Derwood, MD

Frantic parents watched in disbelief, waiting for their children to be released at Magruder High School

Heather Jauquet

A parent’s perspective

A parent with school-aged children never wants to receive the dreaded communication that their child is in a lockdown situation at their school. But unfortunately, that happened on Friday, January 21, 2022 at Colonel Zadok Magruder High School in Derwood, Maryland.

During a security sweep, a student with a gunshot wound was found in a bathroom at the school. Early communications said there was no immediate to staff and students and later retracted with a statement, "We regret using that language."

A parent’s point of view

A Magruder High School parent contacted me to share what she and other parents experienced while waiting to hear from her son. She asked for her name to be withheld from the story as she is also a teacher with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), but here are the events from her point of view.

The parent began receiving messages from family letting her know that her son’s school was in lockdown. She waited anxiously for reports when the first communication came from the school, saying that no one was in immediate danger. However, her oldest, who attends college out of state, had already heard of the situation. He shared the information from former classmates in the building that this was not a drill. Instead, the students were in a genuine lockdown.

When a school goes into a lockdown situation, an intercom announcement alerts staff and students to go into action immediately. First, a group of school staff sweeps students out of class into the nearest classroom. Then the classroom is locked, lights are turned off, and everyone sits quietly in the dark, away from windows and doors. If someone bangs on the door, they are instructed from their numerous drills over the years to stay quiet.

During this time at Magruder High School, students were texting their parents, letting them know that a situation had occurred. For example, one student texted his mom and said his principal was on the intercom and sounded out of breath.

The students went into lockdown at 1:05pm as administrators sent out public communication and called police officers to the scene. As they waited in the darkness and quiet, students waited anxiously for the next direction.

While in lockdown, students and staff are not allowed to leave the classroom. They can’t poke their head out of the door to check if the hallways are clear. They cannot call anyone. They have to be silent. If a shooter can’t tell if anyone is in the room, he will hopefully move on, or the police will apprehend him.

There are ways for the administration to contact their staff. But every move is weighted so as not to alert the suspect.

At the situation in Magruder High School, a parent whose child was in the classroom with the shooter said the shooter was swept into one of the classrooms with the gun. He sat alongside his peers, acting as if he had no idea what was going on. For two hours, students sat with the shooter in their midst while parents contacted one another to find out more and drove to the school in the hopes of retrieving their children.

Parents were instructed not to come to the school, but parents who were desperate for any word of their children went anyway. Police cannot manage anxious parents while also managing the situation inside. While they understand that parents want their children out safely, they also have to deal with the immediate threat inside.

According to one mother, the police came to the door with loud voices, pointing guns, and yelling at the students to put their hands up. While this is frightening, police officers are trying to clear the situation safely with no other victims. On the other hand, students have little information about the situation, are frightened, and want nothing more than to go home. It is terrifying from both perspectives. As a parent, all you want to know is if your kid is safe.

According to a student in the room, the shooter dropped the gun during this confrontation with the police. The shooter was apprehended with no further victims. It has been reported that the student had a magazine with nine bullets in his sock.

Imagine being those students to find out that you have been sitting with a classmate who shot someone else. You are trying to process the reality of the situation and the threat it held. And then, as your parents are texting you to find out more, you are still not released. The police have to continue to clear the building, make sure there is no other threat to staff and students, no other suspects, no other weapons.

According to a parent, afterward, students in the same room with the suspect could not contact their parents while waiting to be questioned by the police. As a result, parents sat outside anxiously waiting for their high schoolers to walk out of the building without clear communication. Their anxiety kept building as they could no longer contact their child, and no one was telling them if their child was safe. Parents sat and waited so long because the police had to make sure that there was no longer a threat within the building, that the students were safe, and had as much information about the situation as they could gather.

As parents continued to wait, students were held inside for more than two hours after the suspect was apprehended while the Interim Superintendent made her way to the school. Parents have asked why it took the Interim Superintendent more than four hours to arrive on the scene. In addition, many parents watched in frustration as the press conference started and their children were still in the building. One parent asked, “Why are they congratulating themselves on a job well done before we even get to see our kids?” Students were released after 5:45pm more than four hours after lockdown began and more than two hours after a student was apprehended.

“I don’t trust the system”—Magruder High School Parent

Throughout January, parents and staff have accused the Interim Superintendent and the MCPS Board of Education of lacking transparency in their communications. Parents and teachers have looked to MCPS for clarity, clear guidance, and information to keep them safe, especially throughout the last several weeks. However, the incident at Magruder High School looked like one more time, where MCPS has been more concerned about the narrative than they were about the clear communication and safety of those in the school buildings.

What do you think about the communications from MCPS? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.

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