The following letter has been sent out to the Gaithersburg High School and Northwest High School communities by the principals of each school and Systemwide MCPS Director of Athletics:
Dear Gaithersburg and Northwest High School Communities,
Collectively we write to you, as we did on Sept. 19, to update you on the systemwide response following the large fight that occurred during the football game on Sept. 16. The investigation as a result of this incident was conducted at the central system level, and as principals of our two schools, we had no influence on that work or the ultimate decisions made.
As the Sept. 19 letter indicated, the early work to understand what had occurred that night revealed, “The actions demonstrated are in direct conflict with the R.A.I.S.E. core values of MCPS Athletics.” Those core values for all athletes and adults working with athletes are:
- Respect & Sportsmanship
- Academic Excellence
- Integrity & Character
- Spirited & Safe Competition
- Equity & Access
Athletics in Montgomery County Public Schools is an extension of the classroom. Athletes study, practice and demonstrate skills developed intentionally to achieve a level of excellence. Our athletic specialists, coaches, assistant coaches, and essentially everyone who supports these programs are the teachers and adult leaders of our excellent sports programs. Therefore all participants in our athletic programs must be held accountable to what is outlined in our rules and core values.
Initial Actions Taken
When students and adults step outside the expected behaviors of the R.A.I.S.E. core values, the MCPS Student and Employee Code of Conduct and rules from either Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) or the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), disciplinary and corrective actions are required. Immediately after the Sept. 16 incident, the following actions were taken:
- The Gaithersburg vs. Northwest varsity football game on Sept. 16, 2022, was declared a double forfeit.
- Both teams then forfeited their next games scheduled on Sept. 23, 2022.
Actions Following the Investigation
Following a thorough investigation conducted by MCPS central office staff, which included gathering witness statements and reviewing all available video footage, the following actions are now taken:
- The Gaithersburg High School Athletic Specialist position is vacated, and
- The Northwest High School head and assistant coach positions will also be vacated
- Current individuals acting in these positions will complete this season in those positions. The process to fill these positions with permanent replacements will be announced later this year.
Because of privacy rules surrounding personnel matters and the importance of respecting the privacy of individuals involved, this is the extent of information that can be shared. The three affected individuals and current school athletics staff have been informed of these decisions.
What becomes important now is that students, staff and families impacted by this incident and who may be affected as a result of these decisions will be provided supports. These supports will help students and staff understand these actions and help process their concerns moving forward. MCPS will provide these supports in multiple ways, which will include:
- A menu of options to support students, such as restorative discussions for each team’s players, counselors or psychologists to individual team members
- Restorative discussion for each team’s coaching staff
A school and, by extension, its athletics have an identity that is deeply and emotionally personal for their respective communities. These decisions will understandably be viewed differently but we must come together at this time to heal and prevent further division. This is a time to celebrate and speak positively about the rules that maintain fairness and our R.A.I.S.E. core values that are steeped in sportsmanship and collaborative yet competitive play.
| Jeffrey Sullivan, Ed.D.
Director, Systemwide Athletics