Dear Parents, Guardians, Students and Staff:
I am writing to follow up on my June 26 community message to share additional information on MCPS’ efforts to address the allegations of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination, and provide supports to students and families. We are enraged and saddened by these allegations. We recognize the courage it takes to publicly share painful and personal experiences of harassment, assault, bias and bullying. MCPS is actively looking into the allegations to address them as quickly as possible.
Over the last five years, MCPS has taken significant action to strengthen abuse prevention efforts, enhance reporting protocols, and encourage greater cultural competency. This includes mandatory training for all staff on sexual harassment, child abuse and neglect, implicit bias, and instruction for all students on harassment and personal body safety. MCPS also requires cultural competency training for all staff to combat the impact of implicit bias in teaching and to ensure all students feel welcomed and supported in all subjects and classrooms. We have a Student Welfare Liaison in every school who also serves as the school’s Title IX coordinator. We partner with the Montgomery County Family Justice Center on the Choose Respect Initiative, which seeks to promote respect in dating relationships and to raise community awareness about the prevalence of teen dating violence.
However, we know that there is more work to be done. As an immediate next step, I have asked our Director of Student Welfare and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator to lead a process—involving all offices of our school system—to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted into each viable report, and to take the necessary steps in response to what we find. I have also asked that we take a deep look into the culture that exists in our schools and how it may differ from the values we hold as a school system. If you or your child have information regarding an alleged sexual assault or harrassment, there are multiple ways to report and seek support. The most direct way is to notify your school administrator of the incident, which will begin a process of investigation under our Title IX/Sexual Harassment/Assault protocols. The school’s counseling team will work with school administration and our Office of Student and Family Support and Engagement to identify trusted adults at the school level and ensure our students are supported. We also encourage you to notify the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) immediately by calling 301-279-8000.
We know some families may not feel comfortable reporting to school administrators and/or the police so we have identified additional ways for students, staff and families to share information. This includes:
- Parent, students and staff can report any incidents of discrimination and/or sexual harassment/assault to Greg Edmundson, Director of Student Welfare and Compliance/Title IX Coordinator at COS-TitleIX@mcpsmd.org. Reports and allegations concerning MCPS employees will immediately involve the Office of Employee Engagement and Labor Relations. They can be reached at OCOO-EmployeeEngagement@mcpsmd.org.
- Safe Schools Maryland Tip Line is an anonymous reporting system used to report threats to the safety and/or well-being of students. Call 1-833-MD-B-SAFE or download the app.
- Parents and students may report any bullying or harassment to MCPS by completing MCPS Form 230-35, Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation Reporting Form. This form may be submitted to the principal, counselor or any school staff (via email).
- Contact the Montgomery County Hotline at 240-777-4357 or 301-738-2255 (EveryMind). A trained staff member or volunteer will provide supportive listening and information, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Students may text the EveryMind hotline telephone number every day, available between noon and midnight.
- Students may contact the Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program (VASAP) for support. VASAP provides information, referrals and advocacy, as well as crisis and ongoing counseling for victims of sexual assault.
The following MCPS offices can also provide support:
- MCPS Student Welfare and Compliance works collaboratively with schools, central office and community agencies to ensure consistency and coherence with implementation of policies, regulations and guidelines, such as issues related to human relations; bullying, harassment (including Title IX sexual harassment) and intimidation; recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect; and gender identity. You can call 240-740-3215 or email COS-StudentWelfare@mcpsmd.org.
- MCPS Office of Student and Family Support and Engagement (OSFSE) oversees MCPS services and programs needed to promote positive school cultures and advance the academic, physical, social and psychological well-being of every student. You can call the office at 240-740-5630 or contact Ruschelle Reuben (Ruschelle_Reuben@mcpsmd.org) or Everett Davis (Everett_M_Davis@mcpsmd.org).
- The Equity Initiatives Unit supports, coaches, consults and collaborates with schools and offices to design and implement efforts to address equity and cultural competency. They help school and office employees, in their day-to-day work, address structural barriers that enable our racial achievement gap to persist. You can call the office at 240-740-4070 or email Troy Boddy at Troy_Boddy@mcpsmd.org.
- MCPS school psychologists can be contacted by calling your school, or by contacting Dr. Christina N. Conolly at 240-740-5640 or Christina_N_Connolly@mcpsmd.org. You can find more on MCPS school psychologists here.
We know that these are very difficult conversations to have at home. Here are some additional resources to support you as you discuss this serious matter:
We have created a webpage where additional information and resources will be posted in the coming weeks. Please know that we are committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for all of our students.
Jack R. Smith, Ph. D.
Superintendent of Schools