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The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

The Student News Site of Thomas S. Wootton High School

Common Sense

MCPS sees rise in antisemitism from staff, students

MCEA%2C+the+Montgomery+County%2C+teachers+union+sent+out+an+advisory+email+to+members+on+Dec.+15+after+multiple+MCPS+teachers+were+placed+on+leave+for+online+statements.
Screenshot by Claire Lenkin
MCEA, the Montgomery County, teachers union sent out an advisory email to members on Dec. 15 after multiple MCPS teachers were placed on leave for online statements.

3,823 – that is the number of antisemitic incidents that were recorded in the US between Oct. 7 and Jan. 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League. As antisemitism increases around the country, there have been several teachers and staff in Montgomery County Public Schools placed on leave over charges of antisemitism.

On Nov. 13, local news outlets started covering a story about a teacher at Tilden Middle School who had allegedly posted antisemitic content to her social media. This teacher is also part of Tilden’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) staff. In her posts, she claimed that Palestinians’ organs were being harvested, and Hamas’s attack on the Nova music festival on Oct. 7 was a hoax. Both of these claims are categorically false. After news of her posts was spread around the county, school administrators acknowledged the incident and started an investigation. This teacher was placed on leave, and no more updates have been released.

Incidents like this have not been isolated. A teacher from Takoma Park Middle School was also suspended after posts resurfaced where she used antisemitic tropes and language. Her Facebook posts, which were originally posted in 2022, contained a list of wealthy Jews in the Montgomery County community. She called them “gluttons and thieves” that haven’t “done a damn thing to further the needs of communities,” according to screenshots from the Daily Wire.

A Dec. 15 email from MCEA, MCPS’s teacher union, laid out best practices and recommendations for MCPS staff, especially online. Notably, they advised MCPS staff on how to share opinions on social media properly. “If you wish to speak as an individual on issues that may be controversial or to pose opinions that may place you at odds with the employer, make sure that on whatever forum you have chosen you do not identify yourself as an MCPS employee,” MCEA suggested.

Rising antisemitism in MCPS is not just limited to these staff members but spread through students as well. On Nov. 7th, a walkout took place at Clarksburg High School. This walkout was put on by the school’s Muslim Student Association and SGA, according to Montgomery Community Media. This walkout was also supported and promoted by the principal of Clarksburg at the time, Edward Owusu. At this walkout, one sign read “Resistance till Liberation,” and there were more that some have interpreted as antisemitic and anti-Israel.

Principal Owusu emailed the school that students would be allowed to miss class for this walkout and shared information about the event. Since this event, Owusu has retired as principal of Clarksburg but stated the reason for his retirement is to emphasize his family. “Students will be demonstrating to voice their concerns about the conflict in the Middle East, in support of Palestine. Participation in this demonstration is optional (not mandatory) and has been approved by school leadership. Absences due to the participation in the walk-out will be excused,” Owusu wrote.

This letter also contrasts with MCPS’s formal policy on walkouts. “Any walk-out or departure from campus during the instructional day will be treated as an unexcused absence, given the disruptive impact on school operations,” MCPS states in the Student Guide to Rights and Responsibilities.

The spread of antisemitism in MCPS is a trend that can not be overlooked. No student should ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable in school solely because of their religion. This school is attempting to combat hate through the new No Place for Hate initiative. “The No Place for Hate Initiative is a school-wide effort led by the Restorative Justice Committee to combat incidents of hate and bias at [school]. Students from various leadership and culture clubs and staff members serve on this committee. The RJ Committee’s primary goal is to foster a school environment where students and staff feel safe and valued. The No Place for Hate Initiative is one way in which we are addressing the concerning experiences students continue to experience based on their identity. One way to combat such incidents is through continued education and affirmation of our diverse school community, which we will continue to do through this initiative,” Restorative Justice coach Lindsey Vance said.

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Claire Lenkin, managing editor
Junior Claire Lenkin is a managing editor in her third year on the Common Sense staff. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends and watching hockey. You can also find her on IG @clairelenkin.
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