“Dear Montgomery County Families and Community Members,
As key leaders representing Montgomery County residents, we are writing to report on the actions taken following the recent fight that followed a high school football game in Bethesda this past Friday, September 1, and to reiterate our collective commitment to community safety.
Following the football game between Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson High Schools, a physical altercation near the Bethesda Metro Station resulted in multiple student injuries. Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery County Police immediately began a collaborative conversation.
The primary goal of this work is to determine precisely what occurred and to ensure that students involved will be held accountable. The memorandum of understanding with all community police partners very specifically outlines what actions may be addressed through school-based discipline and what is considered criminal activity.
Available evidence has been reviewed and we can confirm at this time that appropriate disciplinary action has been applied in alignment with the MCPS Student Code of Conduct . However, no students have been charged criminally, although the criminal investigation is ongoing.
The school district has always maintained comprehensive operational safety plans for each football game every week during the fall athletics season. Prior to the fall athletic season, MCPD and MCPS hold a collaborative meeting to discuss comprehensive operation safety plans for each football game. These meetings have helped create the tiered safety plan system that has been in place since 2022. MCPD and MCPS remain committed partners in ensuring school and community safety, and frequently discuss updates to these plans on a weekly basis.
The question has arisen, “How do we extend safety beyond the school campus?” This poses challenges but we are exploring a number of options along with our county security and police partners. Essentially, this involves monitoring by placing MCPS staff in key areas of our community following football games and messaging to our students that we and the community are watching.
Moving forward, we are taking the following actions to strengthen safety at all football games.
We utilize the resources that our Fall 2023 Athletics Safety Plan provides, which include actions such as:
- Students must present a school ID
- School-age spectators from other than the competing schools must be accompanied by an adult
- Backpacks are not allowed and more.
The Athletics Safety Plan also allows for us to implement actions on an incremental basis. Therefore, effective this week, all varsity football games will operate with the following Tier 2 actions:
- Spectator numbers will be limited to 75% of stadium capacity to assist with event management.
- Individuals who engage in inappropriate behaviors may be excluded from postseason competition or suspended for multiple contests.
Game times/dates may be altered to provide more daylight and assist with event management.
If additional incidents occur, consistent with the decision guidelines in the safety plan, additional actions may be taken, including a shift to Tier 3 of the plan.
Also, Montgomery County Police have committed to assigning officers in identified areas of concern such as areas where students may gather after games.
This incident must serve as a teachable moment for our entire community. We must collectively reinforce the values of respect, tolerance, and resolving conflict through peaceful means. It is through an “All Together Now” understanding that we can ensure our students do not resort to violence as a means to resolve their differences. Collectively, we encourage parents and guardians to have conversations with their children about the inappropriate choice of violence and fighting, as well as the possible consequences. These conversations are vital in reinforcing the values we hold dear within our community.
As community leaders, we are dedicated to addressing this incident with the seriousness it deserves and ensuring that it serves as an opportunity for positive change. Together, we can strengthen the bonds that unite us and help our students grow into responsible, compassionate, and productive members of society.”
Dr. Monifa B. McKnight
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