Shooting threat sparks community response

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Shooting threat sparks community response

Officer Amy Homrock is the school's SRO, which is part of a program that the police and school have to keep students safe

Officer Amy Homrock is the school's SRO, which is part of a program that the police and school have to keep students safe

Ela Jalil

Officer Amy Homrock is the school's SRO, which is part of a program that the police and school have to keep students safe

Ela Jalil

Ela Jalil

Officer Amy Homrock is the school's SRO, which is part of a program that the police and school have to keep students safe

By Ela Jalil, Assistant News Editor

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On Oct. 24, a rumor flew around social media about a school shooting threat, causing WCHS students and parents to fear for their safety. 

The original message was posted on Snapchat and soon students were posting their reactions on their Instagram and Snapchat stories, explaining how scared they were to go to school. Parents became aware of this perceived threat from their children and contacted the police and school. 

“When I found out about the threat, I reached out to my friend to see what she thought and if she heard anything about it,” WCHS parent Debra Gill said. “Then, I reached out to another parent and she had heard about it, and mentioned that a lot of parents were concerned.”

Many parents let their children stay home the next day, and Gill hoped for a strong police presence to make students feel safe in school. 

Because Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the police, the Montgomery County Police Department took the lead on the investigation. The MOU is an agreement between MCPS and the Montgomery County Police Department which places a School Resource Officer at every school and assigns their duties. It also designates when the police should take the lead in investigating. However, after visiting every house that called in the threat to the police department, they deemed the threat not credible.

“At the conclusion of the investigation the detectives were unable to determine from whom or where this alleged threat originated from,” Rebecca Innocenti, a spokesperson for the Montgomery County Police Department said. 

Although the school can not share all of the information that the police found, Principal Brandice Heckert sent out an email the next morning reassuring parents, students and teachers that “there was no direct threat to other students or our school.”

According to Heckert, she felt that this message convinced parents that the school was safe to send their children, and diminished their fears. 

“I saw an email from the school in the morning saying that the situation was resolved,” Gill said. “It said it was safe to send kids to school, so I felt that it was safe to send them.”

Although this incident caused many students to panic, it also provided information for what to do in case a threat like this ever exists. Students and parents alike were alert and responsive to the situation by letting the school know through tweets and emails and notifying the police department. 

“I find that actually to be a very positive thing that we are looking out for each other as a community and making sure that we are being safe,” Heckert said. “I take that as a very positive thing that people are aware. However, it also makes me sad that people are concerned about sending their children to school because of things like this.”

In response to this situation, Heckert plans on having WCHS’s School Resource Officer, Amy Homrock, come to a PTSA meeting to help explain to parents what the protocol is as a police officer and help parents understand what happens in situations like these. Included in the email that Heckert sent, was a link to the Maryland Center for School Safety, where anyone can call in anonymous tips. 

“People who reported this did the right thing,” Innocenti said. “They heard about a threat and reported it which allowed the police department to investigate it. The police department will investigate any alleged threats, so people should not be wary to alert the police department of potential threats.”

In this day and age, when school shootings have become more frequent, every threat must be taken seriously, for the safety of staff and students. However, it is not okay for people to joke about school shootings because it wastes police time and resources and causes stress to staff, students and parents. 

“We can’t have people thinking that it’s okay to start a rumor or joke about saying they want to do some type of harm,” Heckert said. “No one should be joking about anything related to harm, period.”