School board ‘enraged and saddened’ by districtwide sexual assault allegations

School board ‘enraged and saddened’ by districtwide sexual assault allegations

Board briefly addresses allegations during Monday’s meeting

| Published:

The Montgomery County Board of Education met virtually on Monday.

Screenshot via live stream

Three days after news broke that students from across the county had come forward with accounts of sexual assault and harassment, the Montgomery County Board of Education said it is “enraged and saddened” by the allegations.

On Friday, Bethesda Beat first reported that more than 100 social media posts made by students and alumni had been made, with allegations ranging from a boy’s persistence in asking for nude photos to rape.

Students and staff members at more than a dozen schools have been accused of harassment and assault. Some posts have alleged that students reported their experiences to school district officials who did not intervene.

Many of the accounts were from people who were not identified, but in some instances, they named boys and posted their picture.

Over the weekend, the number of allegations grew, and Instagram accounts surfaced for high schools across the county, compiling and sharing anonymous submissions.

Similarly, the week prior, social media accounts were created for several Montgomery County schools, sharing anonymous submissions from Black students who detailed instances of racism and discrimination in their classes and by their peers.

At the beginning of Monday’s school board meeting, President Shebra Evans said members felt compelled to begin with “a few somber moments to talk to our community.”

“Over the last week, we have heard from many of our students via email and on social media about their experiences in our schools, sharing disturbing allegations about harassment and racial bias,” Evans said. “We are enraged and saddened by all of these allegations. … We want you to know we hear you. MCPS is actively looking into these reports.”

When Bethesda Beat asked MCPS officials about the allegations on Friday, spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said the Montgomery County Police Department is leading the investigation.

On Monday, Superintendent Jack Smith said it is “incumbent upon us to make school that safe, good, right place” for students.

“When I read things by our African American students at schools where they have had really negative experiences — and I’ve read a lot of them over the past few weeks — and when I read about sexual harassment … I feel sick,” Smith said.

Smith and board members urged anyone with “any information about an alleged sexual assault” to notify police immediately.

In MCPS, students are taught personal body safety lessons with “age appropriate content” in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, according to the MCPS website. It is designed to teach students how to recognize and report abuse.

MCPS also partners with the Montgomery County Family Justice Foundation to hold an annual Choose Respect Montgomery conference to teach students about healthy teen relationships and teen dating violence.

The school district is “committed to continuing to focus on everything that needs to be done to support our students who have been impacted in any way,” MCPS Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight said on Monday.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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