MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - School fights have been ubiquitous as students return to the classroom this year. Now one concerned parent is sharing an Instagram page with FOX 5 that appears to promote and celebrate such incidents at Francis Scott Key Middle School.
The page displays at least nine different fight videos. FOX 5 even saw a recording of an "interview" shared on Instagram with a "fighter."
Several parents told FOX 5 they had heard of fighting in the school but were unaware of the social media account.
"Unfortunately when they don’t really have a lot of mentors and they don’t have some sort of oversight that keeps them in check for the most part, they just act a fool," said parent Pow Srikachorn, who tells FOX 5 he is concerned there are not police there. Srikachorn told FOX 5 he confirmed the validity of the account with his child and some of the students he teaches martial arts to.
Another parent who asked not to be identified, told FOX 5 he was aware of fighting and knows children have been posting videos of themselves performing the TikTok "Devious Licks" challenge. He was surprised to be shown the account.
"It’s just ridiculous. The school needs to put a stop to it sooner than later because it’s going to get out of hand," said the unnamed dad.
Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando was tagged in some of the account posts. The councilmember led the way in removing School Resource officers from school buildings this year. He told FOX 5 MCPS is working on hiring around 50 social workers the council pushed to fund.
"Is it so wrong to just wait until all that is in place before the changes are made with school resource officers?," FOX 5 asked.
"Again -- I think it’s just the premise of the question is wrong. You’re suggesting that the fights wouldn’t have happened if one officer wasn’t in a building of 3,000 students and a high school and not at any middle schools," said the councilmember, who also said, "We don’t have enough school psychologists. We didn’t have enough social workers. So you’re seeing steps taken but we could take -- one of the steps to take was to reduce the immediate harm in the high school context of disproportionate arrest and trauma."
Parents have been telling FOX 5 of school fighting all across the District, not just at Francis Scott Key Middle School.
A woman who identified herself as a middle school student’s step-mother told FOX 5 the issue is not SROs for her.
"This is where technology has gotten us today and kids with cell phones have gotten us today. I don’t think it’s right or appropriate," she said.
FOX 5 also asked MCPS specific questions on what fighting reporting requirements are, how many security guards there are at the school and across the school district, how many times police were called to the school or to respond to schools in general, as well as how many mental health workers there are with MCPS and at Francis Scott Key Middle School.
Here’s MCPS’ full response:
Staff and students are returning to school, fully in-person after more than 18 months. All of us are having to re-establish relationships and become used to attending school in a COVID-19 environment.
We are aware of the instance at Francis Scott Key Middle School but we have not been able to review the online videos.
The unfortunate truth is that altercations at schools do occur and this is true for MCPS and for other schools nationally. MCPS is committed to ensuring our students feel safe, valued, and respected in our schools. When a serious incident occurs, our protocol is to follow the Student Code of Conduct and administer discipline measures as necessary, but it is not the first tool we use. Our schools implement restorative practices to resolve these issues through mediation and post-conflict resolution programs and to bring all parties to a mutual understanding incorporating trust and respect.
The community engagement officers and Montgomery County Police are always available if needed and per our memorandum of understanding they are no more than a phone call away when needed. School security personnel are assigned to schools and in this case were instrumental in de-escalating the situation.
Instances not requiring medical attention are handled at the school level and instances requiring medical or police attention are reported to the central office. These practices are prescribed in long standing MCPS policy.
We did confirm with Montgomery County Police, they’ve responded to at least 16-assault calls for MCPS so far this year. Police must now must be called if an incident includes a 9-1-1 call for an ambulance – or if the school system calls police.
"The police department is committed to the safety to the students, the staff as well as the students in the schools," said Captain Flynn who heads the Community Engagement Division. Captain Flynn did give the MCPS Interim Superintendent accolades for scheduling regular meetings with the schools system and police so the two entities are better communicating with one another.
Captain Flynn also said police are concerned come from several specific "TikTok" challenges planned, starting in October.
The 2018-2019 school year was the last full school year before the COVID19 pandemic interruptions. MCPS data shows 26 "Physical Assault/Attack" incidents and 11 fighting incidents were reported that year across the county’s middle schools.
The county high schools saw 52 of those assaults and nine fighting incidents. Police did not respond to all of the incidents reported.
The 2019-2020 school year saw 30 "Physical Assault/Attack" incidents and 20 fighting incidents reported across all high schools. The Middle Schools reported 29 "Physical Assault/Attack" incidents and eight fighting incidents. Police also did not respond to all.