On November 1 at 5:45 a.m., teachers at Montgomery Blair High School found multiple flyers on the doors of the school reading, “It’s okay to be white.” These posters are part of a campaign led by white nationalists and have been found in Maryland, Rocky River Ohio, Concordia College in Minnesota, Tulane University in New Orleans, around college campuses in Massachusetts and at the University of Alberta in Canada.
The Washington Post stated that the origins of these fliers came from the website 4chan. The posters were to be posted on Halloween night on different school buildings, allegedly to discourage vandalism.
“We are taking this seriously and are investigating this incident. Our research so far has indicated that this may be part of a concerted national campaign to foment racial and political tension in our school and community. This same flyer was posted in other cities and communities this week,” Blair Principal Renay Johnson said in an email to parents.
Walter Johnson social studies teacher Allison Hoefling is confident that MCPS will handle this situation properly.
“On the teacher end, I know there’s a lot of training and discussion about cultural sensitivity and working with students to make sure they understand how to be culturally sensitive. So hopefully some of that will help with this situation but it sounds like these incidents really need to be handled quickly and swiftly by authorities,” Hoefling said.
White nationalism and anti-Semitism seem to have been occurring more often in Montgomery County Schools in recent weeks. Not even one day after the Blair incident, swastikas were found drawn in desks at Tilden Middle School.
Tilden Principal Irina LaGrange also sent an email to parents about the school’s respective incident, even going as far as explaining that children need to be disciplined for their words and actions.
“It was reported to school staff that there were pencil drawings of swastikas on a student desk in a classroom. This behavior is unacceptable and it will not be tolerated in Tilden Middle School,” LaGrange said. “Our children need to understand that certain images, certain words and certain actions, regardless of intention, are perceived by others as hurtful, inappropriate, disrespectful and incendiary.”
Junior Ben Smith was shocked when he first heard about the incident at Tilden.
“It used to be accepted wisdom in America that Nazis were bad, and that those who gave their lives to destroy the Third Reich were heroes. And now this stuff is popping up in our backyard? It’s shameful and wrong and it needs to stop,” Smith said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools have more than doubled nationwide in 2017. In light of some of these most recent incidents, MCPS has held a panel open to the public on November 9 discussing these issues in schools. In an email sent to parents, an MCPS representative described the event as an opportunity for parents to educate themselves about these growing incidents nationwide. Laura Marcial is a parent that has students at both WJ and Tilden.
“MCPS efforts would work best at the school level to help build a community, which is a problem around here. We’re in a racial bubble of sorts, all around us are ethnically, racially and socially diverse neighborhoods, but Montgomery County schools are kind of polarized by privilege. I’m sure a large percentage of teachers and staff are worried about this and work to foster better harmonization, but if parents aren’t on board, it’s hard,” Marcial said.