February 22, 2023
The JCRC is gratified that Dr. McKnight’s remarks today about the cascade of recent antisemitic incidents within MCPS included specific measures being taken to ensure greater accountability for perpetrators of these incidents. Students and their parents must know that there will be serious consequences for the propagation of ugly hatred that deeply, tangibly harms our Jewish students, families and employees and those of other marginalized groups. Suspensions come and go, but hopefully the mandatory involvement of parents and the threat of incidents appearing on students’ permanent records will serve as a deterrent and a strong statement about our school system’s values and priorities.
We remain deeply concerned and angered about the failed implementation of Restorative Justice practices in several recent incidents, which did not follow best practices and caused serious traumatic harm to Jewish students and employees. Despite the fact that restorative justice is premised on the willing, voluntary participation of all parties to the incident, in at least one instance Jewish students were forced to participate in mandatory restorative justice sessions alongside perpetrators of serious antisemitic acts; when the perpetrators refused to fully apologize for their wrongdoing, the Jewish students were not permitted to respond and felt trapped in a profoundly emotionally unsafe space without any support. Other incidents of restorative justice implementation have been similarly counterproductive and harmful. The JCRC has been working collaboratively with MCPS restorative justice professionals to encourage greater cultural competency and sensitivity in doing this work, and we are committed to continuing to do so in partnership with our colleagues at MCPS. We are also addressing the need for strengthened curricula regarding Jewish history, antisemitism, and the Holocaust. In fact, today the JCRC is in Annapolis testifying in support of the passage of a package of bills focused on these precise issues, alongside other members of our community including a Holocaust survivor and a student from Walt Whitman High School.
It is critical that Jewish parents and community members have the opportunity to hear from and engage directly with Dr. McKnight, which they will have the opportunity to do at two JCRC town halls with the Superintendent in March, to be held at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac and Temple Sholom in Silver Spring.
We look forward to those discussions.