A Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson said the school system will defer to Rockville Police as it continues to investigate Islamophobic and racist harassment directed at a Richard Montgomery student who ran for the Board of Education.
MCPS Spokesperson Melissa Rivera said the school system will wait for police to finish their investigation of the incident before it looks into whether any MCPS students were involved in writing any of the racist messages.
“There is no way for us to know if the threat is from another student,” Rivera said. “We have to wait until the investigation is over and let the police do the work.”
Rivera said MCPS therefore has no plans to speak to students about the messages.
“It wasn’t related to the school directly, it wasn’t a school incident,” Rivera said.
Although a detective with Rockville Police said she believes students likely were involved in sending the hateful messages.
“We’re in standby mode,” said Detective Trotter, of Rockville’s Criminal Investigations Unit, who did not want to give her first name.
Finalist for the student member of the board of education Nimah Nayel, a Richard Montgomery High School junior who ran for the student member of the Board of Education, received messages containing death threats and racist epithets. The messages came after Nayel lost to her opponent and classmate Ananya Tadikonda in April.
“There’s backend information we need from the company to be able to continue,” Trotter said.
The department two weeks ago subpoenaed the company whose service Nayel used to create her campaign website, to confirm the text and other information about hate messages Nayel received. Trotter said detectives may have to wait two weeks to six months to receive the documents.
Rockville City Police must receive certified records from a web service provider before it can continue investigating the racist message directed at the student finalist for the school board received through her campaign website.
“For us, we’re looking at it as, she’s a student, and what adult is going to go out of their way to harass a student running for student government,” Trotter said.
In case police determine no crimes occurred but confirm students sent the messages, Trotter said City Police will share names with MCPS, so MCPS can decide how to discipline students.
“If it turns out this is just bias-based, and it’s something the school is going to handle internally,” she said.
However, if police do determine the website messages were criminal activity, the department will seek documents from YouTube as well. Earlier this year, Nayel received comments on her campaign video she posted on YouTube. Some of the comments were discouraging. Trotter said she believes people who commented on the video may also be involved in sending the messages, based on words used in each one.
“We anticipate that being the same user,” Trotter said of commenters on the video.