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Montgomery Co. exec: Students must weigh consequences of protests

Montgomery County high school students who left class to protest President-elect Donald Trump end their march in downtown Silver Spring, Md. on Nov. 14, 2016. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says while he and school superintendent Jack Smith urge and expect students to stay in classrooms, it’s likely some young people will decide to join protests during school hours.

Leggett said in a climate of political division after the election of Donald Trump, he and county officials face a balancing act.

“As public officials, we’re going to urge them to stay in school, but we also want to urge them to express their rights, their frustrations over what has happened — there are some legitimate concerns,” Leggett told WTOP.

On Wednesday, school superintendent Smith released a video message, saying he is “asking and expecting all students to remain in school,” and “they may be subjected to the regular disciplinary actions” if they don’t comply.

Smith and Leggett said protests, including one Wednesday, when a 15-year-old Trump supporter was punched and kicked during a Rockville protest, raise concerns about security when students are out of school.

“We cannot say (it’s OK) to not go to school,” Leggett said.

Leggett said, “I go back to the days of the ’60s, when I was actually involved in student protests myself,” and he acknowledged some students will likely continue to protest.

“That’s part of the growing process,” Leggett said. “But students need to know ‘If I protest, there may be some consequences, and I need to take those factors into consideration.'”

Leggett said Montgomery County will hold a peaceful demonstration Sunday at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring at 2:30 p.m., so students, employees, and public officials can voice their concerns.

“I urge students to do whatever they want to do, in the spirit of peaceful protest and to minimize, as much as possible, actual time away from classrooms,” Leggett said.

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