MCPS to address bathroom safety concerns as parents voice frustrations

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School parents attended a meeting Monday night with Montgomery County Public Schools leaders. 

It was a follow-up to safety concerns raised after a September gun scare at the school. However, many parents told FOX 5 they want to also discuss security when it comes to Fentanyl and substance abuse in school bathrooms.  

FOX 5 has been reporting on the illicit Fentanyl crisis hitting many of Montgomery County’s public high schools. Last week, B-CC saw a different type of substance abuse emergency unfold when two girls were found passed-out drunk in a bathroom, reportedly just after eight in the morning.

That incident, which was first reported by the B-CC High School student paper, "The Tattler," and a Kennedy High School student's recent overdose are just two of multiple serious incidents that are apparently occurring in school bathrooms.

Some parents are even pointing to last year’s Magruder High School shooting — which also took place in a bathroom — as another example of the serious concern.

READ MORE: Parents and teachers are concerned with how MCPS handles drug overdoses

A Clarksburg High School parent raised this issue at the Fentanyl Awareness Forum Montgomery County Public Schools hosted in Clarksburg on Saturday. The room erupted in applause after the father’s comment.

"I’m a parent of three Montgomery County Public Schools children," the father said on Saturday, "one here at this school. Two will follow. And, you know, I get information when they get in and they tell me what’s going on. I’m sure you all know it. And marijuana’s the gateway drug and I know Fentanyl is all popular, but she tells me she doesn’t even want to go to the restrooms in this school because there’s rampant drug use in the restrooms and that’s a minor offense now, but are we addressing any of that?"

The MCPS Medical Heath officer, Dr. Patricia Kapunan responded, "Public safety, not just in the community, but in our schools is an important part of the critical problem, which is why we are partnering with our CEO program, our local police department and our security staff – so that’s something that we’re going to continue to have open conversations with the community about. Today, we really want to focus on answering youth and parent questions, just from the treatment teams and the experts, but thank you for bringing it up. That is one incredibly important facet of the problem that we’re actively discussing."

RELATEd: Parents share frustrations with communication during BCC High School lockdown

MCPS Parent Teacher Student Association members say security around bathrooms is a concern they raised with MCPS leadership last fall.

Lyric Winik is the B-CC PTSA President. 

"I had a parent who texted to me that her son was in a class and was just overcome with the smell of smoke from that bathroom," Winik said.  "And then you know, kids are uncomfortable going into the bathroom. They don’t want to be surrounded with the smoke, they don’t want to walk in on, you know, something going on in terms of sale or transfer. Unfortunately, my own sons walked in on drug deals in the bathroom, multiple times and I feel terrible as a parent. He’s like mom, ‘I’m kind-of used to it.’

"That shouldn’t be the case, and it’s just an unhealthy environment for our schools," Winik added, saying it’s an issue all across MCPS and the country. She also said this type of environment makes it harder for teachers to teach.  

Multiple PTSA members from different schools across the county have voiced the same concerns.

MCPS Chief Operating Officer Brian Hull spoke with FOX 5 on the matter on Monday. He said addressing bathroom security is a matter the school system is planning to address very soon.

"One of the things we are looking to put in place is having security personnel do sweeps at the beginning of all the classes, specifically in our bathrooms," Hull explained. "That is a consideration that we need to think about because most of our security staff are males and so obviously, that’s going to be a challenge but something that we will figure out how to address."

Hull also told FOX 5 another priority is making sure executive-level staff are out at the schools, frequently assessing security.

The B-CC PTSA president said she hopes the school system will work with the school community’s parents more closely to address the different needs.

This is a developing story. Check back with FOX 5 for updates.