A clampdown after violence in downtown Bethesda following a football game Friday evening will mean restrictions on attendance for varsity games for the remainder of the fall season, the school district and police department jointly announced Wednesday. They threatened harsher measures if “additional incidents occur.”
Montgomery County Police continue to actively investigate the violent assaults carried out by juveniles and filmed on social media the evening of Sept. 1. The incident took place following a football game between longstanding rivals Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson high schools, which was hosted at B-CC’s athletic stadium.
Chief of Police Marcus Jones and Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Monifa McKnight published a joint letter on Wednesday evening providing an update on the status of the investigation and announcing additional safety measures being implemented to avoid future violence.
No criminal charges stemming from the Sept. 1 incident have been brought to date, but “additional evidence has been reviewed” and, at the school level, “appropriate disciplinary action” has been applied in connection with the incident, according to the letter.
Families of students at both B-CC and Walter Johnson previously told MoCo360 they want the perpetrators of Friday’s violence held responsible but said they do not want to see their athletic teams bear the repercussions for the violent acts of others via canceled matches or other schedule changes.
However, the officials’ letter states that the school district will be enforcing stricter security protocols for the remainder of the season in accordance with the MCPS Athletics Safety Plan—moving all varsity football games from tier-one to tier-two status.
At tier one, students at both participating schools can attend the game by presenting a valid ticket and their student identification. Other tier-one measures include discouraging fans from leaving the stands during the game, staggering their exits and prohibiting backpacks and re-entry into the stadium.
At tier two, spectators are limited to students of the home team’s school only, as well as families of student athletes. Other fan capacity limitations may also be imposed, and game times and date may be moved around to maximize daylight and allow more collaboration with police.
The letter states, “all varsity football games will operate with the following Tier 2 actions” and then lists that spectators would be limited to 75% of stadium capacity; bad actors would be barred from multiple games or postseason matches; and that game scheduling could be shifted to maximize daylight.
It was not immediately clear whether the tier-two ban on “visiting” fans would be enforced. MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram did not immediately respond to requests for clarification.
At tier three, concessions stands may be closed, only the families of athletes, cheerleaders or other game participants can attend and, “in extreme circumstances,” spectators may be barred from the stadium altogether.
MCPS first introduced the three-tier policy last fall after a fight broke out between the football teams of Gaithersburg and Northwest high schools.
According to Wednesday’s joint letter, MCPS staff will be placed “in key areas of our community” following games to signal to students “that we and the community are watching.” Law enforcement officers will also be assigned to “identified areas of concern” on game days, such as known areas where students frequently gather, the letter states.
McKnight and Jones closed the letter with a reiteration of their joint commitment to finding closure from the incident:
“As community leaders, we are dedicated to addressing this incident with the seriousness it deserves and ensuring that it serves as an opportunity for positive change. Together, we can strengthen the bonds that unite us and help our students grow into responsible, compassionate, and productive members of society.