Superintendent Jack Smith fields questions on Tuesday about the reported rape at Rockville High School. Credit: Andrew Metcalf

Only one of the two Rockville High School students charged with rape last week knew the freshman girl whom he’s accused of brutally attacking inside a bathroom stall, authorities said.

The 17- and 18-year-old students arrested Thursday did not share classes with the girl and had no prior contact with Montgomery County police, Capt. James Humphries and Montgomery County Public School officials said during a Tuesday evening press conference.

During the briefing at the district’s Rockville headquarters, MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith sought to address the shock, criticism and concern coming from the governor’s office, White House and the community in the wake of the alleged attack.

The two accused students—Henry Sanchez-Milian, 18, and Jose Montano, 17,—had arrived from Central America within the past year, and their arrest has set off a firestorm of debate about immigration and county education policy. In an address to the media, Smith pleaded passionately against using sweeping generalizations and denounced the surge of racism that he’s seen since the arrests.

“That is not the community I moved to last summer. It is not the community I want to live in,” Smith said. “We should say that we’re not going to paint all students who speak another language, all students with another skin color, all students with another religion with a broad brush because of a really terrible incident.”

Although the state governor and others have called on MCPS to supply more information about the reported attack, Smith said he could provide few additional details because of the ongoing criminal investigation. However, officials at the press conference said it took place early in the morning in a lightly-trafficked area at the back of Rockville High. Humphries also said there is no evidence that Sanchez-Milian and Montano were involved in a gang.

After the press conference, Humphries said Sanchez-Milian and Montano were arrested at school the morning the attack was reported.

Parents were scheduled to meet at Rockville High with the school’s principal and other officials at 7 p.m.


Scores of parents and community members entered the school for the meeting, many expressing shock at the reported rape and demanding the school do more to ensure the safety of students.

“I’m terrified, I’m very afraid,” said Elizabeth Plumb, a parent of an eighth-grader who will go to Rockville next year. “Ideally I’d like to see a commitment not to have adults or near adults in classrooms with young children, and not people about whose backgrounds we know nothing around our children.”

Scott Shirley, another parent, said he drops his kids off every day with the expectation that they will be safe and never expected such a brutal crime would occur in a county school.


“I just want to hear how they’re going to protect our children,” he said. “It could be American citizens here who could do the same thing.”

Across the street from the school, about a dozen protesters gathered to speak out against the school and the county for not doing enough to prevent the attack. They held signs with the words “Safety Not Sanctuary” and “Protect Our Girls.”

“I’m so disappointed in what’s going on,” said Sheldon Sacks, a Rockville resident. “[County schools] have no business bringing in illegals. The whole school system is denigrated. These guys have no business in school.”


Some have raised alarm about reports that the older teens were enrolled as freshmen despite their age, and Smith pointed out that seniors and freshmen routinely mix during theater programs, band practices and many other types of classes. He said Sanchez-Milian and Montano had enrolled at MCPS in the fall and were in a program for students with limited English language proficiency.

While MCPS is reviewing security procedures, including how students are issued hall passes, the system is legally prohibited from denying education based on immigration status, he said.

“It’s wholly and entirely inappropriate for any of us, anytime, anywhere, to say we’re going to deprive a 6-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 12-year-old … of an education because a horrible incident happened last Thursday in one of our schools,” he said.


However, he said the district will review the program in which Sanchez-Milian and Montano participated. The school system does not screen incoming students to check for a criminal background or legal presence in the country, he said.

A border patrol agent encountered Sanchez-Milian, last year in Texas and determined he had entered the country unlawfully, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said this week.

Sanchez-Milian of Aspen Hill was supposed to appear before an immigration judge, but the hearing had not been scheduled and no deportation order had been issued, according to the spokesman.


ICE officials declined to provide immigration information about Montano because he is a minor.

Both Sanchez-Milian and Montano speak limited English and were enrolled as freshmen at the school whose enrollment was more than 1,340 students during the 2015-2016 year.

MCPS safety reports show police were called for one sex-related incident at Rockville High during the 2015-2016 school year. Police were notified of two sex-related incidents at the school the prior academic year and none the year before that.


Though the alleged attack was horrible, county schools are safe for students, Smith said.

All high schools are fitted with security cameras in the hallways, although it’s unclear whether any footage is part of the police case against Sanchez-Milian and Montano. Five security staff members and one school resource officer are stationed at Rockville High, Smith said.

The arrests have triggered an intense, and often vitriolic debate, about how educators and government officials should handle illegal immigration. Some residents have lambasted county and Rockville leaders for creating a welcoming climate for undocumented immigrants by, among other things, letting police officers refrain from asking about an individual’s immigration status.


On Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said incidents such as the alleged rape at Rockville High are the reason that President Donald Trump has targeted illegal immigration since taking office in January. Spicer also implied that the 14-year-old girl who reported the attack was a legal immigrant to the United States. Humphries said that to his knowledge the girl is a U.S. citizen and not an immigrant.

Gov. Larry Hogan also jumped into the discussion with a Facebook post Tuesday expressing his outrage over the alleged attack and arguing the public deserves answers about “how something this tragic and unacceptable was allowed to transpire in a public school.”

Staff writer Joe Zimmermann contributed to this report.