School officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, are discussing a new approach to fight hate and bias in the classroom while aiming to create a healthier learning environment for students.
The plan comes after school leaders said there was an increase in hate and bias incidents in the past few years and most recently, last fall.
Now, school leaders say they plan to take on the issue with a new initiative.
Montgomery County Public Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith discussed the initiative during a monthly news conference Monday. He said the goal is to teach tolerance and take action to make all schools safe learning environments
During Monday’s news conference, Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight said the initiative would follow trends and identify areas where episodes are happening more frequently in order to work with specific communities to eliminate anti-Semitism, racism and all other forms of discrimination.
“I want to be very clear in saying that these are priorities to represent diversity and a safe space for our students,” McKnight said. There is also a board policy in place focused on equity and inclusion.
Smith said, overall, Montgomery County is already a pretty welcoming place, but there remains more work to do.
“There are probably more people who stand up here and say ‘Stop that, that’s inappropriate’ than in this state and nation — but that’s not good enough,” Smith said.
Smith said there’s also a need for the community to engage students outside the classroom.
“Help them understand what to do when someone says something to them or behaves in a way that is hateful, how to get help,” he said.
Last school year, two Walt Whitman High School students posted a photo on social media showing themselves in blackface that also included a racial slur in the photo description.
Students at Winston Churchill High School were disciplined after they were discovered handing out “N-word passes,” which offered the recipient permission to use the racial slur.