Don’t alienate students: keep SMOB nonpartisan

SMOB Nate Tinbite posted this on his Twitter Nov. 15. Some MCPS students feel alienated as a result of Tinbites political posts on social media.

Photo courtesy Nate Tinbite

SMOB Nate Tinbite posted this on his Twitter Nov. 15. Some MCPS students feel alienated as a result of Tinbite’s political posts on social media.

By Jack McGuire

Montgomery County is considered one of the most liberal areas of the country. In the 2016 Presidential Election, Democrat Hilary Clinton received 74.7% of the vote in the County while Republican Donald Trump only received 19.1%. Democrats clearly outnumber Republicans in Montgomery County, but that doesn’t mean we should isolate Republicans in all facets of government. 

The 2019–2020 Student Member of the Board, Nate Tinbite, has done this. 

Tinbite is one of just a handful of SMOBs to publicly declare his political party: he’s a Democrat, and he vocally expresses his liberal views on social media. On Oct. 19, he posted on his Instagram that he intended to vote for a Democrat, either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, in the 2020 Election. More recently, on Nov. 15, Tinbite posted an image of himself with Education Secretary Betsy Devos on his Twitter, captioning it, “only one of us supports public education.” Tinbite later tweeted that, “this tweet is an opinion of my own, not representative of my system or others.”

But Tinbite should follow past SMOBs and remain apolitical in order to create a more inclusive, non-partisan environment across MCPS. As a result of his partisan vocality, he’s isolated students who lean further right on the political spectrum, and he’s created unnecessary distractions from his goals for the school system. 

Many conservative students in MCPS have cited concerns regarding a lack of representation. They don’t feel supported by a SMOB that adamantly disagrees with their stances on federal politics.

“I voted for Tinbite under the impression that he would focus on MCPS,” said Trey Lee, a conservative junior. “His liberal posts on social media have definitely made me hesitant to support him. I don’t know if I would’ve voted for him if I knew he had all these beliefs that contradicted mine.”

By focusing on divisive national politics, Tinbite has distracted students from pressing local issues regarding high school students. 

“In SMOB candidates’ campaigns, their promises are centered around the changes they would make,” junior David Singer said. “It would be more practical for them to use their professional accounts to poll students on relevant local issues.”

Tinbite can actually make significant change with his platform. His proposals — including adding a driver’s education course for 10th and 11th grade, creating workshops to help low-income students with the college admissions process and making a more culturally reflective MCPS curriculum — are all unique ways to close the opportunity gap in our county. 

Unfortunately, many students are unfamiliar with these proposals. Tinbite fails to prioritize them on his public social media. Additionally, some conservative students discredit Tinbite’s solutions because of his political beliefs.

Of course, Tinbite still has the right to express his views. Once someone receives more recognition and responsibilities, they don’t have to relinquish their rights to freedom of speech and expression. However, Tinbite needs to be more conscious of the consequences of his actions. He could risk compromising the non-divisive, inclusive, nature of the SMOB; before posting, he should consider the wider consequences of expressing his political beliefs.

Our teachers, administrators and county board members are all required to keep their political beliefs to themselves in order to avoid isolating students. Tinbite should follow in their footsteps and keep SMOB a nonpartisan position. He’s the face of the MCPS student body. It’s time he starts to focus on student concerns rather than national politics. After all, we didn’t elect him for his political leaning, we elected him to amplify our collective voice.