“This week, students across the county have availed themselves of their right to speak up and speak out about the values that are important to them,” said Dr. Jack Smith, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent.
Throughout the county, hundreds of students marched on busy roadways, protesting against President-elect Donald Trump.
“Apparently, this is supposed to be the greatest country on earth,” said a student protestor in Wheaton. “We haven’t been showing that lately, and we have to make that heard to the people who don’t know about that.”
With a note from the student’s parent, ditching class to protest was marked as an excused absence.
“MCPS put out an article saying that student demonstrations are a part of our first amendment right, so we can peacefully protest,” said a student protestor in Rockville.
But, it seems that may change.
Even with rolling road closures and police tailing students, protesting in large groups along major roadways presents huge safety concerns.
“There came a point in time when one of our officers noticed there was a raucous that was occurring right up the street,” said Major Eric Over, Rockville City Police. “Immediately, we went over, and determined that there was one student that had been assaulted and was on the ground.”
Some students told police the assaulted individual was a Richard Montgomery student, wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap. Officers are still trying to identify everyone involved.
“When students are threatened or injured as part of a protest, it raises serious safety issues that requires us to re-think the situation,” said Smith.
Students watched a video Thursday, which shares the new expectation of staying in school and participating in the daily educational program as intended.
“If students do not comply with these expectations, they may be subjected to the regular disciplinary actions that align with whatever infraction is involved,” said Smith.
He also addressed the recent spike in hateful vandalism.
“These are deeply disturbing incidents,” said Smith.
There’s been a 17% increase in hate crimes and biased-incidents this year in Montgomery County, according to police.
“We come from a society of varied view points, and it’s important for those kids to understand that as well,” said Over.
Dr. Smith wants to remind students and staff to always report hate-based speech or behavior.
So, if you see something, say something.
As a diverse community, Dr. Smith expects everyone to respect differences.
MCPS is working with police to assure the continued safety of its students.