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The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

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The Student News Site of Richard Montgomery High School

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MCPS testifies at Congress anti-semitism hearing

Bella Major
Board President Karla Silvestre addresses the press at a Board of Education Meeting on Feb. 6.

MCPS Board of Education President Karla Silvestre testified before Congress to explain how her board is addressing antisemitism in schools. In a statement issued in April by Christie Scott, the Board’s communications coordinator, it said that Silvestre is looking “forward to sharing how Montgomery County Public Schools responds to incidents rooted in antisemitism and promotes a culture of tolerance and respect.”

 During the testimony, she explained new conditions for teachers, further plans, and how she feels about current consequence standards. Following many recent hate-based and antisemitic behaviors in MCPS, Florida Representative Aaron Bean acknowledged how allowing this antisemitism to go unchecked will hurt the Jewish community. “Now, thousands of Jewish students in their districts fear riding the bus in the morning, wearing their kippah to school or just eating and breathing as a Jewish student,” Bean said. RM history and TOK teacher Noah Grosfeld-Katz agreed with the above statement. “I definitely have noticed changes in behavior, which makes me very sad.  No student should have to go about their day in fear,” Grosfeld-Katz said, who is also the RM Jewish Student Union sponsor. Recently at RM, there have been several events of swastikas being drawn on walls, stairwells and bathroom stalls. “Schools need to be cracking down on people that support antisemitism whether it’s purposeful or not, because damage is damage,” freshman Alex Singer said. She explained how this damage affects many at RM, because it can make people feel targeted and some feel unsafe, knowing that some people still believe in the Nazi movement.

Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Associate Director Guila Franklin Siegel listened to the testimony and also agreed that “any sense of comfort” in students has deteriorated more and more after these events because addressing antisemitism is not what is seen in Montgomery County Public Schools. “The Montgomery County Board of Education is committed to fostering a safe and welcoming learning environment that supports all students,” Christie Scott, MCPS Board of Education communications coordinator, said regarding social media posts, drawings and remarks. However, creating a safe and welcoming learning environment might not be able to be controlled by new establishments, rules, or consequences when it comes to antisemitism. “It’s important for the system, and the community, to recognize that eliminating it is a little bit beyond their control,” Grosfeld-Katz said. 

Silvestre confirmed that no administrators have been fired regarding antisemitic social media posts or statements, but there have still been disciplinary actions. She agreed that teachers promoting or teaching hate should be fired. “The teachers that have been disciplined know that if this happens ever again, there will be deeper consequences up to and including termination,” Silvestre said. During any staff investigations, if it is found that a staff member is not following the employee code of conduct, they will be fired. Silvestre added that this summer, all MCPS teachers, staff and administration will undergo hate-based training in time for the starting 2024-2025 school year. Mr. GK somewhat disagreed, saying that teacher training “implies that the problem is the teachers, and no one else.” He explained that it seems more fair to institute training for everyone: “teachers, administrators, the Board, and society itself.” In the testimony, Silvestre later added that it is the role of school administrations and the Board to educate the students on how and why certain actions and behaviors can be viewed as hateful or antisemitic. 

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Silvestre’s testimony included the Board’s plan for addressing all forms of hate in MCPS. First, there will be a revision of policies regarding hate, as previously stated. Second, it should be clear that the reporting of incidents of harassment is encouraged and there will be a more clear and concise reporting process for students and staff. Third, by including lessons about anti-semitism and Jewish history from grades K-12, the MCPS Board of Education plans to stop these incidents from occurring in the first place. Fourth, MCPS is partnering with anti-hate communities to support addressing hate-based actions. Lastly, the staff hate-bias training, as stated previously, will be mandatory for all MCPS staff. Silvestre ended her testimony with the promise of continued policy, action and evaluation in an effort to keep all community members of MCPS feeling safe and secure.

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 Contributors
Keira Tow
Keira Tow, Sports and News Writer
Keira Tow is a freshman, excited to start writing for The Tide. Outside of The Tide, she is always playing soccer, drawing, and reading. She loves writing about sports topics and current news events. She has participated in her middle school's newspaper club for all three years and wrote about important world matters and sports topics.
Bella Major
Bella Major, Video Editor