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The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Recent bomb threats wreak havoc in MCPS

Photo courtesy of Mauricio Casillas and Silvan Unger
Police cars are stationed outside Montgomery Blair High School on Oct. 16 after a bomb threat was made to the school. This would be one of three bombs threats made to the school, including one of nine threats from numerous MCPS schools, all within the month of October.

John F. Kennedy High School, Montgomery Blair High School (MBHS), Oak View Elementary School, Silver Spring International School, Rockville High School, Albert Einstein High School, Springbrook High School and Paint Branch High School. You might ask yourself, “What do these eight MCPS schools have in common?” All these schools have been targeted in a series of bomb threats this school year.

In October alone, there were nine bomb threats made to MCPS schools, with three threats targeted at MBHS in just two weeks. As the frequency of the threats increased, student fears seemingly decreased, as they had become desensitized to these dangerous situations.

“The first threat was sent before school, so I didn’t have much of a reaction,” MBHS sophomore Kevin Nguyen said. “I was in no danger, but it was the first bomb threat I had experienced, so it was definitely different. The second and third time, I had gotten used to it. I barely had a reaction because it happened so often.”

These bomb threats have required MCPS to revisit safety precautions, as there have never been this many bomb threats in the county before. All incidents were deemed not credible once MCPD investigated onsite, finding that these threats were mere “pranks” likely from students who wanted to get out of class.
“Bomb threats are always taken seriously, even when they may come from individuals who wish to threaten as a prank or hoax,” MCPD Chief of Police Marcus Jones and MCPS Chief Safety Officer Pamela Wheeler-Taylor said in a joint statement. “Prank threats are against the law and against the MCPS student code of conduct. As they cause significant harm to our community, we recognize the importance of accountability and minimizing harm.”

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The impact of these threats was largely felt, even affecting safety measures at WCHS. Out of an abundance of caution, the Oct. 27 WCHS vs. Walter Johnson (WJ) football game had increased security presence. School administrators made the decision only to allow WCHS and WJ students to attend the game alongside adults, and fan capacity was reduced to 60%.

“We have been working with the MCPD and MCPS school security who have committed to enhanced measures for the safety of [the football game],” WCHS principal John Taylor said in a community statement. “We realize that our community has dealt with a lot these last few weeks and we want to assure you that we continue to address safety as our first priority.”

Besides affecting student learning and safety, the bomb threats are also an inconvenience to the MCPD. Every police car dispatch and K-9 unit sent to investigate the threats comes at a high cost.

“It is important to acknowledge the significant financial and operational burden each incident placed on our department,” Jones said. “Dispatching officers and K-9 units to investigate these threats, especially when our resources are already stretched thin, diverted our personnel away from other pressing calls for service. This diversion of resources is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes the safety of our community.”

The threats have been identified as having been made by a 15-year-old and 12-year-old student. Although the 15-year-old was charged, the 12-year-old cannot, as under Maryland law, children under 13 can only be charged with offenses that would constitute a “crime of violence,” and the threats do not qualify. Thus, their punishment must be redirected to the MCPS Student Code of Conduct, meaning suspension or expulsion.

“The fact that a 12-year-old can send an email to the school that causes the whole day to be filled with chaos and confusion is definitely worrying,” Nguyen said. “Some age limit has to be set and I think 12 is fair. I do think there should be punishments for the 12-year-old.”

The importance of implementing strategies to safeguard schools has been emphasized, and the fact that one person can cause disruptions to thousands of people serves as a reminder that protecting our schools requires an unrelenting commitment to vigilance, responsibility and group action.

“[Regarding] future bomb threats, there’s not much we can do,” Nguyen said. “These bomb threats are very easy to send and there’s little the school can do to prevent it. The only thing they can do is catch the people who send the threats, but that won’t happen unless a bomb threat is sent in the first place. It’s a tough situation for high schools in general.”

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About the Contributor
Jeremy Chung
Jeremy Chung, Print Editor-in-Chief
Jeremy Chung is a senior and is the Editor-in-Chief for the Observer. This is his fourth year taking journalism. When Jeremy is not writing for the Observer, you can find him practicing on the tennis courts or walking his dog. He also loves to watch action and comedy movies and spend time with his family and friends.

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