Montgomery Co. schools hire outside adviser in investigation of locker-room rape allegations

A Montgomery County school bus is seen. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

The Montgomery County, Maryland, public school system has hired an external adviser as it investigates issues related to allegations of rape in the junior varsity locker room of Damascus High School last Halloween.

In a letter to the Damascus High School community, Superintendent Jack Smith said:

Last month, the State’s Attorney’s Office approved our request to begin an internal investigation of the supervision of the boys’ locker room on the afternoon of October 31, 2018. This investigation is under way, and we expect it to conclude in the coming weeks.

Additionally, we will expand our investigation to include reporting practices and supervision of athletics and other extracurricular activities more broadly at Damascus High School, in the context of such practices and structures across MCPS. As we move forward, we will seek expert support from an external firm, and we will make sure to continue to collaborate closely with the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Montgomery County Police Department.

The letter says the school district will cooperate with law enforcement as criminal cases against five students move through juvenile court. Four of the teens were initially charged as adults with multiple counts of rape, attempted rape and conspiracy to commit rape in the Oct. 31 attack in a school locker room. A fifth teen was initially charged as a juvenile. The schedules and outcomes of juvenile hearings are confidential.

The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office has launched an investigation into allegations that Damascus High School has systemic problems with bullying, hazing and assaultive behavior. The letter also addresses that.

As part of the State’s Attorney’s Office investigation, they have subpoenaed student records regarding any of these behaviors for all students who participated in athletics at Damascus High School from 2013 to present.

These records are protected under federal and state student records laws, and MCPS must inform parents before providing documents from student records in response to such a subpoena. MCPS intends to comply with this subpoena by providing records to the State’s Attorney’s Office. It is important to know that these records may be used as part of a legal investigation or in a court proceeding.

A specific letter has been sent to parents or guardians of affected students.

The school system isn’t specifying how many student records have been subject to the subpoenas.

Addressing issues of proper supervision of students participating in athletics and after-school activities, the letter states that MCPS has begun to develop and implement new protocols and practices for teams and clubs that will be renewed yearly.

The letter also said news of the investigations may cause anxiety in some students, so additional counselors have been available for students during the abbreviated week of classes. Spring break begins for students and teachers on Wednesday.

Read the entire letter.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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