Student candidate for County Board of Education receives hate-based death threats
WARNING: This story contains graphic language
ROCKVILLE — “slit ur wrists mohammed's whore” the email read.
Sixteen-year-old Nimah Nayel, an international Baccalaureate student at Richard Montgomery High School, said she was shocked and upset.
Nayel, a finalist for Student Member of the MCPS Board of Education, received offensive remarks on her race and the fact that she is Muslim May 9 two weeks after the election ended.
“im glad u didnt win fuck you i hope u get lynched u fucking nigger,” Nayel read in one message. The author gave a name of “FUCK YOU” and an email address -fuckyou @gmail.com.
“if you had win i wld have shot up mcps so u shld be grateful lmaooo,” she read in another. “cringey ass bitch. why tf do u even breth”
Rockville Mayor Bridget Newton – where Richard Montgomery High School is located - said she was unaware of the incident until informed by The Sentinel, but also said she was shocked. “This type of behavior is never acceptable,” she said, adding that after she contacted police she was expecting a report on the incident. "I think it's absolutely horrible and doesn't reflect the community that we live in,” Newton said. “I would like to think that anyone who is doing this -- and of course they're cowards because they are hiding behind social media -- anyone who is doing this is not from Rockville or Montgomery County because we are so much better than that."
Rockville City Police say they are investigating who sent the messages. “This [investigation] falls under the category of a bias-based incident,” a Rockville police spokesman said Wednesday.. “We have not at this time confirmed that a crime has occurred, we are at this time investigating the effect of it”
Nayel said she wants to believe the senders intended the messages to be humorous.
Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education member Pat O’Neill said that when MCPS identifies students as being connected to a hate crime, the students receive discipline and are referred to the police.
“I had been made aware that she received some anti-Muslim comments,” O’Neill said, later adding, “Hate speech is never acceptable, and it is very very sad. She [Nayel] is an incredible young woman, and I am sure her parents are very upset.”
O'Neill said that Nayel’s experience came to the Board of Education’s attention because of Nayel’s finalist status in the SMOB election.
Police weren’t the only ones to see the messages, however. Nayel also posted screen captures of the messages to her Twitter account on May 15, and wrote, “While running for SMOB, I had a wonderful, enriching, and positive experience. I’m speaking out, however, because I recently received vile, disgusting, and hateful messages- attached below. I was disappointed and upset by the messages, but heartened and empowered by the support.”
Since then, hundreds of people have liked and shared the tweet in support.
“I just think that recently, it’s become easier for people to feel emboldened enough to say negative things about people based on their race, religion, etc. etc., and that’s not only the fault of the change in politics. That’s also the fault of, you know, we’re not pushing back on it enough, and we’re allowing these kinds of things to be normalized,” said Nayel.
MCPS spokesperson Melissa Rivera said the superintendent wasn’t available for comment Wednesday and that the MCPS tweet serves as MCPS’ statement.
“We are deeply sorry that you received these hateful messages,” the MCPS Twitter account posted on May 16. “This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Any MCPS student found to have engaged in this behavior will be disciplined in accordance with the student code of conduct and referred to law enforcement.”
“We as a society can do better, and it starts with our youth, and spreading kindness, tolerance and acceptance,” said Richard Montgomery Principal Damon Monteleone Wednesday, later adding, “Nimah herself conveys all of that.”
Nayel said she is comfortable sharing her experience publicly.
“I’m always willing to open dialogue about it,” she said.
She said she wants the public to know students making Islamophobic comments is a problem in MCPS.
“One person starting a conversation about it, I think is important,” said Nayel.
"Unfortunately I think it's another example of the times that we live in, and individuals seem to feel comfortable making those kind of threats to someone that they don't even know," said Montgomery county Public Schools Board of Education President Michael Durso Wednesday.