This story was updated at 8:55 a.m. on Sept. 16, 2022, to include comments from John McCarthy
Montgomery County Public Schools is partnering with county police and the State’s Attorney’s Office to hold a series of “gun education” assemblies at high schools this fall about the dangers and impact of gun violence.
The district announced the partnership for the assemblies on Tuesday, one day before Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School was placed on lockdown due to the false report of a gun on campus.
MCPS and local law enforcement are partnering to “educate our high school students about how to keep schools and students safe,” according to a message sent to MCPS high school families.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy said they plan to hold assemblies at all 26 high schools; the first was held Thursday morning at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac.
According to the message, students will receive information at the assemblies on the consequences of breaking gun laws, nonviolent conflict resolution and the “see something, say something” approach. The assemblies will also include information on warning signs that someone may want to harm themselves or others.
County officials have said 790 illegal guns were seized so far this year through Aug. 14 — a nearly 75% increase since 2020, according to a press release from MCPS. Maryland residents under the age of 21 may not possess a firearm, and anyone 16 or older found with a gun will be charged as an adult.
Last month, the State’s Attorney’s Office held a gun buyback event in partnership with MCPS and Rockville police, which led to the collection of 300 guns.
State’s Attorney John McCarthy told Bethesda Beat in an interview Thursday that he is concerned about the number of violent incidents in school, such as a January shooting at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Derwood that critically injured one student and placed the school on lockdown for several hours. A fellow student was later charged with attempted murder.
McCarthy said he will be showing a Powerpoint presentation to schools with that information on the rise in crime in the county, and on ways students can report crime, such as telling an adult in the school and calling an anonymous tip line.
“The tip line could be used to get help to a troubled student, because in the course of the presentation, we actually do talk about some of the studies that have been done about consistent factors that have been in play during school shootings,” he said.
McCarthy said it’s important for students to know that the number of ghost guns being seized has been on the rise “and the role that has played in some of the areas where we have concerns about there being increased violence in the community.”
“This is about, in a school setting, what can we do in partnership with you and your assistance to make your environment safe. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.
McCarthy praised two students for speaking to authority figures on Wednesday in reporting the threat of a gun on campus at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, even though police did not find a gun. He said his presentations will be similar to other initiatives of his office, such as “Speak Up, Save a Life,” aimed at raising awareness of the opioid crisis, and “Choose Respect,” which educates teens about intimate partner violence.
“I think we’ve been fabulously successful doing the same types of programs related to other topics. Basically the formula and the formatting of what we’re attempting to do, really is similar to what we’ve done with ‘Speak Up, Save a Life,’ ” he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org