This story, originally published at 4:32 p.m. Oct. 25, 2023, was updated at 5:55 p.m. Oct. 25, 2023, to add details about the suspect.
A 12-year-old was found responsible for several bomb threats targeting schools in Silver Spring, including Montgomery Blair High School, Oak View Elementary School and Silver Spring International School, Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said in a statement released Wednesday.
Bomb threats were emailed to Montgomery Blair High School five times over the last two weeks, including on Oct. 13 and 16, according to Jones. They were all determined to be not valid by county police.
On Oct. 15, Oak View Elementary and Silver Spring International schools also received a bomb threat via email, Jones said.
“This reckless and dangerous behavior posed a direct threat to the safety and well-being of our schools and students,” Jones said in the statement.
Police detectives, with the help of Montgomery County Public Schools IT staff, identified a 12-year-old as the person responsible for these seven bomb threats. This individual admitted responsibility, Jones said.
County police and MCPS declined to provide any additional information about the 12-year-old such as their name, gender, whether they are an MCPS student, any possible ties to the schools or motive.
However, an MCPS employee, who was not authorized to disclose details, said that the 12-year-old is a male MCPS student.
MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram said discipline for students who make bomb threats could range from in-school discipline to suspension or expulsion, which is laid out in the MCPS Student Code of Conduct.
This 12-year-old will not be charged with a crime because in Maryland, children younger than age 13 can only be charged with offenses that are considered crimes of violence, which include murder, rape, first-degree assault, carjacking and abduction.
“It is disheartening to accept that the individual responsible for disrupting the educational process and instilling fear in our community was well aware of the legal limitations surrounding their age,” Jones said in the statement. “They understood that they could not be charged under current Maryland statutes.”
There were also bomb threats at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington and Springbrook High School in Silver Spring on Wednesday, and at Rockville High School on Monday–all determined to be not valid–but it is unclear whether these threats were orchestrated by the 12-year-old.
In addition to the “fear and chaos” these bomb threats created, they exacerbated staffing shortages and limited resources the police department has, Jones said.
“It is important to acknowledge the significant financial and operational burden each incident placed on our department,” Jones said.
A 2022 Annual Report on Crime & Safety noted that by the end of 2022, around 12% of the Montgomery County Police’s positions were vacant.
“Dispatching officers and K-9 units to investigate these threats, especially when our resources are already stretched thin, diverted our personnel away from other pressing calls for service,” Jones said. “This diversion of resources is unacceptable, and it jeopardizes the safety of our community.”
Jones added that he appreciates the “hard work and dedication” detectives and MCPS staff have invested in finding the person responsible.
“The safety of our community remains our foremost priority, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to protect and serve our residents,” Jones said.
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