Montgomery Co. school board says student member subjected to ‘vile’ social media comments over mask stance

The Montgomery County, Maryland, Board of Education says its student member, Hana O’Looney, has been subjected to “vile” comments on social media after she voiced support for keeping a school mask mandate in place.

Montgomery County Board of Education President Brenda Wolff told WTOP she was “appalled” by what she called the “abuse” directed at O’Looney, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School.

The comments on Twitter came in response to O’Looney’s statements regarding mask mandates in school during a board meeting last week. At the time, O’Looney said it was too early to lift the mandates.

A statement on the MCPS webpage called the personal attacks on O’Looney “clearly harmful attempts at cyberbullying.” The statement continued, “This behavior is reprehensible, particularly when adults are targeting a student. ”

Wolff said the adult members of the school board have faced personal attacks in the past.

“This isn’t the first time that this has happened. But it’s the first time it’s happened to Hana,” she said.

Wolff said the comments appeared to have come from people who want the mask mandate lifted.

She said, disagreements over policy can get heated, but the invective directed at O’Looney was shocking.

“I mean, it’s one thing for them to attack those of us that were elected by the public to the board, but Hana is a student,” Wolff said.

Wolff said she had spoken to O’Looney, and that the student board member was “OK.”

Wolff noted that while O’Looney’s Twitter account is inactive at the moment, she does not expect the teenager’s status on the board to change. “You know, we can have a difference of opinion, but it should never rise to this level,” Wolff said.

The issue over how a change to the Montgomery County school board’s policy on masking could play out in the schools has been a concern for some elected officials, including County Council President Gabe Albornoz.

Asked about his own feelings on lifting the mandate, he told WTOP in a briefing Monday morning that he feels comfortable with the possibility of going mask-optional given current COVID-19 data in the county.

But Albornoz added, “Our school system will need to be vigilant and making sure that there isn’t any bullying or other issues that may arise for students that choose to wear masks because of their own or family situation. We have to be respectful of that and have to remain civil in our discourse, particularly at the school level.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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