A PTSA president sets out to improve her school district's emergency communication

The president of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Parent Teacher Student Association testified before the Montgomery County School Board on Thursday, highlighting what she and other parents say were several failures during last week’s gun scare at the high school. 

Parents told FOX 5 they were left in the dark for nearly an hour. 

That’s how long Lyric Winik and others say it took the school system to directly communicate with BCC families on what was going on.

Winik read out loud a text message between a 10th-grade student and a parent at the Thursday school board meeting, "Student: I’m on a third floor and someone on a third floor has a gun. Parent: Oh God, stay quiet."

Winik said many parents learned of last week’s gun scare at the high school through similar texts.

READ MORE: Parents share frustrations with communication during BCC High School lockdown

She also submitted a 12-page testimony to the school board, describing emails sent from parents. 

One email, described as being sent from a 9th grade parent, claimed that because of the faulty PA system, the lockdown message came out so garbled a whole gym class and teacher could not understand the message.

Another email shared claimed a substitute thought the lockdown was a drill and opened the door to see what was going on.

Winik also highlighted some of the heroics that day. She claimed an art teacher had secured students in a kiln, closed the door and waited outside with a pole, ready to fight off any potential intruder.

Thankfully, the report of a gun inside the school turned out to be unfounded. 

However, Winik is still calling for serious communication changes, including the creation of an emergency internal communication plan for every single county school.

"First of all, I think it’s really important to say this it is not simply Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School that has had issues," she told FOX 5. "We had the really tragic, actually shooting in a bathroom at Magruder in January, those families are still awaiting answers from MCPS. We also have had things like a gas leak at Kennedy. We had a lockdown over a weapon at Blair… We have had enough teachable moments. We are now at the point where we need a change in plan."

The concerned parent said after she made the request, the school district did begin to survey the BCC community’s response to how this lockdown unfolded.

In a written response, MCPS Spokesperson Chris Cram told FOX 5:

We are very much aware of the concerns raised by this parent and others. There is a group of staff examining what communication can be done in the immediate moments of a reported lockdown emergency. Those steps must primarily support safety of students and staff and support the work of emergency responders. Lockdown is a report of an imminent threat of harm and staff and students may be hiding. For the safety of parents, it is also not a time to come to the school as you may impede the work of emergency responders and it is not a time to call or text students as that may affect their safety.

Training drills for staff and students occurs throughout the school year and we will continue to ensure everyone involved knows and understands the importance of adhering to the protocols. Doing so saves lives in a real emergency.

FOX 5 asked Winik if she feels safe with her children in MCPS. 

She paused before answering and said, "I am amazed at some of the lengths that teachers went to and security staff to safeguard our students and really the teachers and the security staff who were really willing to put themselves at risk when they believed there was an active shooter in the building. And I am just grateful to them."

"I think that the fact that you have to ask that question, tells us that we have a problem that we need to fix. And I mean the school system, the individual schools, parents and families, we have to come together to fix this problem, so there isn’t another," she added.