KENSINGTON, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - On Monday morning, Montgomery County Public Schools sent a notice out to the entire MCPS community following an incident last week, where police confirm a student showed a gun during an online learning session.
MCPS informed the community of what steps they are taking to ensure security and continuity learning, as school districts across the United States face issues on online learning platforms, like Zoom.
In New York City, FOX News is reporting that teachers have been told not to use Zoom.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations is also warning against “Zoombombs” where people have been hijacking online learning sessions operating on Zoom in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The FBI says they have received multiple reports of online sessions being disrupted by people sharing pornographic, hate images and threatening messages.
“I am deeply disappointed by this behavior,” wrote Albert Einstein High School’s Principal Dr. Christine Handy, in an email to the Kensington, Md. high school community about the firearm incident. The principal says the student showed the gun on Friday, April 3. Montgomery County Police investigated.
In another part of the county, a high school parent told FOX 5 her daughter’s honors Biology teacher sent a message to students saying they would no longer have Zoom classes due to, “some board teenagers posting illegal content in the afternoon Zoom.”
Stacey Shenker tells FOX 5 her daughter was not online during that session.
“I felt terribly for the teacher because, you know, it’s enough to discipline a class when you have them in class but to try to engage these students on this new platform, and then to have this happen when you’re trying to do it, It’s upsetting that the students would choose to behave in such a manner,” Shenker said.
On Monday, MCPS Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told FOX 5 the school system is not going to tolerate anything online they wouldn’t allow in the classroom.
“For any student of ours who thinks, ‘Oh because it’s online learning, there aren’t disciplinary actions they can take,’ and they actually have that wrong. And as we spelled out very clearly to our message to the community this morning,” said Onijala.
In an effort to maintain student online safety, MCPS stays students cannot be anonymous when using Zoom. They must have an MCPS email to connect. Zoom is also tracking online activity.
MCPS says students acting inappropriately could face suspension, expulsion and criminal prosecution.
This is week two of online learning for the state’s largest and most diverse school system. Onijala says school leaders are celebrating the over 120,000 students who were able to connect for the first time last week.
MCPS is still asking parents and students to be patient.
How are parents doing?
FOX 5 asked the Winston Churchill High School parent whose student received the zoom class cancellation email from her teacher. Stacey Shenker tells FOX 5 she has three children in MCPS. She’s getting calls and emails from 15 different teachers, the Montgomery County mother said.
“It’s a lot of information coming in and sometimes it’s conflicting information. A teacher will say something and then the school will send an email that kind of contradicts what the teacher said,” said Shenker, who also added, “I would say the teachers are doing a great job. Like I said, I think they’re kind-of getting a lot of this thrown at them.”
Her 11-year-old middle-schooler, Ryan Shenker, told FOX 5, “If maybe if they got more answers and they could give us some more information on how it would actually work, then maybe I would change my opinion but right now given the information we have, it just doesn’t – it doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
Ryan Shenker said he did really enjoy connecting with classmates on Zoom after not hearing from them for so long.
Montgomery County Police tell FOX 5 they did not charge the 17-year-old Albert Einstein High School student in the Friday online learning incident. Police say the gun was found to be legally owned.
MCPS told FOX 5 they will be taking disciplinary action.