Two anti-LGBTQ incidents reported at Damascus High in one week

Two anti-LGBTQ incidents involving students occurred within a week at Damascus high school, according to a letter from the school principal.

The first incident involved threats targeting the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club, the letter said. The second occurred on Monday during a walkout in response to the GSA incident, when two students allegedly drove a truck with an offensive flag.

Principal Kevin Yates wrote in a letter on Nov. 30 that an incident “of a discriminatory nature” had taken place in a room where the GSA club met during the school’s lunch period that day. The incident involved “inappropriate comments” towards students at the club.

“School supervisory staff immediately recognized that this was a serious matter and called school security who responded immediately,” Yates wrote in the letter. He did not specify what the comments were.

In a second letter Yates sent on Tuesday, he wrote that comments made at the meeting were “viewed as a physical threat to the students in the room and were in particular demeaning to LGBTRQ + students.” He also wrote that the students in the room had heard other students in the hall say “white power”.

“These types of comments are hurtful and demeaning and do not represent the values ​​of our school or our community,” he wrote on Tuesday.

Yates wrote in the second letter that “disciplinary action has been taken which is aligned with the MCPS Student Code of Conduct.” He hasn’t developed.

Following the incident on November 30, students staged a walkout on Monday to protest discrimination.

Yates wrote that school officials “are aware” of two students who, during the protest, drove a truck back and forth “with an offensive flag bearing a weapon with the text” Come and take it ” .

“School administrators are following up with parents / guardians of both students and will take appropriate disciplinary action based on the MCPS Code of Student Conduct,” Yates wrote.

“I have met with the students affected by these incidents and have committed the school’s resources on an ongoing basis if they need time with our counselors to discuss these incidents further,” Yates wrote. “We actually had restorative conversations to hear, understand, and help students work through their feelings. “

Yates did not say whether police were called in either case. When contacted by Bethesda Beat, he referred questions to the MCPS communications office.

Montgomery County Police spokesperson Shiera Goff wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat that she had not heard of the incident. She did not respond to a follow-up email on Tuesday.

Mark Eckstein, who chairs the APT’s Montgomery County Council LGBTQ committee, told Bethesda Beat on Tuesday that he believes news of the incident involving the GSA club has spread beyond the Damascus community. High in the last 24 hours.

“It seems it was only because the students were vocal and did a walkout that it really came to light. So I have had ongoing conversations with the school district to try and maybe increase the severity when you have events like this, ”he said.

Eckstein previously urged MCPS officials to respond more quickly to anti-LGBTQ discrimination following an October incident at Walter Johnson High School, telling Bethesda Beat at the time that school officials often reacted more quickly to racial and religious discrimination.

Racist and homophobic graffiti was spray painted at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda on October 3. The graffiti referred to white supremacy and included the phrase “LGBT people are unnatural,” according to MCPS.

Walter Johnson’s manager, Jennifer Baker, was criticized at the time for only mentioning racism, not homophobia, when describing graffiti. However, the school has addressed both types of hate speech in its messages and follow-up actions.

On Tuesday, Eckstein again said he was concerned MCPS officials were not receptive enough to LGBTQ concerns.

“Incidents like this typically rely on MCPS intervening with various stakeholders and community leaders who have been harmed. And I find it disturbing that this awareness has not taken place, ”he said.

MCPS spokesman Chris Cram, responding in an email to Bethesda Beat’s questions about Eckstein’s criticism, wrote that the school “has communicated on the incident and followed up after the children left. students and followed[ed] restorative conversations with students.

“As you know, incidents evolve and incident responses adjust to support what is most likely complex and nuanced,” he wrote.

Dan Schere can be contacted at [email protected]

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