'This was criminal behavior:' Parents voice concern following BCC-WJ student mass brawl

There are renewed concerns among some Montgomery County parents after a fight involving Walter Johnson High School and Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School students after a rivalry football game Friday night.

According to authorities, a male student from Walter Johnson and a parent went to the Montgomery County Police Department at approximately 10 p.m. Friday night and filed a report stating he was assaulted and had his shoes stolen. Viral videos online show the brawl happening outside the Bethesda Metro Center.

Rex Garcia-Hidalgo is the father of a BCC senior and president of the BCC Sports Boosters Foundation, which supports athletic programs at the school.

"Initially, I was outraged. I was dumbfounded by the brutal assault on the kids by those thugs, really. I thought this was criminal behavior. Not your usual high school fight. It was an assault on kids, including girls," Garcia-Hidalgo said. "Some of those kids have been identified and weren’t even at the game, so it’s crazy there’s a lot of backlash against the athletic teams that were competing earlier in the day."


Viral video shows brawl involving Walter Johnson and Bethesda Chevy Chase High School students

A viral video on social media appears to show a brawl involving Walter Johnson and Bethesda Chevy Chase High School students following a football game in Montgomery County.

In a joint letter to the community from BCC and Walter Johnson, the high school principals addressed the behavior captured on video as "completely unacceptable" and "will not be tolerated".

"There is also a mention on social media that a student may have been in possession of a weapon; this has not been confirmed and remains a part of the investigation," the letter said. "The Montgomery County Police Department was engaged immediately and responded. They are currently investigating this incident as are the school administrators. These behaviors by students are dangerous, illegal and completely inappropriate. As individual students from both schools are identified appropriate disciplinary action, in alignment with the MCPS Student Code of Conduct, will be assigned."

Garcia-Hidalgo said the letter was correct to address possible consequences.

"My concern and the concerns of many parents of both schools is what can be done? What are the next steps that Montgomery County Public Schools is going to take? What is the Montgomery County Police Department going to do?" he said. "We’ve had situations like this before where there have been fights and kids have been identified on videos but no consequences taken, so that is our concern. If no consequences are taken on these situations, then the fights and assaults are going to continue in my opinion."

Montgomery County councilmember Kate Stewart, who represents District 4, was participating in a ride-along with police when the game was being let out. She told FOX 5 Monday, there are both short-term and long-term solutions being discussed in an effort to curb potentially violent situations. A short-term change being discussed is what time games are played, Councilmember Stewart said.

Stewart added, long-term solutions include incorporating more safe spaces for local youth to participate in activities.

"It’s one of the reasons my office is planning a block party in downtown Silver Spring. So it’s a half day, students are let out early. We set up to have three-on-three basketball tournaments, some art projects…a DJ to really create a place where young people can come safely, enjoy themselves, be with their peers," she said.

Garcia-Hidalgo said he does not want student-athletes or fans to be penalized for situations that are not directly tied to their actions.

 "It’s what’s happening afterwards or off school grounds and we can’t be penalizing the athletic teams and the student-athletes that are putting in a lot of time and effort in playing their sport and not causing the issues," he said.

BCC's Principal Dr. Shelton Mooney sent a letter home to families on Tuesday, addressing the investigation. 

Read the full letter below: 

Dear Bethesda Chevy Chase High School Students, Staff, and Families

The purpose of this letter is to continue to provide you with information regarding our actions in response to the events that occurred following our football game versus Walter Johnson High School.  While student discipline is appropriately a confidential process, the Montgomery County Public Schools Student Code of Conduct allows administrators  to address prohibited behaviors that cause a disruption to the school operations and we are making those determinations as part of our investigation into this incident. 

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has also partnered with the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) as they actively investigate this case to determine any legal or criminal liabilities.   This continues to be an active investigation working to fully understand all the facts and we have committed to  cooperate with MCPD accordingly.

To support our students and staff, we held an all-staff meeting to discuss the impact a serious and disturbing event like this has on our teaching and learning environment. We also identified available resources for students who may want to engage in conversations about this incident.  In addition to these in-class resources, many students accessed counselors, our school social worker and the Bridge to Wellness staff.  I also spoke directly to our students to recognize the impact events like this have on their feelings of personal safety and security, while also ensuring the students that the individuals who made the unacceptable choice to engage in the violence depicted on social media would be held accountable.  Those who made the choice to video and post this behavior will also be held accountable as this adds to disruption and inappropriately celebrates violence.  Additionally, during lunch, I made myself available to meet with students who wanted to express their feelings and concerns. In the true spirit of B-CC, several students have already stepped up, offering their support to fellow classmates and expressing their commitment to restoring a sense of safety and a positive learning environment in our community.  

Please know that we are committed to the safety of everyone at B-CC and our whole team works on a daily basis to maintain that safety. To support us in this commitment, I encourage you to continue to communicate with us when you see and hear about unsafe behaviors in our community. 

Please feel free to contact me or your child’s assistant principal if you have any questions related to school safety. I will continue to communicate with you regarding this situation as appropriate.  Thank you for your support of your child and our school community as we work to respond to this incident.

Shelton Mooney, Ed.D.
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School