2016 | Schools

Montgomery Blair High School Students Walk Out To Protest Trump

MCPS, congregations react to hate messages

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Students leave Montgomery Blair High School in protest.

@BNCBLAIR from Twitter

Several hundred Montgomery Blair High School students walked out of class Monday morning to protest the election of Donald Trump as president.

Meanwhile, local school and faith leaders were trying to react to a spate of hateful messages appearing around Montgomery County since Tuesday's election.

Like the Blair students, some leaders are looking to President-elect Trump to end the hate.

“Regardless of whether is one is celebrating the outcome of the presidential campaign or one is upset, no objective person can say the campaign wasn’t marked by a tremendous amount of hostility toward different ethnic groups,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. “We’ve never seen a campaign like this before. With the constant bombardment of hateful messages, you can’t just turn it off.”

Blair officials sent a message to parents Monday morning that protesting students would be directed to the school’s stadium in an effort to keep them safe.

The events followed several days of disturbing events in the county. Swastikas were drawn in the boys’ bathroom Friday at Westland Middle School in Bethesda. A “Black Lives Matter” sign was vandalized at Christ Congregation Church on the night of Election Day in Silver Spring. And at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior on Powder Mill Road, a sign was vandalized Saturday night with the message, “Trump Nation Whites Only.”

On Monday morning, six houses of worship along the Old Georgetown Road corridor sent out a message concerning the Westland Middle swastikas, standing united against hate and its symbols.

“While this hateful act is still being investigated, now is the time for families and individuals to stand firmly against intolerance, intimidation and indifference,” the statement read. “Symbols of hate and words of bigotry have no place in public discourse and certainly not in our schools.”

The message was signed by clergy from Congregation Beth El, St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Bethesda Presbyterian Church, Bethesda United Methodist Church, St. John's Episcopal Church and North Bethesda United Methodist Church.

The letter cites a verse in Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Therefore we will respond to signs of hate with signs of fellowship and unity. We will speak and teach against prejudice and encourage others to stand alongside the Westland families at this moment,” the letter reads.

On Friday evening, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith sent a letter to parents talking about the difficulty of the election season.

“Now that the election is over, it is our job to restate our core values as a school system—demonstrating that we respect and care for every person in our community,” Smith wrote. He said the county’s diversity continues to be the school system’s greatest strength.

“We must have open and respectful conversations about the lessons of living in a democracy,” Smith wrote.

On Sunday evening, CBS's 60 Minutes aired an interview with Trump in which he looked directly into the camera and told his followers to “Stop it” when he heard of attacks against ethnic groups.

Halber said Trump needs to do more.

“I think it’s going to take much more than one statement. You can’t turn off an atmosphere of hate like you shut off a light switch. He’s going to have to make repeated and consistent messages that this is not tolerable behavior,” he said.

Plus, the county must have zero tolerance for offenses that can be considered hate crimes, he said.