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Posted at 3:05 PM ET, 06/ 2/2010

Parents, school to meet over evacuation

By Washington Post editors

Officials at a Rockville middle school have scheduled a meeting with parents after two dozen students suffered heat-related illnesses when forced to evacuate during a bomb threat.

Robert Frost Middle School students spent more than two hours in the school's fields last Wednesday, a day when temperatures climbed into the upper 80s.

Emergency personnel treated the kids who felt dizzy or dehydrated on-site, giving them water and Gatorade, said Scott Graham, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. None were transported to a hospital.

In a letter to parents, Frost principal Joey Jones said emergency officials had initially told him the evacuation would last between 30 and 45 minutes. But it was more than an hour before bomb-sniffing dogs arrived, said Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig.

Any anger over the incident, Tofig said, should be directed to the person who made the bomb threat.

“Principals have to make a call very quickly about potential threats,” Tofig said. “[Principal Joey Jones] thought he was doing what was in the best interest of the students.”

Several parents said they sympathized with school officials who faced an urgent and difficult situation.

“I think the school did the best they could,” said Suzy Slyn Davis, whose eighth-grade daughter suffered sunburn on her shoulders during the incident.

Some parents have questioned, however, why the kids weren’t taken to neighboring Wootton High School to wait out the threat.

Janis Sartucci, a leader of the advocacy group Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, said school officials “had an easy solution right in front of them.”

“You do your best to raise your kids, to keep them safe. Then you send them off to school,” she said. “You assume the school will use the same level of care.”

Jones has invited parents to the Frost Media Center for a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

-- Mike McPhate

By Washington Post editors  | June 2, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland  | Tags:  bomb threat  
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Thats good news no one had to be hospitalised. this story is a good reminder of how dangerous this hot weather can be, especially to children and older adults.
Limit exposure and stay hydrated!

Also use condoms.

Posted by: MarilynManson | June 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

This article demonstrates the importance of being safe. Always use sunscreen and condoms.

Posted by: slydell | June 2, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Kids need to spend more time outdoors running around. What kind of generation of kids are we raising that can't handle even a couple hours in the 85F weather? This is very sad. Janis Sartucci needs to stop whining and organize a couple hiking/biking/camping trips for these kids to get them in shape and discover the great outdoors.

Posted by: ElleI | June 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Heat stroke and skin cancer are known dangers of excessive sun exposure with out proper precautions.

Unfortunately, there is really no way a hike is going to protect students from being forced to sit in the sun without water or cover for 3 hours.

But nice suggestion Ellel! You don't happen to work in the MCPS Public Relations office do you?

If you do then maybe you could explain where the Superintendent was when this incident happened? There was more than enough time for Jerry Weast to drive over to Frost Middle School and access the situation.

Frost Middle School is just a short 9 minute drive from Superintendent Weast's office.

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 2, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

This is ridiculous. Kids can't even stand out on a field for 2 hours without their wimpy parents getting upset over it?

When I was that age we begged to stay outside to play ball, play war games in the woods, run, and do kid stuff. Now they don't go outside at all unless its a quick walk to the school bus.

Posted by: MKadyman | June 2, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

MKadyman -

These students were not free to run around on a field. They were forced to sit in one spot, in the blazing sun on a 90+ degree day and could not move around.

They were not allowed to stand.

What game is that called? Sounds like prisoner to me.

Maybe they don't have skin cancer where you live, but here in Maryland the risks are known.

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 2, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Situations like this make me so glad I didn't go into teaching.

Sure, the public schools aren't run perfectly, but I'm sure there are plenty of households in MoCo that don't have a ton of emergency supplies. Perhaps we should look into a random sample of Parents Coalition of Montgomery County households to see if on the cusp of summer thunderstorm and hurricane season they have several days of spare water and food and batteries and medications on hand.

This is life. It's very easy to Monday morning QB the decisions of others. Especially when every decision they make gets plastered to a blog which then gets plastered to the local section of a nationally known newspaper. Be the outraged parent - revel in it until your fingers prune. And then hop on over to a SE DC public and see what an actual dangerous school looks like.

If this parent coalition is populated with individuals who are so prescient and intelligent, have the time to set up web sites, and harangue all the teachers, administrators and county executives, why don't they instead go and volunteer at their kids' schools and be done with it? Obviously, there's some spare time here. That's what my mother did. I bet many of theirs did as well.

Any parental coalition that has a category of "Parent Coalition in the News" for their blog and features their news coverage on their home page seems to be very impressed with themselves.

I'm sure it's a great use of MoCo taxpayers money to now keep around cases of water and sunscreen (and it all has to be kept within expiration date, as well, I'm sure) in case someone ever calls in a bomb threat again. Or, you know, they learned that when they need police intervention, that they'll bug over to Wooten (or whatever public facility is close) next time. It doesn't require public flagellation. It's a waste of MoCo time and resources and just adds to bureaucracy.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | June 2, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

@chasmosaur1 - Since you aren't connected with public schools I guess you missed all the planning that was done after September 11, 2001 in schools.

You aren't aware that schools are to have an emergency plan in place. One of the plans is where students will be relocated to in the event of an emergency. Guess that was a waste of public resources to plan for those emergencies?

The planning has already been done. Question is, why wasn't the obvious option used? Frost and Wootton share the same fields. No big deal to walk across the field and give the students cover for 2 1/2 hours.

What would have been the plan if the temperature had been 20 degrees and snowing?

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 2, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

"What would have been the plan if the temperature had been 20 degrees and snowing?" - Put all the kids in the county on a bus and send them home.

Posted by: pbassjbass | June 2, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe they don't have skin cancer where you live, but here in Maryland the risks are known"

Please tell me you are kidding. 1000 kids are going to get cancer for being out in the sun for two hours?

The only criticism that I have is that the principal or one of her trusted aids should have organized games like kickball or dodge ball (if they even allow that), football, etc, and let some of these fat kids run around for the first time in their lives.

Posted by: MKadyman | June 2, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

Clearly mkadyman you are unaware of the triggers of skin cancer. One blistering burn on a child ups the risk of skin cancer for life.

And for other readers - MCPS was rated as BEST in Preparedness in America's Schools in 2004:

"Montgomery County Public Schools can be used as a model of preparedness for other school districts. Montgomery has an exemplary multi-hazard crisis plan."

That plan INCLUDES identification of on and off site evacuation locations for every school.

Or maybe this was just a marketing campaign put out by the $10 million dollar a year MCPS public relations department?

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 2, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh won't someone please think of the children!!! Please...these kids need to toughen up a bit.

Posted by: Axel2 | June 2, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Sitting in the sun for two hours is not the issue. Seeing once again how MCPS officials are not prepared for emergencies is the issue.

Why do they consume so much of our county budget when they prove again and again that they are under trained and ill equipped to handle some of the most basic tasks?

Posted by: CNAWHITE | June 2, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we all got sunburns as kids. And people of a certain generation had a more lax attitude about alcohol and driving, too. Didn't mean it was OK.

Incidence of melanoma has increased 3% per year from 1986 to 2006.

It would have been SO EASY to tell the kids to walk over to the Wootton gym. Instead, the kids that got blistering sunburns that day now have double the chance of getting melanoma in their lifetimes, thanks to MCPS's poor decision.

Posted by: ontarget1 | June 2, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

This shows really poor judgment on the part of the principal. When does a bomb scare result in a REAL bomb being found? 1 in 1000, 1 in 5000? Why didn't the principal have a few people go into the school's kitchen and bring out some cans of soda or pitchers of water of some kind of liquid for the kids. Surely no bombs would have been put in the kitchen. Or the kids should have been taken to a neighboring school.

Posted by: ANONS | June 2, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

There is a place for logic and science, but not in the minds of hysterics. The risk of malanoma must be baseline trivial if 2 hours exposure exponentiates it. Because there are too many people still alive who have spent whole summers and whole years in the sun.

Two hours outdoors in that weather, doing NO activity. How does that compare for exertion to a full lunch hour or gym-period actively running around, the habit of hundreds of millions of child-years of exposure in the last century in the US, usually without water. (That would be 4 million per cohort x 100 years.) Who knew that taking the field for half of a baseball game could be so dangerous? Human-rights and cancer-awareness groups must have agitated for and been responsible for moving games to night-time, under lights, right?

As a swim coach told me: Best place to teach is at an orphanage: Never have to see and listen to to parents (like some here. ) No wonder administrative salaries must be so high: to be at risk of job-loss over hysterics like these kids, and then their parents.
Look up the word "swoon", folks.

Posted by: incredulous | June 3, 2010 12:26 AM | Report abuse

jzsartucci, you need to take a chill pill. Stress is a known danger causing many dangerous ailments. No, I do not work for MCPS. Seriously, here is how this situation looks like to an independent observer:

Kids had to spend several hours outdoors and this resulted in the need for paramedics to be called in! Really? And to top if off, what did paramedics do? They gave kids water. So now we need to call ambulances to get a drink of water?

Oh, also, jzsartucci, living is actually dangerous. Also, we all are going to die. There are risks with ALL activities of life. Your whining is not productive and distracts from real problems. If you want people to take you seriously, choose your battles and fight the ones that are meaningful.

Posted by: ElleI | June 3, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I think folks need to give the principal a break. He had so much to think about: safety of kids and teachers as well as the security of the building. Most of the commenters have forgotten the most important thing-all children were safe and they had a school to return to. Yes, Wooton was close by but given the fact that a simple inspection turned longer due to the bomb stiffing dogs being called, I think people need to forgive him if he had other things on his mind.

Posted by: dho7993186 | June 3, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

So let's hear what you have to say about a MCPS administrator who faints indoors in an air-conditioned building- happened last night. Maybe you should give him a few lessons in toughening up? Take him on a hike? Tell him to stop whining?

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 3, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Principals don't have to think. They have an action plan ALREADY in place. All they have to do is follow the plan.

MCPS is a national leader in emergency preparedness for large school systems.

MCPS has received a Federal Grant to supply schools with instant communication devices.

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 3, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

So let's hear what you have to say about a MCPS administrator who faints indoors in an air-conditioned building- happened last night. Maybe you should give him a few lessons in toughening up? Take him on a hike? Tell him to stop whining?

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 3, 2010 11:14 AM |

Why did that official faint? Why do you think I know what s/he should do about it? Probably see their doctor. And getting away from hysterical parents like you would go a long way. What does that incident have to do with the kids and/or toughening up? Why aren't you volunteering in your kids' school making sure they have all the help they need instead of sitting on these message boards?

Posted by: ElleI | June 3, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

So students should get away from hysterical school administrators? That will keep them from fainting?

You have all the answers for why the students fainted - they need more hikes and outdoor activities.
But you are at a loss when an adult faints?

Posted by: jzsartucci | June 3, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

@ jzsartucci- I cannot believe you said principals do not have to think. Everyone, everywhere has to think. It is part of every job.

Posted by: dho7993186 | June 3, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Once the principal reports the event, he must follow the directions of the emergency officials. They would not allow anyone back into the building to get anything because they were investigating the bomb scare. Once they were certain there was no immediate threat, then they redirected the principal to allow students and staff to re-enter the building. Thank goodness some people take necessary emergency precautions, and don't let the less probable emergencies (sunburn) interfere with their decision making. There's a reason some people are leaders and others stand on the sidelines rendering uninformed critiques.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | June 3, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

So what would you have had the principal do? Send the students back into the building before an "all clear" was sounded? How would you have transported students elsewhere on short notice?

It must be nice to be the one with all the answers, especially if one isn't actually employed and required to work for a living in a large bureaucracy.

Posted by: nunovyerbizness1 | June 3, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

This is not even worth arguing about, some parents are soo obsessed with every little thing and never think of the big picture...Maybe next time they should just stay inside and pray there isn't a real bomb and not get sunburn...get real!...I would much rather sunburn than death.

Posted by: learn2livelcm | June 10, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

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