Over the last three weeks, at least four Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) educators have been placed on administrative leave for sharing antisemitic images and messages on their social media accounts and, in one case, in an MCPS email signature block. It is deeply disturbing to see professionals tasked with educating and nurturing our children endorsing and spreading such hateful messages.
The JCRC supports and greatly appreciates MCPS’ swift intervention to temporarily remove these teachers from classrooms and to thoroughly investigate each situation. We thank MCPS as well for reminding employees in writing that they must adhere to district policies regarding social media postings and other public expressions of personal political beliefs.
In each of these cases, an MCPS employee’s free speech rights must be balanced with our students’ and other school personnel’s right to learn and work in safe and secure school environments free from disruption of learning.
While it is true that public officials, including teachers, may express opinions on public issues when speaking in a private capacity, that right is limited to those cases in which the speech does not interfere with official duties. When teachers share posts featuring well-known, insidious anti-Semitic messages such as the claim that Israelis kill Palestinians to harvest their organs, that the barbaric attacks of October 7th never happened, or the slogan “From the River to the Sea Palestine Shall be Free,” which is widely understood to imply that all Jews in Israel should either be displaced or killed, they cast doubt on their fitness to teach. How can students be expected to learn from a teacher whom they know holds hateful beliefs about their identities or believes nonsensical, bigoted conspiracy theories about them? And how much more so when the employee teaches at the school with the largest number of Israeli students at any middle school in the County?
Too many Jewish MCPS students, employees, and families continue to feel unsafe and under attack—not just since October 7, but dating back to the explosion of antisemitic incidents throughout MCPS schools over the past few school years. There are any number of ways to advocate meaningfully and authentically on behalf of Palestinian people and for the creation of a Palestinian state—which JCRC supports—without engaging in antisemitic speech and actions. Likewise, Jews and others advocating on behalf of Israel must not engage in Islamophobic rhetoric or commit actions that would harm Muslim or Arab students in any way.
Educators have a responsibility to serve as role models for their students both within and outside the classroom. The suspensions of these four teachers have caused considerable turmoil and disruption. We urge MCPS to provide impacted school communities with additional, culturally sensitive mental health supports to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff feel seen, heard, and supported. MCPS is one of the most diverse school districts in the country, where children from widely divergent backgrounds and identities come together to learn, grow, and build communities of mutual respect and empathy. The JCRC is committed to working with MCPS to ensure that this ideal is upheld.