Staff at Wilde Lake High School is continuing to review procedures after a junior student was accused of raping a 14-year-old freshman earlier this week inside the Columbia school.
In a letter sent to parents on Thursday, Principal James LeMon said, "addressing the issue of school safety here ... will require planning and collaboration with all aspects of central office support, PTSA and students. This process has already begun and will continue."
He added: "We will maintain a safe a orderly environment for all students at Wilde Lake High School with our continued vigilance and alertless," and noted that school staff "will continue to monitor the 31 cameras placed strategically throughout the building."
DeShawn Rasheed Jones, 17, of the 6000 block of Laurel Wreath Way in Columbia, faces second-degree rape, second-degree assault and false imprisonment charges in connection with the incident, which occurred during fourth period Monday, Feb. 4, in the school's third-floor choir room, according to the charging documents.
Jones told Howard County Police he had sexual contact with the girl, according to the statement of probable cause filed in Howard County District Court.
Jones, who is being charged as an adult, is currently being held on $500,000 bond, police said.
According to the documents, Jones texted the victim and asked her to skip class. The documents state the two walked to the third floor of the building, where the victim declined Jones’ offer to go on to the roof.
As the two were walking in the dance hall, the defendant entered a dark, empty choir practice room and pulled the victim inside, the documents state.
The victim said the two were kissing when Jones closed the door and forcibly had sex with her, according to the documents.
She said she tried to refuse, but Jones was stronger than her, the documents state.
After the incident, the victim told two friends that Jones had raped her, according to the documents.
When the victim arrived home, she told a family member, who told her to tell her mother, according to the documents.
At 6:08 p.m., police were contacted about the incident, the documents state. The Safe exam tests performed on the victim revealed evidence of sexual activity, the documents state.
According to the documents, the school confirmed that the victim had skipped her fourth-period class and that the victim and Jones entered the choir room together.
Jones told police that he texted the victim during fourth period, and "the defendant confirmed that there was sexual contact between himself and the victim in the practice room at WLHS," according to the documents.
Schools spokeswoman Rebecca Amani-Dove said the school system has procedures to ensure that students are where they are supposed to be, which include keeping rooms locked when they are not in use.
Keeping doors locked while not in use, she said, is common practice, though not mandated by policy.
"Our principals encourage their teachers to lock their doors when not in use, and while it's certainly a best practice, it's not mandatory," she said.
She said school personnel is investigating the incident.
Bill Ryan, executive director of school improvement and administration, and a member of the Joint Task Force on School Safety convened in December, said locking doors was something being looked at by the task force.
"Safety within the school building continues to be an issue, making sure kids are where they're supposed to be and supervised ... that's a continuous issue that isn't new," he said. "We have to reflect on the protocols we have in place. As far as the task force is concerned, ... we're looking at creating very specific protocols system-wide."
According to a school system statement, the administration informed staff and parents Tuesday afternoon, and school counselors and a psychologist were made available to the victim and other students.
In a letter sent Wednesday LeMon said he was notified of the incident Monday evening. Because of the "inherent criminal, legal and personnel ramifications," of the accusations against Jones, he was directed by the school system to inform the community after receiving the official news release from police.
The experience has been a difficult one, LeMon said, but he was proud of students and staff in the way they have handled themselves.
"Our teachers have responded to this trying situation in a professional, caring and student-friendly manner," he said. "Our students have responded with curiosity, but also with maturity. As I walked throughout the school today, it was clear that sudents were not only engaged in productive discussions with teachers regarding the incident, but they also displayed enthusiasm, interest and a strong work ethic during their academic day."
The school system said confidentiality laws prohibit the school system from sharing specific details regarding the incident.
Wilde Lake High School PTSA President Sharon Glennen said Monday’s incident was “sad and unfortunate for everyone involved,” but the school as a whole has good safety and security procedures in place.
“I see this as an isolated, one-of-a-kind incident,” she said. “The school is very secure and very safe. I’ve had three kids attend Wilde Lake, and I’ve had no concerns about my kids there. ... I know the school is taking it very seriously, and talking about new procedures to put in place to close the loophole that was there for this particular incident.”
“It’s distressing. It’s a matter of concern for the community,” said Judy Center, a member of the Wilde Lake PTSA executive board. “I think that there has been a lot of concern,” especially for the victim involved, she said.
Center said that since her son started at Wilde Lake four years ago, she has never heard of any similar incident.
“It’s a safe school, and I think it still is a safe school; full of dedicated, talented students," she said.
County Council member Mary Kay Sigaty, who represents Columbia, said her two daughters graduated from Wilde Lake High School, and she herself worked as a parent volunteer there.
“As a parent, as a community member, we send our children to school expecting they will be safe,” Sigaty said. “Sadly things happen, I wish that it hadn't.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this story.