After video of two students engaging in a physical altercation at Gaithersburg’s Quince Orchard High School went viral on social media last week, the principal pledged “consequences” for the students involved in the fight and for anyone who recorded and shared footage of the altercation online.
“I want to assure you that actions which violate the code of conduct have consequences, not only for ourselves but for our entire school community. Consequences for those who participated, for those who took videos to share on social media, and for those who took the liberty to circulate a video,” Principal Elizabeth Thomas wrote in a Sept. 8 letter to the school community. “We will not tolerate these actions.”
The altercation occurred Sept. 7 inside Quince Orchard and involved “only two individuals,” according to Montgomery County Public Schools spokesperson Chris Cram. Footage of the fight filmed with a cell phone camera quickly circulated on popular social media platforms like Instagram and X—formerly Twitter—following the incident.
In her letter, Thomas thanked students and staff for their “swift action” in responding to the incident and providing support—”specifically one student who broke up the fight.” She did not expound on whether and to what extent any students suffered injuries as a result of the altercation.
The father of one of the two students involved in the fight spoke to local news outlet FOX 5 afterward and said he believes his son, who he said is on the autism spectrum, was targeted by other students. The father declined to be publicly identified. Cram said he could not corroborate whether any of the students involved were receiving special education services due to student privacy regulations.
When asked what disciplinary measures had been taken in response to the incident, Cram said it was his understanding that the principal had “taken appropriate actions in response” but said he could not comment on specifics due to student privacy laws. According to the current MCPS student code of conduct, behavioral interventions can range from check-ins with the school counselor to detention or expulsion.
The incident took place less than a week after student violence broke out in downtown Bethesda following a Friday night football game between long-time rivals Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson high schools on Sept. 1. At least five juveniles have since been arrested in connection with the assaults, which garnered thousands of views on social media, and are still being investigated by county police.
In her letter to the Quince Orchard community, Thomas reiterated the need for “respect, tolerance and responsibility” to facilitate a healthy school environment.
“To move forward, we must reflect on our actions, hold ourselves accountable, and work together to rebuild the trust and respect that binds us as a community,” she wrote. “Let us focus on the positive values that make our school great and ensure that incidents like yesterday’s are the exception, not the rule.”
Cram could not immediately provide data quantifying the number of violent incidents that have been reported on school property since the start of the MCPS school year on Aug. 28. Representatives from the Quince Orchard Parent-Student-Teacher Association did not respond to requests for comment.