Enhanced security, counseling services at Montgomery Co. high schools after shooting

Things will look differently on the first day of the second semester for students at Montgomery County, Maryland, high schools, following a shooting that left one student hurt and another in custody.

The shooting last Friday at Magruder High School in Derwood sent the school into lockdown as law enforcement swarmed the campus.

A 15-year-old student was shot and remains hospitalized with critical injuries; the teenager accused of the shooting faces charges of attempted second-degree murder and is being prosecuted as an adult.

Beginning Tuesday, there will be a police presence in all high schools over the next week.

“This gun incident involving students at Magruder High School has weighed on our sense of security, not only at Magruder High School, but in every single school within the school system,” Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight said Monday at a news conference.

“If there’s a police incident that occurs in the school, we deem it appropriate to have the police officers in that school,” McKnight said.

In addition to law enforcement presence, the schedule at Magruder High School will also be adjusted to a half-day schedule to allow students to access the support being provided at the school. Magruder students who do not feel comfortable or are still processing what happened and feel they cannot come to school will be given an excused absence.

Counselors and mental health professionals will also be present for students. In a letter to the community, MCPS shared mental health and counseling resources while encouraging parents to reassure their children about efforts to keep them safe. School administrators also plan to boost on-site social-emotional support for students and staff over the coming months.

“Although events like this are rare, we recognize the impact they can have on each of us — our children, staff, families and friends,” the letter read. “Individuals react to situations like this in various ways. We may feel sadness, grief, helplessness, anxiety and anger; whatever you feel is OK.”

A community engagement officer, or CEO, will be at the high school throughout the week, along with other officers, especially during high-traffic times of arrival, lunch and dismissal.

McKnight said that county officials will reevaluate the role of CEOs and how they support campuses. The CEO program was implemented this school year, McKnight said, and CEOs have started establishing relationships with principals and have been working with their schools.

CEOs, which replaced school resource officers, are assigned to a school cluster and respond if a staff member calls 911. They will work with administrators in determining with the school what the program’s presence needs to look like, McKnight said.

“What we have committed to do and what we are going to do right now is look at our program. We’ve implemented it this year; it’s our first time. We’re going to look at the incident that occurred on Friday; we’re going to continue to look at that program and evaluate it,” McKnight said.

Montgomery County schools will also undertake a comprehensive review of all their safety and security measures, including practices and procedures.

“Given the circumstance … of everything that we’ve shared this evening, students being isolated for a long period of time, trying to determine ways of how they can come back and interact appropriately with their peers, conflict resolution, all after being separated for a long period of time, we’ve got to help them with that,” McKnight said.

McKnight said the findings of the review will be shared with the community, and she expressed appreciation for law enforcement and first responders.

“When the school system called, everyone was there, and they were there promptly saying, ‘What is my role? And what can I do to help,'” McKnight said.

She said safety and security are the part of the schools’ very first priority. “Students must feel safe in order to learn.”

WTOP’s Alejandro Alvarez contributed to this report.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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