Parents Upset About Communications, Safety During Recent Lockdown at B-CC

The president of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School parent teacher association criticized a lack of proper communications and safety failures that occurred when that school went into lockdown Sept. 14 over concerns that a student had a weapon in school.

Not all doors were locked, the public address system was not audible to all and parents suffered from a lack of communication by the Montgomery County Public Schools, PTSA President Lyric Winik told members of the board of education at their meeting Thursday.

Responding to a call from a student’s parent who said another student might have a gun, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School went into lockdown a little more than one week ago. No weapon was found.

One teacher secured her students in a kiln and waited outside the room with a pole to fight off any intruder, Winik said. Other teachers told their students to hide in  closets as they struggled to calm the frightened students, Winik said.

Meanwhile, many parents frantically texted their students and rushed to the school, fearing the worst. Winik submitted pages of texts and emails  from students and parents concerning the 60-minute lockdown.

According to one email from a 10th grade parent, the teacher “didn’t understand that there was a lockdown—he apparently thought it was at a different school and seemed surprised when the kids said it was happening here–at BCC. He also told them not to barricade the door—that it was a hazard.”

In an email from a ninth grade parent whose child was in gym, “the announcements come through so garbled there that nobody can understand them. Consequently, neither the teacher nor the students knew there was a lockdown. By chance, a student who was in the hallway during the lockdown announcement came in and told the teacher.”

Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight acknowledged that the intercom system wasn’t working properly, adding, “We absolutely will get on that.” She noted, “Our duty is to protect our students.”

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said MCPS is reviewing staff training, including what is offered for substitutes. MCPS “needs to shrink the time line of communications to all,” he said.

Winik said MCPS must set up better emergency communication systems in every school and contact parents first, “not the press.” She also called on the school system to improve building safety and work on deferred maintenance.

A paid in school training day for staff is needed, she stressed.

Cynthia Simonson, whose two children were in lockdown during the Jan. 24 shooting at Magruder High School, stressed that “lessons were not learned.” That incident was eight months and one day ago, “and we still feel ignored.” She called it “offensive” that some of the same issues at Magruder repeated themselves at B-CC.

Kimberly Glass, parent of three students, said MCPS showed that it had not learned from its mistakes during the shooting at Magruder High School. “Please be better,” she urged.

Ruschelle Reuben, chief of school support and well-being, spoke about the community meetings, group and one-on-one sessions with members of the crisis teams and additional social workers in schools that have occurred and continue to take place since the January shooting.

Reuben added that MCPS officials continue to communicate with the families and students of Magruder students that were in the classroom with the shooter.

“I think we have to think of the ripple effects after each incident,” said BOE President Brenda Wolff.

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