BOE Considers Important Changes to Board Policy ACA
The Board of Education’s Policy Management Committee (Committee) reviewed Board Policy ACA, Nondiscrimination, Equity, and Cultural Proficiency, and recommended a number of important changes including amendments that prohibit the use of language and/or the display of images and symbols that promote hate. Existing Board Policy ACA affirms the Board’s commitment to ensuring a safe and nurturing learning environment for all MCPS students. On December 10, 2020, the Committee voted unanimously to send draft changes to Policy ACA to the full Board for consideration on January 28, 2021.
The following provision is one of the amendments proposed in the draft policy:
“The Board prohibits the use of language and/or the display of images and symbols which promote hate and can be reasonably expected to cause substantial disruption to school or district operations or activities.”
The Board and school system want to ensure MCPS students are physically, socially and psychologically safe. Students benefit from an environment where they feel valued. MCPS is committed to schools and communities that are free of hate, bias and discrimination. It is the district’s responsibility and the commitment of the Board to ensure this is true.
In recent years, MCPS has seen an uptick in the number of incidents involving hate-based graffiti, such as swastikas, nooses and racist language. These incidents have been deeply disturbing and upsetting to students and disruptive to school operations. Acts of discrimination are defined in Board policies and MCPS regulations, as well as in the Student Code of Conduct in Montgomery County Public Schools, and A Student’s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities in MCPS.
Board Policy ACA and A Student’s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities in MCPS define discrimination as:
“Discrimination includes actions that are motivated by an invidious intent to target individuals based on their actual or perceived personal characteristics, as well as acts of hate, violence, insensitivity, disrespect, or retaliation—such as verbal abuse, harassment, slurs, threats, physical violence, vandalism, or destruction of property—that impede or affect the learning or work environment.”
These actions of hate and bias are unacceptable in MCPS. The Policy Committee’s action is a strong affirmation of these values.
“These kinds of symbols promote intolerance and demean our students,” said Board of Education president, Brenda Wolff. “They create a hostile and unwelcoming environment and as a learning community we are committed to ensuring that all students understand the terrible impact hate symbols can have, and that in MCPS there is no place for hate”
“Witnessing symbols of hate is a traumatic experience,” said Nick Asante, the Student Member of the Board of Education. “They cause long-lasting harm to our students’ mental well-being and sense of self. I recall an incident at my high school where racist messages were displayed on the school campus, causing widespread fear, confusion, and discomfort for many students. It is crucial that our school system makes it clear that it doesn’t tolerate hate.”
The full Board reviewed the proposed changes to Policy ACA on January 28 and authorized a public comment period until April 1 (you can offer a public comment here). The MCPS nondiscrimination statement, A Student’s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities in MCPS, Student Code of Conduct in MCPS, Guidelines for Respecting Religious Diversity, and Guidelines for Student Gender Identity will be reviewed for appropriate language updates as necessary as part of this process following final action. It is important to note that school leaders in MCPS continue to encourage secondary students to complete the Culture of Respect Training module; to date, 60% of MCPS secondary students have either completed or are in process of completing this training.
- Policy ACA
- A Student’s Guide to Students Rights and Responsibilities
- Student Code of Conduct
- Guidelines for Respecting Religious Diversity
- Guidelines for Student Gender Identity
- MCPS Antiracist Audit
- Anti Defamation League Hate Symbols Database
- Teaching Tolerance