Report: What led to ‘confusion’ during response at Montgomery Co. high school shooting – WTOP

Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools admitted that there was a breakdown in communication during the response to a shooting inside Magruder High School last year.

The admission comes in a newly released addendum to its after-action report, which came after additional interviews with school staff, first responders and others about what happened in January 2022.

One big take-away is that after the shooting, there was confusion due to a lack of a “unified command structure” between police and school leaders.

Last year on Jan. 21, in the minutes following the shooting, the report said the school nurse and security staff members were first to attend to the 15-year-old student who was shot by Steven Alston, 18. It also stated that the boy’s life was saved when the nurse used a “stop the bleed” kit.

The school was also quickly put on lockdown, but according to the report’s interviews, not everyone followed lockdown protocol, which requires police to deem things safe before others are allowed in or out of the school.

According to the report, this includes a paramedic who entered the school after they were waved in by a staff member without law enforcement support and a Montgomery County Public Schools employee who was able to enter the building during the lockdown.

The report found that while a majority of classrooms followed proper procedures, several staff members left their lockdown locations to check on others. After the shooting, unbeknown that Alston had shot and wounded a classmate, a teacher mistakenly dismissed class from the classroom where the shooter went, and where he was not assigned, before another staff member had students return to the classroom.

The SWAT team would later enter that classroom and arrest Alston, who had the disassembled ghost gun he used in the shooting in his backpack.

The report also said that parents needed to be notified sooner of an incident of this magnitude and receive frequent updates. At Magruder, parents were notified more than 30 minutes after the incident began. The school said that in the future, the first notification should go out within 20 minutes.

The school system said communication breakdowns also led to “misinformation and confusion” over when and how students were being reunited with their parents.

The report also said it was discovered that the schoolwide lockdown could have been ended earlier with better communication. An MCPS liaison officer will be designated with police during similar incidents.

“The key take-away is the importance of instituting a strong incident command structure that enables a cohesive and coordinated response between schools and public safety agencies as an incident unfolds,” a statement from MCPS read.

In response to the findings, the school system said it has taken a number of actions to make sure school administrators and staff understand their roles in responding to emergencies.

“These include various emergency preparedness training, tabletop exercises and mapping emergency communication processes,” MCPS said.

The school system said what happened also showed a need for more mental health support for students after traumatic events, and that the response now would include a point person for organizing and, if necessary, bringing in needed support of students and staff.

Alston pleaded guilty to attempted murder charges last year, and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in December.

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