Col. Zadok Magruder High School photographed in December 2022. Credit: Em Espey

Montgomery County Public Schools for the first time has acknowledged in writing that its communication shortcomings after a shooting at Col. Zadok Magruder High School “resulted in confusion” with students and families that contributed to delayed parent-student reunification.

The district on Tuesday published a 12-page addendum to its original After-Action Report, created in response to the January 2022 shooting that left one student with life-threatening injuries and sent waves of shock reverberating through the Magruder community.

MCPS chief safety officer Edward Clarke published the original four-page report on May 15. It was met with widespread criticism from Magruder parents who claimed MCPS didn’t supply sufficient details in the report or accept responsibility for its own missteps the day of the shooting.

On Jan. 21, 2022, 17-year-old Steven Alston brought a self-assembled “ghost gun” into a Magruder bathroom and shot his 15-year-old classmate, DeAndre Thomas. The principal placed the school in a building-wide lockdown while police and emergency personnel responded to the scene, and the suspect was apprehended without incident in a classroom hours later.

After the victim was first discovered by security at 12:53 p.m., it took over half an hour for families to receive any communication from the school.

Thomas barely survived the attack. His injuries—including a severed iliac vein, severe blood loss and renal failure—required a prolonged ICU stay and 10 surgeries to overcome. His family recently created a GoFundMe to help pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance.


Kim Glassman, MCCPTA coordinator for the Magruder cluster, said Tuesday’s released addendum to the report is “much more thorough” and addresses some of the community’s concerns.

“This feels like closure for the specifics of the Magruder incident,” she said. “There were things I learned for the first time in this report, which I guess to me was surprising. There was a lot of information the first report glossed over that this report elaborated.”

The addendum addresses new information learned from witnesses in the months following the original report, MCPS spokesperson Jessica Baxter told Bethesda Beat in an email.


“MCPS has remained committed to learning from this tragic experience – the first school shooting in the history of our school district,” she wrote.

A lack of clear emergency communications

Specifically, the addendum includes language for the first time acknowledging in writing that MCPS’ lack of clear, consistent communication with families on the day of the incident “resulted in confusion” with student dismissals and contributed to delayed parent-student reunification.


In early December, MCPS officials made an oral apology during a private meeting with Magruder families in the school auditorium.

MCPS has since updated its approach to communication during school emergencies, including creating generic scripts that will help provide frequent real-time updates to families during such emergencies, according to the report. The district has committed to sharing information with families by phone call, text and email within 20 minutes of an incident taking place and throughout its progression, the report says.

MCPS also pledged to refrain from holding press conferences during school emergencies until the parent-child reunification process has been completed.


Acknowledging the trauma caused to students by the school shooting, MCPS announced that a primary point of contact will be appointed to coordinate necessary internal and external support services to students impacted by the incident.

Emphasizing safety and accountability

The addendum’s key takeaway is “the importance of instituting a strong command structure” to ensure a “cohesive and coordinated response” between schools and police during emergencies, Baxter wrote to Bethesda Beat.


“Since the Magruder incident, there have been a number of actions taken to ensure school administrators and staff understand their roles in responding to emergencies. These include various emergency preparedness trainings, tabletop exercises and mapping emergency communication processes,” she wrote.

Glassman said she wishes MCPS officials would directly acknowledge “the hurt they caused” by reacting defensively in the face of community criticism instead of accepting responsibility for its shortcomings.

“Personally, I still wish they would say this report came about because of ongoing community engagement,” she said. “I don’t know if this would have happened if we didn’t push for it.”



The Jan. 21, 2022 incident resulted in both criminal and civil court proceedings.

Alston Jr., now 18, pled guilty to attempted second-degree murder for the Magruder shooting. In December, a judge sentenced him to serve 18 years in prison.


Parties are currently in the process of exchanging information and scheduling depositions in the civil case brought against the school board by Thomas’ family. Montgomery County is also listed as a defendant in the case and recently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.