Credit: via MCPS

This story was updated at 9:20 p.m. Jan. 22, 2022, to correct who Kim Glassman represents. 

Jaden Glassman was in his sixth-period class at Magruder High School on Friday, when an “out-of-breath” principal came on the public address system, he recalled Saturday.

Moments later, the school was on lockdown — and, Glassman says, he was trying to be a calming presence to his classmates, even though he, like many others, didn’t know what was going on.

The rumor mill started pretty quickly, he said — that a student had been shot in the foot, that the shooter or someone else was running around knocking on classroom doors, or other unverified information inside the school. 

“When it first happened, it was a what the hell situation, no one had any clue what was going on,” Glassman said.

Glassman, a sophomore, was one of hundreds of students in Magruder High School Friday when a 15-year-old sophomore was shot. School security personnel found the victim around 1 p.m. Friday in a bathroom; after surgery, he remains hospitalized in critical condition. Police charged a 17-year-old student in the shooting. 

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Glassman and parents interviewed by Bethesda Beat said they wished there was more information from officials on Friday afternoon.

Emails were trickling in about the severity of the situation and that there was no immediate danger to the community, Glassman said. But that appeared to be conflicting with what was happening inside the school, he said.

“Stuff I wish I would have known is that we were safe, because they gave sentence-[long] emails saying that it’s an OK situation … while I’m getting texts from other people saying that, ‘Someone is knocking on our [classroom] door,’” Glassman said.

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He added that two issues became more pronounced as the lockdown continued for four hours — people’s phones were dying and there were no chargers, and people who needed to urinate had to resort to using plastic bottles. 

Among the rumors flying around, “I heard one teacher was building a makeshift bathroom out of cardboard and bottles,” he said.

How school officials handled dismissing students from the school was perhaps the best aspect of theirs and first responders’ response Friday, Glassman said. He ended up leaving school around 6:50 p.m. Friday.

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Chris Cram, a spokesman for the school district, wrote the following statement to Bethesda Beat, when asked about communication concerns and what analysis is being done after the shooting.

“We sent numerous ConnectED emails and texts and utilized Twitter via the MCPS and HS channels during the incident and thorough follow up communication after. We did collaborate with police to be careful about content of those messages while they were still actively seeking the suspect. We certainly understand families frustrations and communications will be part of review of the incident,” Cram wrote.

Shiera Goff, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department, declined to comment outside a news release police issued earlier on Saturday.

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The parents of some Magruder students said Saturday that they appreciated the actions of first responders after the shooting, but also called for improved communication and school safety.

Kim Glassman is the the mother of Jaden and a coordinator for the Magruder cluster for the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations.

When she first got to Needwood Road near the school around 2:30 p.m. Friday, police officers were directing parents to park along roads that lacked room to do so, she said. Students inside the building were texting parents and learning about what was happening through social media and breaking news reports, she said.

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Glassman said that while she appreciates police and understands that investigators can’t reveal certain information, it would have been nice to have more regular updates on what was happening inside Magruder, even if information was limited.

In a letter to the community, Principal Leroy Evans said that dismissal of students was to start between 5 and 6 p.m. Students who ride buses would be dismissed first.

He apologized in that letter for an earlier message that said there was no immediate threat to the safety of students or the staff.

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“What I felt like was missing was some regular updates [like] ‘We’re still investigating,’ just anything along those lines,” Kim said of communication.

Cynthia Simonson shared that view. Simonson is president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations and is mother to a freshman and a senior at Magruder. 

Simonson said that communication in incidents like Friday is always difficult. But she added that more regular updates would have perhaps provided more comfort for parents.

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“I think what was concerning for parents yesterday was we didn’t know when the next communication would come,” Simonson said. “I think having a routine checkpoint, knowing we’re going to get another message in 30 minutes [or so] … is a really important aspect of lowering the temperature.”

“In a crisis, no news is not necessarily good news. … For most of us, we were learning things from our students from inside the building,” she added.

Randall MacGill, the parent-student teacher association president for Magruder, is the father of a sophomore at the school. MacGill said he shared others’ concern for the student who was shot, and hopes he makes a speedy recovery.

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MacGill said he appreciated the communication by school officials Friday, and thanked them and first responders for their efforts. 

Looking ahead, he hopes that people on all sides of the gun control debate can sit down and not “talk at each other” when discussing school safety issues.

Glassman said that parents across the district have asked for more mental health support for students, and hopes that Friday’s shooting shows the need to revisit that issue.

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She said that kids have been living in a “global environment of stress” since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s important to listen to them, and give them the space and platform to do so in the coming weeks and months, she added.

“It’s been a year-and-a-half of stress on these kids, and I don’t know if they’ve had a period of real calm,” Glassman said. 

Simonson said she appreciates the work of school administrators to provide counseling to students, parents and staff. But it’s important to consider how to try to connect with children who might not immediately take advantage of those opportunities, she added.

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MacGill agreed, especially when it comes to future discussions about school safety.

“I sincerely hope and I believe this will happen, [that] there will be active outreach to the students, especially those who might not be saying much after Friday,” he said.

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com

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