Less than an hour after almost 500 schoolmates walked out of class at Northwest High School to protest school violence on Wednesday; a student was caught threatening a fellow student with a knife during lunch.
According to letters sent home by Northwest High School Principal Jimmy D’Andrea, about 500 of Northwest’s 2,300 students left class at 10:00 am to join high school students nationwide in protesting school violence. The protest lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 students killed at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. one month ago.
During the Northwest lunch period, which runs from 11:16 am to 11:51 am security officials confiscated a knife from an unidentified student who had displayed the knife to another student in a threatening way. “Based upon our investigation, it appears that there was an issue between the two students that had not been reported to the school,” said the letter sent home to parents.
D’Andrea said that once school officials became aware of the knife, Northwest School Resource Officer Wesley Allen worked with MCPS security to “promptly locate the student and confiscate the knife. According to MCPS policy, weapons of any kind and/or weapon-like objects may not be brought to school.”
In a separate letter sent home regarding the walkout, D’Andrea explained that approximately 500 students walked out of class at 10:00 am Wednesday morning to participate in the 17-minute national school walkout that was organized to commemorate the 17 victims of the tragedy in Florida and advocate for laws to protect schools and students. The letter went on to say that classroom instruction continued during the walkout, but students who left class for the 17-minute protest will be excused. The letter did not say if any students did not return to class after the walkout.
“We respect and support the right of our students to advocate for causes that are important to them, so we allowed the students to congregate in the stadium. At 10:17 am, a student-led a moment of silence, and then all students returned to the building,” said the letter from D’Andrea regarding the walkout.
D’Andrea’s letter regarding the knife went on to praise the student that informed school security about the knife. “I am very proud of the student who immediately reported this incident to a staff member,” he wrote. “We will continue to communicate to students the importance of telling an adult right away if a student sees or hears anything of concern. I also hope you will emphasize to your children the importance of reporting to staff any suspicious activity on or near the school campus. Student safety and security is our top priority.”
D’Andrea’s letter regarding the student with the knife stated that students bringing weapons on school property will be “subjected to severe disciplinary action in such cases and may also face legal consequences.”
The MCPS discipline policy regarding students possessing weapons at school has a number of tiers based on the specifics of the incident.
It reads that any student “Using or threatening to use a knife or other implement as a weapon with intent to cause serious bodily harm” is subject to disciplinary action including, in-school suspension, in-school intervention or mentoring programs, short-term or long-term suspension, or expulsion, or refer to alternative education.
The Maryland State criminal penalty for any person found guilty of possessing “a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon of any kind on public school property” is subject to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both.
Less than a month ago, a 15-year-old male Northwest student was arrest by police at school for posting threats on social media regarding violence at Northwest High School. On Friday, Feb. 16 that was charged as a juvenile with offenses relating to disrupting school operations. That case has been referred to the Department of Juvenile Services for adjudication.
One day prior on February 15, 18-year-old Alwin Chen 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 is begin held without bond at the Montgomery County Detention Center.
Since the Parkland tragedy, Montgomery County Police in Germantown has responded to numerous school threats, according to police officials. “Since Parkland we have responded to more than a dozen of these types of threats in the Germantown district alone,” 5th District Deputy Commander, Lt. Amy Daum.
“At least five students have been charged with making these threats,” said Daum and she expects that there may be more charges filed in the future.
Earlier this month, Montgomery County Police issued a statement regarding school threats, which have been rampant throughout the County with a bomb threat at Einstein High School on Thursday, March 1 and the report of a student with a firearm at Silver Spring International Middle School on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
File photos by Germantown Pulse.