Following a shooting that left one student in critical condition, Col. Zadok Magruder High School students will return to school on Tuesday to an increased police presence and an infusion of mental health resources.
Magruder will operate on a half-day schedule, and any student who is not yet comfortable or doesn’t feel safe returning to school will receive an excused absence, Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight said during a press conference on Monday.
On Friday afternoon, school security was conducting “a routine check” and found a student injured in a bathroom at about 12:53 p.m., just as sixth period began. Four minutes later, police were called, according to a timeline of events Police Chief Marcus Jones outlined on Friday and Monday. The school went into lockdown at about 1:05 p.m., he said.
About two hours later, the accused shooter was apprehended within the school, but the lockdown was not lifted to allow dismissal to begin until two hours later. He was charged as an adult with attempted second-degree murder and is being held without bond.
Tuesday morning, students and staff members will return to the building for the first time since the shooting. (There was no school on Monday for a pre-planned professional day).
Anticipating a range of reactions, MCPS leaders say they plan to add security and create multiple opportunities for the school community to gather and process, or to meet individually with mental health professionals.
The school’s “community engagement officer,” Sgt. Jason Cupeta, will be in the building each day, a change from the usual procedure in which officers are not in the school, but patrol the area around it. Officers from the Montgomery County Police Department and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will be on site during arrival and dismissal times, Cram added, and some police liaisons will be present throughout the day.
Administrators from the district’s central office, as well as additional counselors and psychologists, will be at the school for the duration of the week.
“It’s tough to predict how people will react after a traumatic incident, so it’s important to have the right kind of people there to deal with any response … that is needed,” Cram said. “We’re making sure there’s a touchpoint and that trusted adult there for anybody who needs support of any kind.”
For students not in school on Tuesday, virtual counseling sessions will be provided.
The school day will begin with a 45-minute homeroom session, during which the schedule for the day and what resources are available will be outlined, according to a message sent to families Monday afternoon. There will be student support groups and counseling opportunities available throughout the day, the message said.
Schools across the county will offer moral support, too.
In social media posts over the weekend and into Monday, school administrators encouraged students and employees to wear gray, navy and white — Magruder’s school colors — to show their support.
The sentiment spread quickly and a large number of schools had posted something similar by Monday afternoon.
“It’s one thing for the people affected to come together. It’s so much more important that the entire community shows a level of support,” Cram said. “It’s a time for all of us to come together and embrace the truth of what happened and grow together.
“That’s the meaning of community. Whether people are directly tied to Magruder or a part of the Montgomery County community … this affected us at all at some level and we all need to heal.”
Randall MacGill, the parent-teacher student association president for Magruder, said in an interview on Monday afternoon that it’s been “fantastic” to see the community come together in the past few days.
He said that if anybody has ideas for discussions on how to prevent incidents like this in the future, the PTSA is listening.
“We don’t know what led to this event, and I know I’ve heard lots of speculation, but it’s just that. … We as a community don’t know,” MacGill said. “But you can look larger than that, and why is it that someone that young turned to an extreme act of violence to resolve something? … Where did we fail the perpetrator in this case, that they resorted to this? And I know that Montgomery County and MCPS have a lot of supports in place, but where did we miss this student, or how did we miss this student?
“Two families within Magruder are now greatly suffering. Both families are suffering tragic losses— one as a very life-threatening injury …. But no family raises their kid hoping they’re going to grow up and shoot another student. They’re also suffering a loss, and you hate to see that,” MacGill added.
Bethesda Beat staff writer Steve Bohnel contributed to this story.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com