ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County leaders are taking an "all hands on deck" approach to addressing the rise in teen crime.
FOX 5 has learned they're planning a closed meeting with councilmembers, local law enforcement, the State's Attorney's Office, school reps, and county department heads on Tuesday to address the issue.
"Obviously, we’ve seen a proliferation of all kinds of challenges for our young people," said Dr. Earl Stoddard, the county’s chief administrative officer. "We think at least in significant part linked to the pandemic, we’re seeing mental health issues. We’ve seen some suicides. We’ve obviously seen the Magruder incident. We had a stabbing in a school last week, and you know, we’ve seen some increase in gang issues,"
FOX 5 was told the meeting among county leadership is spearheaded by Councilmember Craig Rice. County Executive Marc Elrich recently said the issue with teens and violence is not out of control yet, but it is a concern. He also noted the issue is widespread across the nation.
Montgomery County Police say the county’s homicides went from 19 in 2020 to 35 murders last year. The breakdown of juvenile crime was not as readily available by those putting on the meeting. MCPD counted 14 homicides so far this year, where three of the victims were under the age of 18 years old.
This is not a full picture of juvenile crime. In fact, the States Attorney’s Office tells FOX 5 that the number of juveniles they’ve filed cases for is down. However, the severity of the crimes they are seeing juveniles involved in has gotten worse.
In an effort to gauge students' mental health, Montgomery County Public Schools will soon be launching a Wellness Survey for them to fill out. This is so MCPS can see where it needs to improve its support for students.
An MCPS release on the survey reads: "The well-being of students is a top priority for the district. Over the course of the pandemic and throughout this school year, the need for increased efforts to support student mental health needs has become more acute. We know that students perform better academically when they are healthy in body, mind and spirit. MCPS is committed to ensuring schools have the resources and programs in place to foster a culture of well-being and to effectively respond to those in crisis. A student survey has been developed to help schools in identifying high-needs areas for students."
The survey will last from Thursday, May 26th to June 17th. The questions are supposed to be grade-appropriate with anonymous answers. It also appears middle and high schoolers will be able to provide more open-ended responses to topics such as bullying, relationships, grief and loss, and even incarceration.
A few Montgomery County high school students told FOX 5 on Monday, that even with all of MCPS’ attention to mental health needs, they still do not feel like the school system is doing enough.
"It’s not a continuous thing that they pull out. It’s like every once in a while, they just take – like this survey, they just take it out and are like, ‘Alright do it.’ It’s not like everyday type stuff," said one Richard Montgomery junior.
Another student at the school told FOX 5, "They’ll just kind of do like a little interview – like how are you feeling?’ or, 'what’s going on at home?’ And then they do nothing. They don’t give you any advice. They don’t give you any solutions or anything.
"A lot of the times they care more about like not causing a scene in school, rather than the kid’s actual mental health," said a third student.
FOX 5 learned some parents also have lingering questions including where the survey results are going, and who will be able to view them?
An MCPS spokesperson told FOX 5 they were looking into our questions but did not respond in time for this report.
Parents have until Wednesday to opt their child out of the survey.
MCPS and the county’s Health Department are planning a mental health event at Seneca Valley High School on May 31st where serious topics, including the "signs of suicide for parents and caregivers" will be discussed.