News Brief: March 2023 Current Events

MCPS Struggling To Respond to Antisemitic Incidents

by Justin Lakso ‘25

An increase in antisemitism has been popping up all over Montgomery County. Many are familiar with the “Jews Not Welcome” graffiti at Walt Whitman High School, but Whitman isn’t the only school that has had such incidents. Recent antisemitic activity has been present in at least five schools in MCPS. There have been swastika drawings in and around B-CC, white nationalist vandalism at Walter Johnson, and two cases of Pro-Nazi flyers appearing at Northwood. “We certainly are seeing a spike. And I think the why of it is less important to me than the what we do in response,” said County Councilman Will Jawando in a conference with the WUSA9 news network.

According to an MCPS statement, Superintendent Monifa McKnight and the Board of Education will “condemn all acts of antisemitism in any form.” The staff team has worked to “immediately” remove all drawings, flyers, and other forms of antisemitic propaganda whenever they occur. To the Board, this is not enough. “We must do more, and we will.” The school district plans to collaborate with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to further educate the students about antisemitism.

Since then, there has been criticism that MCPS has made little progress. Guila Franklin Siegel, JCRC’s associate director, stated in The Washington Post that the organization has “lost confidence in the the school system’s handling of the antisemitic incidents,” and “there is more work to be done.” The JCRC is concerned that the school system doesn’t even make students sufficiently apologize. “There needs to be stronger penalties to try to break this cycle that we’re seeing of incidents,” said Franklin Siegel.

MoCo Council Bill Would Limit Traffic Stops

by Dylan Sondike ’24

A recently introduced bill would limit the permitted reasons for police traffic stops in Montgomery County. The Safety and Traffic Equity Act (STEP) hopes to force police officers to address more severe crimes and attempt to limit racial disparities in who is pulled over for violations. The STEP act would prevent police officers from stopping people for vehicle violations related to registration, tinted windows, insurance issues and faulty headlights or tail lights, among other reasons.

“The STEP Act shifts enforcement for low-level traffic violations to allow law enforcement the ability to focus on serious crime while addressing disparities,” said County Councilman Will Jawando in a statement. Jawando and co-sponsor Kristin Mink argued that law enforcement must direct their attention to more urgent needs in Montgomery County than minor violations, which they stated disproportionately impact drivers of color.

Jawando and Mink are attempting to rally support for their bill despite strong opposition from the police department. Police Chief Marcus Jones publicly complained that the bill will make the roads and communities in the county more dangerous. Jones added that this bill is too restrictive on the police and is limiting them from doing their jobs effectively. A public hearing is planned for July 19.

Fate of College Debt Relief To Be Decided by Court

by Liam Trump ’24

After promising to tackle students’ college debt on the campaign trail, President Joe Biden announced on August 24, 2022 a plan that would ensure $10,000 in federal student debt relief may be offered to borrowers whose income in 2020 or 2021 was less than $125,000, or $250,000 for households. Biden’s plan is now in limbo after the Supreme Court stated last December that it would hear a challenge to the program, putting the plan on hold for millions of people awaiting a decision. As a result, dozens of civil rights groups and labor unions filed amicus briefs with the Court. The Supreme Court is most likely to reach a decision during the last week of June, before the end of the Court’s session.

The case before the Court was spurred when six Republican-led states–Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and South Carolina–filed a lawsuit, stating that the debt relief plan violated the Administrative Procedure Act when Biden avoided Congress’s authority, which, in their view, goes against the Constitutional principle of separation of powers. The states’ attorneys general argued that the plan unfairly excluded Americans who never took out a student loan and that certain loan services would lose money over it.