Our community has been shaken and shocked by revelations of a student bringing a gun to school and another accused of making threats to a high school on social media.
Our nation is dealing with a range of emotions as we come to grips with the grief, sorrow, frustration, and anger at the loss of 17 lives in the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Our nation’s leaders are engaging in a renewed but old debate about how to stop such senseless tragedy in the future. Locally our legal system must now deal with those individuals whose actions brought the fear and anxiety far too close to home.
As we catch our collective breath, Germantown Pulse wants to take a moment to point out the heroes in our community.
“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic,” said tennis great Arthur Ashe. “It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
The first and most important hero, which we should recognize but will probably never know, is the unknown student or staff member that alerted the Clarksburg High School administration to the fact that Alwin Chen had brought a weapon into the school. That takes a strong spine and will to do what is right and serve others. Maybe, it was a friend he confided in or a staff member whom he felt comfortable telling. It takes outstanding moral courage to turn in a friend whom you know is engaging in actions that go against your moral code. That person, if it was a friend of Alwin Chen, is now dealing with the emotions that their actions have made their friend the focus of national headlines. That unidentified hero deserves our gratitude and our respect.
Let’s take a moment to commend Clarksburg Principal Edward Owusu and the security staff, Allen Long, Mike German, David McCloud, Jackie Reyes, and Craig Shields on the way they handled the incident. The CHS security staff combined with Montgomery County Police School Resource Officer Troy Melott quietly removed the armed student from class and separated him from the firearm in his backpack without any other student or staff member knowing there was a possibility of danger.
Had the incident been handled differently our community might be dealing with a far bigger tragedy. “Officer Troy Melott did everything that was to be expected of an officer,” said 5th District Police Commander Capt. Mark Plazinski. “He handled it in a manner which it didn’t even disrupt the school day and for that he should be greatly applauded. I am so grateful to have men and women working in our schools as police officers who are willing to do the job and put themselves in harm's way to ensure that our students are safe. It is a great thing.”
Germantown Pulse echoes Capt. Plazinski’s comments and offers thanks to the CHS security staff and Officer Melott for the professionalism and sober and undramatic heroism.
The author Brandon Mull once wrote, “In short, heroism means doing the right thing regardless of the consequences.”
Hours later Germantown parents awoke more jarring news. Media that threats had been made against Northwest High School via social media warning of an attack on the school. While those threats were determined by police to a hoax, the fear and frustration parents and students experienced last Friday morning was real.
Thankfully, there were heroes in our midst again. Someone, a fellow student or a parent called the Montgomery County Police at 3:00 am Friday morning to make it known that this threat had been promulgated.
Again a person, perhaps a teenager, decided to go to their parents or right to the police with information about something that a classmate or friend said on a SnapChat account in the middle of the night. This unknown young person showed that doing the right thing was important — more important than any personal social consequences they might face by alerting the authorities.
By making law enforcement aware it also made Northwest High School Principal Jimmy D’Andrea aware and his staff aware. He took the heroic steps write and send an early morning email to his parents and students to inform the greater Northwest community of what — at the time —was a known threat to his students and school community.
As a result of these actions, the police and the Northwest High School security team were able to locate the student they believe was responsible for making the threat and make sure there was no intention or possibility that he might follow through on such a threat.
Germantown Pulse wants to acknowledge the difficult decisions Principals Jimmy D’Andrea and Edward Owusu faced last week, and thank them for keeping our students safe.
We also want to acknowledge the Northwest High School security staff; Theresa Horton, David Etheridge, Rodney Mullinix, Jeffery Onley, and Kevin Smithson, and thank them for their efforts last week.
Imagine for a moment if police were not informed. Imagine if the principal did not inform the larger school community. The threat would have continued to spread through social media. Fear and anxiety would have increased. Maybe nothing happens on Friday, but the threat continues to circulate on social media over the weekend. On Monday morning perhaps more than one student comes to school with a weapon to protect him- or herself from this alleged threat. It could have been disastrous. Thankfully, it wasn’t because an unknown student did the right thing regardless of the consequences.
While these cases are both clear examples of bad judgment on the part of students, they are also outstanding examples of students using very good judgment — sober and undramatic heroic action without regardless of the personal consequences. Last week, as a nation we learned that there are monsters in the world who will kill indiscriminately. But last week, as a community we learned that there are heroes in our schools willing to do what is necessary to prevent such a tragedy before it can start.
We are thankful for the heroes in our midst.