Montgomery County Police have arrested two Germantown area high school students on two consecutive days. One was charged with bringing a loaded gun and a knife to his school. The other was charged with disrupting school operations by threatening violence at a neighboring high school. One is sitting in jail in the custody of the Montgomery County Corrections Department; the other has been released to the custody of his parents.
Yesterday, 18-year-old Alwin Chen, of Germantown, was caught by Clarksburg High School Resource Officer Toby Melott with a loaded 9mm handgun in his backpack and a knife in his shirt pocket. He will remain in jail all President’s Day Weekend until his bond hearing at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 20. It is still not known why Chen brought the weapons to school or what, if any, his intentions were for them.
Today, a 15-year-old male Northwest student was arrest by police at school for posting threats on social media regarding guns at Northwest High School. This afternoon, that 15-year-old male was charged as a juvenile with offenses relating to disrupting school operations. After being charged, the juvenile was returned to the care and custody of his parents. This case has been referred to the Department of Juvenile Services for adjudication.
MCPD became aware of the threat to Northwest at about 3:00 am and at 7:15 am the school had sent out an email informing the Northwest community.
Also, this afternoon a social media threat was reported to have been made against students at Damascus High School. The threat was investigated by Montgomery County Police and determined not to be credible. It promoted District 5 police to announce over the radio, “The reported threat at Damascus High School is unfounded and bogus. There is no threat to Damascus High School."
This week Montgomery County Police have received 10 to 12 threats to Montgomery County high schools and middle schools throughout the county, according to MCPD Public Information Officer Paul Starks. He said that not all the threats involved social media, some involved phone calls, texting, and old fashion word of mouth rumors.
All of this comes on the heels of a horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla. where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Starks said these sort of threats are not just limited to high schools and middle schools; even elementary schools can be targeted. “Every last one of them needs to be investigated. We don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘That one is not real.’ We have to investigate and prove that a threat isn’t viable,” said Starks.
Students and parents are understandably anxious.
While police and school officials have stated that in the case of Northwest and Damascus were both unfounded and not credible after investigations, it did not seem to assuage fears.
As they awoke Friday morning to the reports of a threat at Northwest, many parents and students were forced to decide whether or not they would send their child to school. Indeed, many did not. And many who did send their kids to school, and only heard about the threat later decided to pull their children out the school.
“Attendance is much lower than normal today,” Northwest Principal Jimmy D’Andrea told Germantown Pulse. “As of 11:00 am today, approximately 650 students had been signed out by their parents, and more than 400 additional students were absent for the entire day. As a result, we had less than 60 percent of our students here at lunch-time.”
Germantown Pulse received reports of parents signing their children out of Damascus High School this afternoon as well.
D’Andrea also said that the school was doing the best it could to make students feel safe and comfortable. “Our counselors are available and have been meeting with students as needed, and all of our 250 staff members have been working together to support students throughout the day,” said D’Andrea.
Late this afternoon, D’Andrea sent another letter home to parents at Northwest to explain how the school, its security staff, and the police department handled a most unusual day.
“The police continue to believe that there was not, and is not, a credible threat to Northwest High School,” wrote D’Andrea. He also asked parents to use the long weekend to speak with their students about being responsible when it comes to social media. “Our students need to know that parents and the school are working together to support them in making good decisions about the use of social media.”
Montgomery County Police also urged parents to discuss the use of social media with students. “MCP encourages parents to have a conversation with their children about responsible social media posts. Parents are reminded to monitor their child’s social media accounts and encourage them to not to re-post or share rumors or threats. Instead of sharing the posts, they should contact an adult. Remember, if you see something, say something,” said an MCPD press release.
D’Andrea also noted that any absences or early dismissals which occurred on Friday would be marked excused.
“As a result of recent events locally and nationally, I know that the social media postings today evoked a range of emotions for our students. A number of you chose to keep your students at home or to pick them up early. As a result, all absences today will be marked as excused, but please note that it will take several days for the attendance office to complete the process of changing all of the absences to be excused,” wrote D’Andrea.
Photos by Germantown Pulse. Photo of Alwin Chen courtesy MCPD.