”Dear MCPS Community:
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., I am writing to thank you for your questions, comments, concerns and critiques as we work to ensure our schools remain safe and welcoming places to learn for all of our students.
As you may have seen in media reports, school systems from across the country, including Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), have seen an increase in threats and reports of threats since the Feb. 14 tragedy. These threats and reports have come in the form of social media posts, emails, phone calls and in-person conversations. While most of these threats have proven not to be credible, we take each report seriously and work closely with the Montgomery County Police Department to investigate. Please know that anyone who is found by MCPS to have made a threat against a school will be directed to law enforcement.
I also want to take a moment to provide the community with information regarding the arrest of a student at Clarksburg High School for the possession of a loaded handgun. As Clarksburg High School Principal Edward Owusu shared with his school community last week, after it was reported that a student had a gun on school property, the School Resource Officer (SRO) immediately confiscated the gun and the student was placed under arrest. Additionally, the Montgomery County Police Department shared in its press release that the documents they recovered from the student had “no wording regarding any threat nor any expression of wanting to cause harm to anyone at the school.”
We know that these incidents have created anxiety and fear around school safety for our students, families and staff across the county. MCPS remains committed to ensuring students are safe in our schools. To ensure the physical safety of our schools and students, MCPS has emergency preparedness and security protocols in place. To support mental health, MCPS counselors, psychologists and other resources have been provided to schools and staff to support students as they process what is happening nationally and locally.
Some students are processing this information by speaking up for school safety and advocating for laws that will help prevent another school shooting tragedy. MCPS strongly supports students who engage in the civic process and share thoughts on the issues they are passionate about. Many of our middle school and high school students have worked with their principals to set aside time during the instructional day to speak out. This ensured students were able to express their opinions in a supportive and safe environment.
We also know that several high schools had students leave school property yesterday to advocate at the U.S. Capitol. While we support student advocacy, leaving school property poses a significant safety risk, especially in light of the increase in school threats. MCPS does not have the staff or resources to ensure students are safe during the school day when they are not on a school campus. It also poses a safety challenge if schools are required to evacuate and we cannot account for all students because they have left.
During this challenging time, I want to thank our staff for reassuring and comforting students. I believe the kind and encouraging words from teachers, support staff and administrators make a positive difference. I also want to thank our partners in law enforcement who have worked closely and collaboratively with us as we addressed the increase in threats. Their quick response to our requests and concerns are an invaluable asset.
Education is our purpose; safety will always be our first priority. We ask that staff, students and families remain vigilant in their efforts to keep our students safe and continue to abide by the concept of “see something, say something.”
Jack R. Smith
Superintendent of Schools”