By Camilo Montoya
Montgomery County Public Schools made national headlines once again as two students, ages 20 and 19, were arrested on sexual assault allegations involving two 11-year-old girls. With one of the alleged offenders being a student at B-CC, the incident sparked a justified feeling of uneasiness across students, staff, and parents.
Although we are no stranger to upsetting incidents involving B-CC students, this is easily one of the most heartbreaking stories ever to hit the shores of our community. Our natural instinct has always been to search for answers within the wreckage that the wave leaves behind, rather than looking into the force that originated it.
Without a doubt, the crimes in question are horrifying and the offenders cannot be trusted to be reintroduced into our society if found guilty in a court of law. However, in order to begin the process of healing that our community needs after events like these have taken place, we need to first make an effort to understand the source of the problem so that together we can find a solution to this cycle.
Out of all the media outlets, WJLA and Daily Mail chose to make a very clear emphasis on the Immigration Status and ages of the two students in their reports of the incidents criticizing the county for allowing undocumented students over the age of 18 to attend our schools. In a letter to parents, the principals from both B-CC and Blair reminded everyone that under Maryland law, MCPS must provide a free public education to all students aged 5 to 21,” and that “there is no data suggesting that being high school students at 19, 20, or 21 makes a person more or less likely to commit a crime.”
These anti-immigrant narratives disguised as news reports did nothing but further deceive their already misled audience. The cause and solution to these aggravating crimes lie within the countries of origin of the perpetrators. Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, most notably referred to Latin America as an “intimate land condemned to amnesia.” A quote, that I believe, holds the answer that our community needs.
From the moment the Spaniard ships pierced through the coasts of our continent, a wound was opened that centuries of pain, oppression, and abuse allowed it to become rooted in the core of our existence. In the face of oppression, our ancestors had no option but to resort to violence as their only way to stand up to their oppressors and fight for their dignity. This fighter spirit that was crucial to our rise as a civilization has continued to be fostered as the struggle for equality and liberation continues to shape our history.
Being a neighboring region to one of the great powers of the world, Central America has been cursed with having some of the most deteriorating U.S. funded armed conflicts, whose effects will continue to show for many years to come. The psychological effects of these wars have continued to haunt us for generations. Untreated, inherited trauma that our parents have passed down to us resulting from horrifying experiences during times of war combined with being brought up in a culture that from a very early age sets false expectations on young men to show strength and dominance at all times are two forgotten historical factors that have predetermined the way our generation of men will grow up to be, unless we do something about it.
Both directly and indirectly, we are taught that in order to be men we must be controlling, forceful and aggressive. A behavior that is especially expected to be used in our relationships with women who at the same are taught to be accepting of it. This translates into the alarming problem of sexual violence towards women that we face all across Latin America.
Although there are notable movements by young men and women from urbanized areas to move as far away as possible from the patriarchal standards we were forced to grow up under, the problem has remained untouched in rural areas where the average boy will be taken out of school by the 5th grade, some even going as far as becoming the only providers for their families before even going through puberty.
The immigrant experience is defined by the area of origin of the person and how much of a cultural shock they experience upon their arrival at a new country. On top of all the struggles that come with immigrating, kids who are originally from rural areas struggle the most out of all of us because they are also coming into an urban setting for the first time in their lives.
A great amount of young Central American immigrants enrolled in MCPS arrived in this country as unaccompanied minors and are currently living on their own or with a distant relative. This has left the boys to figure out how to be men all on their own while also learning a whole new language and becoming adjusted to living in a completely different culture therefore in urgent need for Latino male role models to exhibit exemplary behavior in and out of the classroom.
In MCPS, Central American Immigrants are the fastest-growing student population. Despite this, our schools have failed to take the proper steps towards attempting to understand the culture we come from and the need for proper Latino representation in their staff. In 2018, a study by Johns Hopkins University found that black children who had two black teachers were 32% more likely to go to college than their peers who didn’t have black teachers at all. B-CC currently has only one Central American educator in the entire school, and it has been that way for many years.
Our county is failing at providing the most forgotten group of students at our schools, with the possibility to see themselves portrayed as something better than what the media makes us out to be. If we truly want every student that passes through our school system to become a valuable member of our society, we need to start by instilling values that overtake any wrong teachings that our students may be operating under.
To read this in Spanish, click here.