue to proactively discuss issues, such as antisemitism and racism, via any courses that involve the topics, as well as town halls.

The most commonly known proactive method in RM is the use of advisory lessons to communicate school values. RM throughout the year has had numerous advisory lessons teaching students about race, religion, gender and sexuality based hate incidents and their impact. These lessons are made in collaboration with student groups such as the Students Against Antisemitism Club, Student Equity Committee, and other groups. 

A recent example is the whole school advisory lesson that was hosted jointly by Students Against Antisemitism and the Jewish Student union on antisemitism and the significance of the swastika, and its impact on the school community as an immediate response to the March 12 and 19 incidents. 

In addition to hate-bias incidents, harassment is also increasingly prevalent in the RM community. On April 9, according to an email by Ms Deeny, two students engaged in a verbal and physical altercation in a school bathroom and one student pulled out a knife and physically threatened another student. A main concern noticed by administration is that students have a tendency to move towards the fighting and begin to record and share the videos. 

“I think that not only is it irresponsible to go near a weapon in school, but also it’s heartless to just stand there videoing. If the student had been hurt it could have been you in trouble, and even if you didn’t get in trouble, it’s just wrong,” said junior Taresh Dunn. 

Some students have differing opinions on the effectiveness of RMs proactive measures when considering the numerous hate-bias and harassment incidents. 

“These incidents happened directly after or during the kindness campaign. It makes me think that people really just participated for the Crumbl cookie,” said junior Amy Ye.

“I do think people are kind to each other, and the kind of person to pull a knife on somebody else during an argument isn’t the kind of person that will change from just the kindness campaign,” said junior Ella van der Waal.

According to MCPD’s 2023 Annual Report on Bias Incidents, bias incidents have increased nearly 200% since 2022. The report notes that this increase can be attributed to the changes in reporting procedures within MCPS, which were shown with Rockville City Police’s involvement in the March 12, 19 and April 9 incidents. 

According to the same report, religion and race continue to be the primary bias motivators in MCPS with 203 and 183 incidents reported respectively in MCPS in 2023. This is reflected within the RM community, although multiple incidents go unreported.

“We have a huge problem of ignorance and antisemitism which is only growing worse. Students are scared to be outwardly Jewish and are scared of the culture of antisemitism that is becoming increasingly normalised at our school,” said Hilwig. 

Students at RM who are part of other racial, religious and ethnic groups have also felt a rise in hate and prejudice within the county.  

“Racial comments are made to me every single day. The RM community is incredibly racist, but negative news is so rampant across the school that racism and other acts of discrimination just become so normalized,” said an African IB junior who asked to remain anonymous to maintain their privacy. 

Many students also do not feel comfortable reporting hate incidents.

“I’m forced to ignore microaggressions as people like to pretend they are jokes and make me feel like I’m making a big deal. A lot of the people in the school community have very different experiences from me, and the homogeneity of the teaching staff also makes it hard for me to report anything,” said an African-American sophomore who asked to remain anonymous to maintain their privacy. 

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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About the Contributor
Mayah Nachman
Mayah Nachman, News Editor
Mayah Nachman is excited to begin her senior year as a News Editor for The Tide. This is her fourth year writing for the paper, having previously contributed to the News and Features sections and working as an Assistant Editor for the Centerspread section. When she isn't at school, she enjoys baking, spending time with friends and family, and playing the guitar.