Montgomery County students handed out racial slur ‘passes,' school officials say

Students at a Maryland high school are being disciplined for passing around notes that encourage the use of a racial slur.

The principal at Winston Churchill High School in Montgomery County sent a letter home to parents on Monday condemning the act.

Almost two dozen parents talked to FOX 5 on Tuesday - and they all said they were disgusted and angry that it happened at their school. They also said they weren't surprised.

In a letter to parents, Principal Brandice Heckert said that on Friday students were passing around notes and written on the inside was the phrase "n-word pass."

The principal said several students would pass these notes around. Whoever would receive it would essentially be given a pass to use the racial slur.

In the letter, Heckert said she is, "Deeply disappointed and appalled" - a sentiment shared by students and parents.

"I think it's really disappointing and it's something we don't welcome here at Churchill," said student Ben Eisler.

"I think change needs to start. I'm in leadership and we've been talking about it in class. I see change coming. I think it's offensive I think Churchill is better than that," said Ryan Klein, another student.

"Life is what it is you know, we have to push back and advocate for ourselves all the time. So in a way they're learning life lessons but it's not a very conducive school for a learning environment for the children so something needs to be done about it," said Ajoke Omojesu, a parent.

An upcoming PTSA meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 19. The meeting is intended to give parents and students an open forum to discuss tolerance, racism, and bias.

Complete letter from Heckert to parents:

I wanted to update you regarding the incident I shared in my letter on Friday, February 8. After an investigation, we have confirmed that, on Friday, several students participated in the distribution of "N-word passes" during lunch. As we learned through the investigation, the N-word pass is a paper pass given from one person to another that gives the receiver permission to use the N-word.

I am deeply disappointed and appalled that any student in our school would chose to engage in such a racist, hateful act. This behavior is disgraceful and does not reflect the values expected of Winston Churchill students. Not only is this behavior hurtful to our community, but it also undermines all the great attributes our students have to offer. I made a promise to all students that I would not ignore acts of intolerance and hatred. Behavior that is disrespectful and/or intolerant will not be accepted. While I cannot share specific consequences for the students involved, please be assured that they will match the severity of the action and will be in alignment with the Student Code of Conduct.

To move forward, I will be engaging our student body in a conversation about how to foster a welcoming and respectful climate for all. I met with all staff this morning to inform them of the incident from last week and instructed them to acknowledge this act of hatred that occurred within our own walls. They will also be available to any students who may want to discuss last week's incident or any other incident that has occurred. In addition, this afternoon, I met with student leaders, several staff members and other students to talk about the incident and to discuss what can be done collectively to not only teach acceptance and tolerance, but to also celebrate the different cultures within our community. This must be a collaborative effort. I will be looking to work more closely with our numerous parent organizations and feeder schools to support and educate our community. The PTSA Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 19, will solely be an open forum on tolerance, racism, and bias. I will be working closely with members of our equity office for support as well.

I feel very fortunate to be the principal at Winston Churchill High School, but acts of hatred and intolerance frustrate and sadden me because I believe that we are better than this. This act, or like behavior, is not how I want or expect Winston Churchill students to be remembered. I want all students to know that we will address concerns and that their voice matters. I have included some resources for talking with your children below. Thank you.