Following Friday lockdown, investigation and discussions continue

Staff+and+students+attend+the+community+conversation+about+Friday%E2%80%99s+incident+in+the+auditorium+on+Tuesday%2C+Jan.+17.+

Avery Wang

Staff and students attend the community conversation about Friday’s incident in the auditorium on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

By The Tide Staff, Richard Montgomery High School - MD

RM transitioned to a lockdown on Friday, Jan. 13 at 12:56 p.m. following a report of an individual allegedly in possession of a handgun on school grounds. The Rockville City Police Department is continuing investigations, and it increased its school presence on Tuesday to ensure safety. RM’s administration has also organized community discussions regarding the incident.

On Friday morning, at 10 a.m., an altercation occurred between RM students and Gaithersburg High School students they had let into the building. During fifth period, a student reported that they saw someone with what appeared to be a handgun near the school building, according to an email from Principal Alicia Deeny sent to RM families on Sunday night. The lockdown transitioned to a shelter-in-place at 1:15 p.m.

“I just panicked and went into a corner and tried to distract myself,” senior Ruth Laforest said.

The police attempted to search for the handgun then lifted the lockdown at about 2 p.m. after failing to locate any weapon on campus. Images of an individual with a gun near RM, screenshots of threatening texts and an alleged video clip of the scene have circulated among students on social media.

Some students had left their fifth period class moments before the lockdown. “I was caught off guard by it, like genuinely I was walking out of my fifth [period class] … and it just got really loud and my teacher was yelling for me and others to come back in the classroom,” Laforest said.

The sudden lockdown caused anxiety in many. “What if it was serious and what if someone was just waiting to hear noise to do something?” Laforest said, recalling her fear. “One thing I can never forget is how when the announcements switched from Mrs. Deeny to the other admin guy. My heart kept on dropping because I thought he was going to switch from shelter-in-place to lockdown again.”

Following the lockdown, all after-school activities were canceled, except for the home basketball game, which occurred with increased police presence. “I thought it was ridiculous for them to have the game on Friday,” Susan Murphy, a mother of an RM junior and freshman, said. “I think it was over-confident for MCPS and police to assume that they could completely eliminate any threat of further violence at an evening activity.”

In response to the incident, RM’s administration has organized mental health support at the Wellness Center, such as one-on-one counseling for students disturbed by the events. The administration also worked with the SGA and the MCPS Restorative Justice Team to hold a community conversation with students during lunch in the auditorium. A virtual PTSA meeting was held at 7 p.m. today to discuss the situation. Wednesday’s advisory will incorporate a community circle.

Not all parents are happy with the quality of communication. “I am very upset that the first communication sent was via email and not text and significantly after the point when they could expect parents to be hearing rumors from their kids, other parents, and social media,” Murphy said.

Students also have mixed feelings regarding communication. “RM definitely handled it way better than I ever would. One thing that was annoying was how vague the announcements were. I understand why they were vague but it didn’t really calm anyone down,” Laforest said.

Other students turned to social media and text group chats as soon as the lockdown began, piecing together rumors while waiting for official information. “At first I was shocked, because they didn’t give us any information,” sophomore Mia Bunsel said.

“I want to assure you that your safety and security is the most important part of you being able to come to school and learn,” Mrs. Deeny said. “We are doing everything that we can to collaborate with the City of Rockville, Rockville City Police, Montgomery County Public Schools to make sure that we have all the resources that we need to respond in real seriousness to this incident that occurred.”

The Rockville Police Department is currently investigating the situation. This is a developing story that will be updated as more information about the situation is confirmed. The Tide remains committed to reporting based on verified information from official, credible sources.

This story was originally published on The Tide on January 17, 2023.