After threats and arrests, Charles Co. school leaders work to reassure parents

School leaders in Charles County, Maryland, are speaking out and working to reassure parents after a recent series of incidents at La Plata High School led to several arrests and prompted concerns about safety.

Just this week, a 14-year-old student at La Plata was arrested and charged as a juvenile after he was found carrying a loaded handgun. Three weeks ago, another student was arrested after he was found to be carrying a loaded handgun on campus.

Another 17-year-old La Plata High School student was charged Thursday, after posting threats on social media claiming he would shoot students on Friday.

In a letter to parents, La Plata High School principal Douglass Dolan called the threat “not credible.”

Dolan urged parents to talk with their children about the panic that threats and rumors cause to a school community.

“We know from experience that students often think they are just being funny or making a joke when they make a threat. However, we will hold anyone who threatens the safety of our school accountable for their actions,” said Dolan.

Charles County Public Schools’ Director of School Safety and Security Jason Stoddard called the successive incidents “very abnormal, very unusual” and reiterated that they were not related in any way.

“We share our parents’ and our students’ anxieties, concerns and fear,” Stoddard said. “This is not normal behavior, and we are doing everything that we can to address the concerns and the issues, not just at La Plata High School, but all of our schools.”

Stoddard added that the threats were successfully mitigated before anything tragic happened, because students and teachers took action when they realized something wasn’t right.

“In the first case, it was a teacher who saw an abnormal act of behavior,” said Stoddard. “The second event, very similar, [we had] a student who was shown a bullet. That student then had the courage to take that information to an administrator.”

Stoddard called the incidents “tragic events of bad decision-making.” He’ll be spending the next few school days talking with students at La Plata High School to hear from them, and about any possible safety improvements that could be made.

School leaders, including Dolan and Stoddard, will be holding a meeting with parents at La Plata High School on Tuesday, April 16, to discuss safety and security concerns.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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