Difficult Week at PB Puts Safety and Security into the Spotlight: Events During Week of February 6th Bring Challenges


Luise-Emerson Terrel

Extra security was in place on February 9th, including additional Montgomery County Police support.

Luise-Emerson Terrel, Staff Writer

From fights in the halls, to unsubstantiated rumors of a gun in the school, to increased police presence at dismissal time, it was not your average experience at Paint Branch High School during the week of February 6 through 10.

The week started out like any other with students learning about many things and hanging out with friends-as Monday was, for all intents and purposes, a typical school day. 

However, the week took a turn for the worse as, on February 7 during lunch, a dispute between two students escalated into multiple fights near the Grand Staircase. Numerous staff and security personnel worked to separate the combatants and de-escalate the situation as other students watched, recorded the scene, or scattered away from the scene. Regarding why the fight happened, PB Principal Dr. Mirshah stated that the details are confidential, but that the people who were fighting got a “very serious consequence.”

When asked how she felt about this fighting incident at PB and fighting at school in general, Dr. Mirshah said, “I don’t condone fighting; I don’t condone physical violence.” She also noted that she doesn’t “believe it’s the right way to resolve conflict.” She also warned that PB will be “increasing consequences” for fighting for the remainder of the school year. 

Freshman Eden Onuegbu doesn’t really see fighting in school as something that should even happen, saying, “because there’s no reason to fight.”

The next day, Wednesday, February 8, administration became aware of rumors of further issues developing based on the fights from the previous day, which prompted an announcement from Dr. Mirshah to address the issue.  

On Thursday, February 9, rumors began to swirl about a possible gun in the school or the area due to a Twitter post from an account that claims to track local crime news. This caused fear and confusion throughout the community, which prompted Dr. Mirshah to make an announcement over the P.A. just before fourth period ended. In the announcement, Dr. Mirshah told students and staff that PB Administration was aware of the rumor and informed all that it was false and that there was no threat to safety. 

Asked about the rumor and the actions taken, Dr. Mirshah noted that police were involved that day because violence and guns were rumored to be involved. She added that  “anytime there is an allegation that someone’s gonna come with a weapon to the school, it’s taken very seriously.” 

Dr. Mirshah also said that “even though we didn’t have it happening, we treated it very seriously. That’s why we had extra police here that day. That’s why we had extra security here that day because we’re never gonna take a risk with the safety of our students.”

Although the rumor of a gun was not true, many students still had high anxiety throughout the day as there was a sense of uncertainty in terms of school safety and security. What happened over February 7 and 8 also brought a sense of uncertainty to the community, as parents expressed their concerns about the events of the two days. As a result of the issues that occurred during the week and to provide updates, respond to questions from the community, and offer a timeline and context for what happened, Dr. Mirshah and the rest of the Administration team decided to host a town hall-style meeting via Zoom a week later on February 16. 

In a letter to the community on Thursday, February 9, Dr. Mirshah addressed the fights that took place, the rumors of a shelter-in-place, and addressed that more information would come during Thursday evening’s town hall. She wrote, “I have become aware that it is being inaccurately reported that Paint Branch High School was in a shelter-in-place today with reports of someone in the building with a weapon. This is incorrect information. I will share additional information this afternoon.”

The February 16 town hall lasted about one hour. According to Dr. Mirshah, it went over the timeline of events and addressed areas of concern that the community had brought up in questions sent ahead of time and provided “correct information” about the week.

Dr. Mirshah noted, in terms of helping students handle conflict, there is a well-being team in place at PB to assist students and their families when incidents arise. This team is in addition to counselors, grade-level administrators, teachers, and any other trusted adult they work with within the building. While Dr. Mirshah notes that during this tumultuous week “Administrative and Security teams followed all MCPS protocols and Safety and Security procedures,” she adds that there will be additional training for staff and a review of shelter-in-place and lockdown drills in accordance with district policy.

In the time since that tumultuous week, it seems as if things have calmed down and the school is back to normal.