Montgomery County Police have arrested an 18-year-old Germantown man, after he was able to gain access to Seneca Valley High School on two separate occasions and disrupt classrooms and make vulgar threats directed females.
According police, on Wednesday, Sept. 16 the young man, who is not enrolled at Seneca Valley or any MCPS school, got into the Germantown high school and began to disrupt classes. Police say he was in the building for about 15 minutes and was able to walk into various classrooms and interrupted five different teachers with inappropriate and vulgar comments and threats against the girls and female teachers, said MCPD spokesman officer Paul Goodale. Once MCPS security officers were called, the young man fled the school on foot.
Police say that the young man returned to Seneca Valley on Tuesday, Sept. 22 and was again able to gain entry into the school, however, this time MCPS security and the MCPD school resource officers arrested and took him into custody moments after entering the building.
“By the time it was brought to our attention (the first time) he was gone,” said Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen. “We went to our cameras and tried to identify him. At that point we, didn’t know he wasn’t from our school. We thought he was one of our students interrupting the class. We tried to figure out who he was, but were unable to identify him.”
“He came back into the school late in the afternoon on Sept. 22,” said Cohen. “He was here for maybe a minute before our security team was right on him, because our security staff recognized him as the same person. Both the school resource officer from Seneca Valley and the school resource officer from Northwest High School, who had been at the school on other business, became involved. He was identified and arrested, charged and taken out of the school.” Cohen said this took place well after most students had been dismissed and classes were over.
Once he was in custody and identified, school officials and police discovered out that the 18-year-old was a special-needs student who lives in the area and attends a private-non public school in Frederick County.
He has been charged with two misdemeanor charges. One count of disrupting school activities and one count of molesting or threatening bodily harm to any student, employee, administrator, agent, or any other individual who is lawfully on the grounds or in the immediate vicinity of any institution of elementary, secondary, or higher education. If found guilty, each charge carries a fine of up to $2,500 and imprisonment not exceeding six months.
“The incident was reported as soon as we discovered it wasn’t one of our students,” said Cohen.
Police said the man did not touch or injure anyone at the school and told the school resource officers that he had gone to Seneca Valley to hang out with his friends.
According to Cohen, both times, the intruder was let in to the building via a side door which is locked, by different students who mistakenly believed that he too was a Seneca Valley student. Cohen said that both students were spoken too by security personnel and reminded of the prohibition on allowing anyone into the school.
Seneca Valley is a school which has an open lunch policy which allows students to leave the building for lunch and return. Cohen said the rule prohibiting students from allowing anyone in through the locked side doors of the school was reinforced at a previously scheduled drill which took place at Seneca earlier this week.
In the last few years many schools have had the front entrances remodeled to direct all traffic coming into the building through the front office for check-in prior to gaining access to classrooms, however Seneca Valley was not one of them.
“Unfortunately we don’t have one of those vestibule areas which other MCPS schools have,” said Cohen. “We have the visitor management system. However, the challenge with that is that high schools are a much more highly trafficked facility than most schools. High schools that don’t have a vestibule area or waiting area have found it to be challenging to use the buzzer system. We have not been required to use the locked door system. In the new building, we will have the facilities to make sure that visitors are handled appropriately and effectively.”