School Notes: MCPS Superintendent Announces Art Contest Aimed at Combating Hate

Plus: Education leaders call for change after student athlete was barred from game for wearing hijab


Screen grab of video promoting the Combating Hate through the Arts contest for Montgomery County Public Schools students

Via Montgomery County Public Schools

Images and messages of hope from Montgomery County’s students could help fight back against the symbols of hate that have shaken local school communities in recent months, education leaders say.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith on Friday announced the start of a contest called Combating Hate through the Arts, which will invite the system’s students to use their creativity to battle intolerance. The competition, which is open to MCPS students of all ages, comes after a series of hate incidents in the county’s schools. Just last month, racial slurs and messages such as “Trump power” and “white power” were found on a whiteboard at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.

Also, swastikas were discovered this month scrawled on student desks at Julius West Middle School in Rockville, according to news reports.

Speaking to county school board members on Friday, Smith said berating students is not the solution to these types of incidents.

“What we have to do is teach people,” he said, adding the contest will instead “empower them to take a stand against hateful acts.”

The contest opened Friday and students in all grades have until April 21 to turn in poems, songs, paintings, sculptures, films and other forms of artwork. To encourage collaboration, students must submit in groups of two or more, Smith said.

The entries will be grouped into elementary, middle and high school levels, and judges will choose winners in each category. MCPS will promote the winning submissions online and on social media platforms, and there will be additional prizes that have yet to be announced.

Smith said the contest was inspired by a video created last year by children at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village. In the piece, called “The Lie,” students described stereotypes that have affected them and then spoke the truth that countered each lie.

More information is available on the contest website.

School officials voice alarm that student wearing hijab was forced from basketball game 

County school board members are urging changes to athletic policies on religious clothing after a Gaithersburg student wearing a hijab was sidelined during a basketball game.

The elected officials said they were disturbed by reports that Watkins Mill High School student Je’Nan Hayes, 16, was prevented from playing in a postseason game earlier this month. An official at the Prince George’s County event enforced a rule requiring student-athletes to show documented evidence that they are wearing a head covering for religious reasons, according to news reports.

The rule is rarely enforced, according to The Baltimore Sun, and Je’Nan had played the rest of the season without a problem.

“I can’t tell you how troubled I was,” school board member Patricia O’Neill said. “It’s very hurtful. It’s not keeping up with the 21st century.”

At O’Neill’s suggestion, the school board agreed to draft a letter to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations asking them to do away with the paperwork requirement.

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