O’Looney, McKnight address range of topics during virtual town hall


Photo courtesy of MCPS

Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney and Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight discussed a number of student concerns through an Instagram livestream on October 25.

By Samantha Wang

Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney hosted a virtual student town hall with Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight through an Instagram livestream on October 25. O’Looney addressed concerns students raised through an online form on the school district’s website, with topics ranging from LGBTQ+ acceptance to whether MCPS will unblock the site Coolmath Games on school-issued chromebooks. 

O’Looney began the town hall by addressing recent instances of hate speech and physical fights in county schools. When the SMOB asked students to share their thoughts on these matters, many of the approximately 100 students who tuned into the meeting sent O’Looney messages via the chat function expressing concern over safety. McKnight reassured students that MCPS hears student voices, and is working to ensure schools provide students with a secure environment and a sense of unity.

 “We’re all in a community together,” McKnight said. “It’s our responsibility to take these crimes seriously. Addressing the issues at hand and creating an opportunity to bring people together creates shared accountability to better understand one another and to prevent these events from happening again.”

O’Looney elaborated on the matter by sharing her experience confronting prejudice while campaigning for her position on the Board.

“I remember how intense anti-Asian hate crimes were when I was running for SMOB,” O’Looney said. “That was something that I really took to heart. Our school systems are working toward more restorative justice measures which are important to move away from these implicit biases.”

O’Looney also highlighted the school district’s efforts to combat climate change. McKnight mentioned that MCPS has already taken action to protect the environment, and she applauded student-led organizations that have advocated for further green efforts.

“We have a lot of programs around energy conservation and recycling that have been implemented already,” McKnight said. “Our students have successfully been able to take the lead in order to make sure that we are addressing the concerns of climate change.”

In response to students’ questions about what the school district’s climate-based policies entail, McKnight referenced MCPS’ plan to implement electric buses in the near future and advancements on a sustainability policy that intends to ensure that schools promote healthy environmental practices

To conclude the meeting, O’Looney and McKnight emphasized the students’ power to share any struggles they may have and to reach out to MCPS officials if questions arise. 

 “If anything of concern comes up, please use your voices,” McKnight said. “Contact your administrators so that the issue can be addressed. Your voices are always important.”

Although he was unable to attend the livestream, SGA President Jaiden Vikram said he believes that by giving students a platform to hold their leaders accountable, O’Looney was properly exercising her role as MCPS students’ primary representative.

“It’s a great idea for students to be able to communicate with her on a personal level like this,” Vikram said. “Usually it feels like the SMOB disappears after being elected, but it’s good that she’s keeping students in the loop and maintaining a relationship.”