Montgomery County Police Report Significant Increase in Threats Against Schools in Recent Weeks

Authorities so far have filed criminal charges in two cases


Published:

Police on Thursday investigated a bomb threat at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington.

CREDIT GILLIAN HUEBNER

Public schools across Montgomery County have received a rash of threats in the weeks since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, county police report.

People have issued the threats as pranks or from a desire to disrupt school activities and have made them through social media, email, phone calls, conversations and writings, the Montgomery County Police Department said in a Sunday statement. Police have investigated each of the threats and determined most are not credible.

Police responded to threats at about a dozen schools in a single day last month, and on Feb. 21, both Walter Johnson and Winston Churchill high schools were evacuated for bomb threats that police later determined were unfounded. On Thursday, Albert Einstein High School in Kensington was placed on lockdown because of an emailed threat about an explosive device outside the building. Police searched the grounds and found nothing.

Einstein Principal James Fernandez on Monday updated community members about the investigation into last week’s bomb threat.

“[I]t appears that someone stole and used the email address of one of our students and sent the bomb threat,” he wrote. “Our student was not involved and I understand the police are confident that their tech people will soon know who sent the email.”

A Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman said the string of threats since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida is “deeply concerning.”

“They not only create real fear and anxiety for our students, staff and families, but also distract from teaching and learning,” spokesman Derek Turner wrote in an email. “We have and will continue to take every threat seriously.”

The statement from county police said people who threaten schools can face criminal charges of disorderly conduct and disruption of school activities, threat of mass violence, and threat of arson or using destructive devices. Police have pressed charges in two recent cases in Montgomery County, including against a 15-year-old student at Northwest High School in Germantown. 

Police are urging parents to speak with their children about responsibly using social media and reporting threats or suspicious activity to authorities. Parents should also remind their children that all threats will be investigated, even those meant as jokes, police said.

Cynthia Brandt-Campagna, president of the Albert Einstein High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association, said all threats, even empty ones, generate fear and cost time and energy.

“And what’s concerning about that is it’s the whole ‘boy who cried wolf’ thing. If there’s too many incidents of calling in threats that are pranks, my concern, as a parent, is the kids won’t take it seriously” if there is a genuine threat, she said.

Brandt-Campagna advised the school community that students should secure their personal information to prevent identity theft.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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