County officials discuss consequences after fight at Gaithersburg High School football game

Montgomery County Public School officials are still reviewing possible changes after a major fight broke out at a high school football game last week.

Montgomery County police received a call at 8:23 p.m. to provide additional units for crowd control due to a fight at Gaithersburg High School.

Police said that the fight only involved players from Northwest High School and Gaithersburg on the field and that no spectators were involved. 

In a joint letter, Gaithersburg's and Northwest's principals announced the temporary suspension of both football programs as the investigation continues.

"Late in the game, a fight broke out between two players, which then transitioned to other players and coaches becoming involved. Once the incident was resolved, the officials decided to disqualify both teams, resulting in a double-forfeiture of the game," the letter reads.

FOX 5 has been hearing from parents across the county, concerned and wanting to know what changes will happen to ensure safety. 

Parents want to know whether ticket sales will be limited or if game times will be bumped up. 

MCPS had to move game times to earlier slots last year due to fighting.

MCPS Spokesperson Chris Cram told FOX 5 that a meeting on the matter was held on Monday. 

He said it involved a "cross-functional group of principals, central leadership and athletic personnel."

MCPS is considering all options, but Cram tells FOX 5 "no decision will be made quickly and without consideration for what is fair and equitable, and [it] will add a measure of safety for all involved."

After the brawl, officials told FOX 5 both a MCPS staffer and police officer were injured (suffering non-life-threatening injuries) and that a third person suffered lacerations.

SKYFOX captured scenes of officers trying to control the crowd, and detaining several people. 

MCPS said the fighting on the field did not include those in the stands. Once the crowd was dispersed, fighting broke out in the parking lot and sidewalk area.

Gaithersburg City police told FOX 5 on Monday:

As a result of fights on Friday night, Gaithersburg officers charged four juveniles with assault and one 19-years-old male of Germantown, MD with Second Degree Assault, Mutual Affray, Disorderly Conduct, Intoxicated Endanger, and Failure to Obey Lawful Order. The charges were the result of fights that occurred off of the field and as crowds were dispersing. 

Gaithersburg and Northwest High Schools and Montgomery County Public Schools security will be conducting an administrative review regarding students and staff involved in the fighting on the field during the game.

The matchup between the Gaithersburg Trojans and the Northwest Jaguars has since been declared a double forfeit and a loss will be awarded to both schools.

Both teams will also be forfeiting their next games since all players have been suspended from participation in their next contest.

Junior varsity games will not be played this week and may be rescheduled, according to school officials.

"I was deeply disappointed when I heard that report and immediately concerned about the safety involved – and especially disappointed to learn some of the coaches may have been involved in the melee as well," said Montgomery Council President Gabe Albornoz during a virtual Monday meeting. "As a former MCPS student and as a former MCPS student athlete, I know the importance that interscholastic sports played in my development personally but also in the community building that happens when sports are at their best. And unfortunately, that night, that presented what sports can be at their worst."

MPCS did not directly answer questions on alleged coach involvement. Sports photographer Jim Keeley posted video to his public Instagram account that he says, shows a Gaithersburg coach getting hit hard from behind.

Asked how it changes the game if coaches were involved, the council president answered, "I think that after the investigation is fully complete, coaches should never be involved. We need to model behavior as adults, particularly coaches who have such an important mentoring role in the lives of these youths. And it’s devastating to know that coaches were involved in this particular incident and I hope that MCPS takes strong action against everyone that was involved."

Gaithersburg’s mayor told FOX 5 he was briefed on the matter by Gaithersburg Police but hadn’t yet been briefed by MCPS as of Monday afternoon.

In response to the incident, MCPS released the following statement, saying both schools will be temporarily suspending their football programs as police investigate the incident:

"Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) strongly condemns the abhorrent and unacceptable behavior that occured at the football game last night – on Friday, September 16, 2022 – between Northwest and Gaithersburg at Gaithersburg High School. The district is swiftly moving to develop and implement enhanced measures for safety at any athletic event and will communicate those to our community in the coming days. As agreed upon by both MCPS and both schools, all football operations at those two schools will be suspended temporarily, to assist in the ongoing investigation. The district will pursue disciplinary actions against any individuals who are found to have participated in this large altercation, while working to bring communities together around the importance of upholding safe and respectful environments."

You can read the full statement from both principals below:

"We, the principals of our two schools, write to you today about the extremely disturbing events at the football game held at Gaithersburg High School last Friday evening. Late in the game, a fight broke out between two players, which then transitioned to other players and coaches becoming involved. Once the incident was resolved, the officials decided to disqualify both teams, resulting in a double-forfeiture of the game. After safely getting both teams out of the stadium, a number of individuals, including a few students, fought in the parking lot, and were subsequently arrested as they refused police orders to disperse, and in some cases, physically struggled with police. This was a dangerous situation and we will work with our central office partners to swiftly develop plans to enhance safety and ensure order at future school athletic events. We wish to be very clear that together we strongly condemn this unacceptable behavior that occured at the football game. This disrespectful and dangerous behavior is not what we model and communicate to our students and must not be tolerated. Fighting, and causing physical and emotional injury, is in no way an appropriate way to solve conflict. We ask all those involved or who witnessed this event to consider what could have happened had our police partners, security personnel and school staff not acted so quickly to de-escalate this incident. Following a thorough investigation, disciplinary actions against any individuals (students or adults) who are found to have participated in these actions will be issued. As agreed upon by both MCPS and our respective schools, to assist in the ongoing investigations, all football operations at both schools will be suspended temporarily. The Athletics programs in MCPS are designed to support and enhance the academic experience for our students and help build school and community spirit. Each week, the vast majority of our students participate in and attend hundreds of athletic contests, demonstrating the respect and sportsmanship we expect as outlined in the MCPS R.A.I.S.E. core values. We will reinforce these values with our students at school and we ask you to discuss these expectations with your children before they attend any school event. We are in the process of updating our plans to ensure safety at upcoming events and once fully developed we will share those details with our school communities."