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External Review of the Supervision of Athletics and Extracurricular Activities
In the wake of a sexual assault in the boys’ locker room at Damascus High School on October 31, 2018, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) took immediate steps to enhance the safety and security of students participating in athletic and extracurricular programs. As part of this critical effort, MCPS engaged the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr (WilmerHale) to conduct an external review of after-school supervision at high schools in the District. This review is in addition to the MCPS internal investigation and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s ongoing criminal proceedings stemming from the October 31 assault.
As explained in the WilmerHale report, the goals of the external review included “identifying measures that MCPS can take to improve school culture, as well as existing policies, procedures, and practices related to supervision and reporting, in order to help prevent future incidents like that at Damascus High School and ensure that high schools across the District provide a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for students engaged in athletics and other extracurricular activities.” The review, which included document review; policy analysis; and dozens of interviews with staff, students, and local and national experts, reflects the findings and recommendations of WilmerHale. However, it is important to note that in an effort to avoid interfering with the ongoing investigation of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, the review did not include interviews with victims from the DHS incident, any of the alleged perpetrators, or any of their families, and WilmerHale did not undertake a comprehensive, historical review of unreported incidents of bullying, hazing, or sexual assault.
The external review looked at three key areas: fostering a positive culture; implementing robust supervision practices; and ensuring timely reporting of incidents and appropriate responses.
The review concluded that, overall, “MCPS has fostered a generally positive culture around athletics and other extracurriculars,” and “MCPS has a robust set of districtwide regulations with respect to mandatory reporting requirements and procedures.” The WilmerHale report does, however, identify areas for review and enhancements to strengthen supervision and safety for students participating in school-sponsored after-school activities. MCPS has already taken a number of steps in recent months that address key issues identified in the external review. These steps include:
Additionally, over the next year, MCPS intends to take the following actions:
We believe these enhanced supervision strategies will strengthen our ability to keep students safe. Our goal is to create the supervision structures and positive school climates that prevent bullying, hazing and sexual assault.
Community members are encouraged to review the findings of the external review. MCPS welcomes your engagement as we consider all of the findings and recommendations from WilmerHale.
MCPS is committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all students. We will continue to adopt best practices so we are at the forefront of this critical work and can effectively collaborate with students, staff, community members and our partners in law enforcement to ensure that this core commitment is fulfilled.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
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