Montgomery County Public Schools is tackling an important issue after an alleged hazing incident that occurred at Damascus High School earlier this month, where five members of the junior varsity football team were charged with various counts of sexual assault and second-degree rape. In late October, MCPS students gathered at the Montgomery County Council’s hearing room in a Youth Town Hall, in order to be a part of the conversation in finding a solution to bullying and hazing in the school district, as it is an issue that consistently impacts many students.
On November 5, just days following the Damascus High School hazing charges surfaced, MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith released a video alongside MCPS Athletic Director Jeffrey Sullivan and Associate Superintendent Jonathan Brice to all MCPS schools to broadcast to students in pursuit of raising awareness of bullying and hazing. Smith says in the video, “Bullying, harassment, hazing, verbal and physical abuse, whether in classrooms, hallways, sports or any extracurricular activity, will not be tolerated in our schools.” In addition to Dr. Smith’s remarks, Sullivan denounces the acts of bullying and hazing in schools by saying, “[it] will not be welcome on our courts or fields.”
Students brought up another issue at the County Council meeting, claiming that MCPS staff were not able to fully take action when bullying is reported to them. The council responded by advising students to speak up and let other adults know until someone listens.
Roger Berliner, a council member, asked students in the hearing room to raise their hands if they had ever experienced bullying; almost every student in the room had their hand up. This allowed the county council to grasp an idea of how many students are affected day to day by bullying.
Rice, chair of the council’s Education Committee explained to the students at the hearing that they should always continue to talk to someone if they witness or experience bullying, hazing, or verbal abuse as it is never tolerated. He said additionally if there is ever an issue that nobody else will listen to, the students should come to him.
“Make sure your voice is heard in your school first, then if they’re not listening, go to the person,” Rice pointed out at the hearing. The county council, as well as the superintendent, are aware of a toxic bullying environment in schools and are constantly working to provide resources to reduce bullying and hazing of MCPS students. Though open dialogue with students, the county council and Superintendent are working diligently to find solutions to successfully bring an end to the bullying in MCPS schools.
As the countywide student government, MCR-SGA condemns bullying and hazing practices in schools and will continue to advocate on behalf of MCPS students to make sure that they feel safe and welcome. We invite you to join our efforts by attending General Assemblies, reaching out directly to local and statewide officials, and by supporting classmates with a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. Our upcoming General Assembly will be held at Richard Montgomery High School on December 13.