Former Mont. Co. School Supt. says post-election protests provide 'truly teachable moment'

Since the presidential election, hundreds of local high school students have left their classrooms and taken to the streets in protest of President-elect Donald Trump. In many cases, students did so with the blessing of school teachers and administrators.

Following the alleged assault of a young Trump supporter during a protest in Rockville, Montgomery County School Superintendent Jack Smith released video instructing students to stay safe, stay in class or face disciplinary action.

Joshua Starr, former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, and current CEO of Phi Delta Kappa - a professional association for educators, joined us with a critical look at the student protests we have experienced since the election.


While Starr said he won't speak for Montgomery County Public Schools, he does say educators have to acknowledge that students are upset and want their voices heard. "The election of Donald Trump has clearly unleashed something on all sides and adults have to respond. That's our job. This is a truly teachable moment."

He said that the situation is challenging for educators because they need to find a way to embrace the student voice while keeping the children safe.


Starr says there are different elements of the election that can be examined critically. He said the pre-election speeches by the candidates, by the President, and even the experiences of educators can be engaging and can be discussed. "Teachers have to protect them and they also have to value their voice and engage them in co-constructing some of the learning," he said.


"Teachers have to make sure that kids are safe - and that safety means physical safety and it also means psychological safety," Starr said.

"Many kids don't feel safe because of this election. Whether or not that's actually going to translate into policies, we don't know," he continued.


"I think we do have to teach our kids how to analyze facts. How to take an objective view of things," Starr continued. He said there are teachable moments in understanding what may actually happen and what we think may happen.


"Arguments about counterfactuals are really convenient for people who don't want to accept the fact that there is something real going on. So we don't know. We'll never know," Starr said.

Looking forward, Starr says, educators will have hopefully learned the importance of engaging the students and the communities.