ROCKVILLE, Md. - Parents of students at Rockville High School and other concerned Montgomery County community members finally got their chance to have some of their questions answered by school administrators at a PTA meeting held Tuesday night, five days after police say a 14-year-old girl was raped by two other students inside a school bathroom.
Before the meeting, anti-illegal immigration protesters were seen outside of the school holding signs in opposition of being a sanctuary county or state.
Some protesters gather ahead of PTA meeting at Rockville HS- the 1st one since 14-yr-old girl raped by 17 & 18yr old here illegally pic.twitter.com/uRWD6Ql2K7— Lindsay Watts (@LindsayAWatts) March 21, 2017
Inside the high school, the meeting was filled to capacity, but FOX 5 and other media organizations were not allowed to bring their cameras inside.
Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Jack Smith, a police detective and other school officials made a presentation and then took questions from the audience. Smith would also issue an apology to parents.
During the gathering, one parent said this meeting happened five days too late as the issue of the school district’s lack of response and communication with parents was raised. The audience also wanted to know why they were getting more information from the media rather than the school system. The superintendent said they wanted to gather all of the facts, and at a press conference earlier in the day, he also said he regrets not being available sooner.
The 17-year-old and 18-year-old charged in this case were in the country illegally and this was a major point of contention Tuesday night. There was also concern about the fact that these two were attending Rockville High School as freshmen. At one point during the meeting, Dr. Smith said this is not a conversation about immigration, but about a horrible event, which received some applause and some jeers. One person was seen visibly upset and ended up leaving the meeting.
Literature was also handed out to parents highlighting that all people under 21 years old must be admitted to school under Maryland law, a Supreme Court decision prohibits schools from denying education based on immigration status, Montgomery County Public Schools does not require information on immigration status and school staff should avoid asking about students’ status – citing the Supreme Court decision.
There were a lot of different opinions on how the meeting went.
“The mood was simply cover our reputation,” said attorney Robin Ficker. “There were long speeches from the principal, from the superintendent, from others who were associated with them explaining why this could never have happened when it did. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound to cure it.”
“You have young adult males that really do not have our culture and you are putting them in the same classroom as our 14-year-old girls and they are saying there is nothing we can do about that – sorry,” said community member Theresa Rickman.
“I was glad there wasn't a riot about immigration or anything having to do with that,” said student Julia Williams. “People just asked questions and they were answered.”
The superintendent said there is currently an intensive review underway on making students safer. One of the examples is teachers are now being encouraged to take attendance several times during class and that they should start being concerned if they haven't seen a student for five minutes. FOX 5 has also been told that there is going to be more information about other steps being taken next week.