Kids ‘can’t be bystanders’ if they see violence, Montgomery Co. leader says

Montgomery County’s executive says it’s important for young people to report  violent incidents, such as January’s shooting at Magruder High School.

An after-action report was released this week on that shooting, and on Wednesday, Marc Elrich stressed the importance of stepping up and doing something.

“You can’t be bystanders, and you can’t be disinterested from this,” Elrich said.

According to the report, students who had witnessed the shooting inside a boy’s bathroom never reported what occurred to any school administrator or staff member, nor did they request medical attention for the critically wounded student.

The school system and police need to examine ways to head off violence between young people, Elrich also said, “and mediate it rather than just wait till it boils over into something more serious.”

Among the findings in the report is that a review is needed to see if law enforcement has access to key fobs that can open exterior doors at school buildings across the system.

Elrich was asked if he were surprised that police access to school building entrances could still be an issue, given that police and the Montgomery County school system have cooperated in training for emergency lockdown situations for nearly two decades.

“Am I surprised? Probably not,” said Elrich. Vigilance, he said, “wanes” over time, and the report suggests that there’s an opportunity for enhancing security practices.

Earl Stoddard, the county’s assistant chief administrative officer, suggested that the pandemic probably had an impact on training. He told reporters that recommendations in the after-action report serve as “a reminder that we need to keep doing many of the things we did a lot” before the pandemic.

Another recommendation in the report to the Maryland Center for School Safety suggested ensuring that schools have “bleed kits,” which are first aid kits designed specifically to deal with severe wounds.

The report noted that the actions of a school-based nurse proved to be lifesaving in dealing with the student’s wounds from the shooting. A bleed kit was used in treating the teenager.

“We actually worked very closely with the schools to get them those kits,” Stoddard said, adding that the county is actually expanding their use and installing them in a number of its buildings.

“If you come visit the second floor in the Executive Office Building, you’ll see one in the lobby stairwell. They’re all the same kits that the schools have,” Stoddard said.

The county is also supplying the kits to libraries, recreation centers and other public-facing county facilities.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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