By Mary Ma
Trigger warning: This article contains discussion of sexual assault.
Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 if you need assistance. Help is confidential and free.
After the widespread allegations against Harvey Weistein in 2017, the #MeToo movement came to being. Recently, the movement has hit close to home, with sexual harassment and assault claims posted over social media by students, alum and other citizens of Montgomery County.
Instagram accounts such as @survivorsatwootton, @survivorsatbcc, @metoomoco and others are posting anonymous student submitted allegations. While @survivorsatwootton is keeping the alleged perpetrators anonymous, @metoomoco is posting names of perpetrators and occasionally pictures in an effort to warn students.
The claims belong to many schools as well as workplaces. Blair, Wootton, Richard Montgomery, Paint Branch, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Quince Orchard, and Magruder are a few of the schools that the claims belong to. From unsolicited nudes to rape, the stories are alarming. Some allegations were also directed towards teachers.
On June 26th, MCPS superintendent Jack R. Smith responded to the allegations. In the letter, Smith said, “…all allegations involving our schools and/or students that come to our attention will be investigated.” In the statement, he also urges students and parents who “have information regarding an alleged sexual assault” to contact the Montgomery County Police Department.
In another community message sent out July 1st, Smith elaborates on MCPS initiatives over the last five years combating sexual assault. He states, “As an immediate next step, I have asked our Director of Student Welfare and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator to lead a process—involving all offices of our school system—to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted into each viable report, and to take the necessary steps in response to what we find.”
Administration across schools have responded in different ways. At Montgomery Blair High School, where the movement originated and gained significant traction, many students have called on Principal Renay Johnson via Twitter to respond. Johnson did not respond and instead, blocked a few vocal Blair students.
Many petitions involving sexual assault in MCPS have also emerged online. One notable one is the Change.org petition to make a scheduling tool that prevents survivors being put into the same class as their abuser. The petition has over 15,000 signatures.
In an interview with @metoomoco over Instagram DM, they clarify aspects of the #MeToo movement in MCPS. Here’s what they said:
What is the purpose behind this initiative?
Our purpose is to provide a safe space for and amplify the voices of survivors in MCPS who have oftentimes been ignored (or worse) by their school and community.
How has the administration across MCPS responded to the cases?
So far, MCPS has released a statement about the sexual assault cases but it was fairly empty. Across many schools in the county, students have been silenced and belittled by the administration and teachers meant to help them.
How have moco students responded?
The majority of moco students are very grateful to have this platform. Being believed and supported can be life-changing for some survivors. Of course, we receive some backlash from those accused and anonymous accounts.
Do you agree with the way MCPS has been handling sexual assault?
I think MCPS has done a poor job handling the sexual assaults. Before this, almost all cases were brushed under the rug. Survivors are often attacked or belittled by their own schools admin. I also think that MCPS largely missed the point in their letter. They asked people to share anonymous tips of SAs, something I disagree with since not every survivor may want to press charges. A survivor’s story should be their own.
- Safe Schools Maryland Tip Line: Anonymous reporting system. Call 1-833-MD-B-SAFE or download the app.
- Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program: For immediate assistance call: 240-777-1355 (weekdays), 240-777-4357 (24 hr crisis line).
- RAINN: Free national sexual assault hotline and other helpful resources including a national sexual assault center finder.
- MCPS sexual assault support: Resources for MCPS students to access.
- Choose Respect: Resources and information about teen dating violence.