Collective Frustration Over Unsolved Thefts

A+student+pulls+a+phone+out+of+another+student%E2%80%99s+backpack+as+a+posed+example+of+the+alleged+thefts+of+multiple+electronics.+Some+devices+are+yet+to+be+found+and+returned.+--Mercy+Fosah

A student pulls a phone out of another student’s backpack as a posed example of the alleged thefts of multiple electronics. Some devices are yet to be found and returned. --Mercy Fosah

A student pulls a phone out of another student's backpack as a posed example of the alleged thefts of multiple electronics. Some devices are yet to be found and returned. --Mercy Fosah
A student pulls a phone out of another student’s backpack as a posed example of the alleged thefts of multiple electronics. Some devices are yet to be found and returned. –Mercy Fosah

About one month has passed since multiple students’ belongings were stolen March 24 in the boys lacrosse team room. Since then, RHSa�� security procedures have been revisited by parents, administration and students.

“I truly don’t believe Rockville is a bad place. Every high school I’ve been in, sometimes, something gets taken,” Principal Billie-Jean Bensen said. “What we want to try to do is not give opportunities [for things to get taken].” The items from the March 24 theft have not been recovered and suspects from the incident have yet to be identified.

A message appeared on the morning announcements a week after the theft, reminding students to lock up and keep track of belongings when in the locker rooms or in the school in general.

“I don’t know what the thrill of stealing is, but I hate how easily things can get stolen in this school. It makes me feel so unsafe a�� ever since my phone was stolen,” senior Kimmie Porras said.

The night of and day after the theft, parents on the Ramsnet listserv criticized RHSa�� security and administration, some claiming that theft has been a problem at RHS for a “decade,” and has not been addressed properly.

Bensen addresed this accusation, along with administrators who have been at RHS for more than a year. Bensen said she and the other administration are not aware of an unusual theft problem at RHS.

The security office keeps a written record book of missing items based on students’ personal reports. When a theft or a case of a missing item occurs, students will fill out a form specifying what was lost, where it was last seen and their contact information in case the item is found. Sometimes, however, students will wrongly report lost items as theft, according to Bensen.

The RHS security record book reports that 17 cell phones, three wallets, four iPods, three jackets, a camera bag, a calculator, a Nook and money from a locker have been reported missing during the 2013-2014 school year up to April.

“Yes, things go missing, but things get found,” Bensen said. “As much as bad things happen, great things are happening, too, you know?”

Among the found items this school year were eight cell phones, found in the building by either staff or students, which have been returned. There are, currently, five unclaimed cell phones and two unclaimed iPods in the security office. Unofficially, Bensen reported, the main office has received about 50 electronic devices this year and returned them before there was a need for security documentation.

Bensen recalled multiple times when students behaved with integrity, finding unattended items in hallways or locker rooms and immediately turning them in to the office.

Based on MCPSa�� “Security at a Glance” report, there were no out-of-school suspensions in the 2012-2013 school year for theft at RHS, which enrolled 1,268 students that year. There were, however, five suspensions for attacks, six for possession of dangerous substances and five for fighting. There were no cases of theft deemed as serious that year.

In comparison, Richard Montgomery HS, which enrolled 2,097 students in 2013, recorded 10 incidents of theft resulting in out-of-school suspension in the same year, including two that were reported as serious cases.

According to MCPS senior communications specialist Gboyinde Onijala, there is no “standard procedure” for all county schools when it comes to documenting thefts. Reports are at the discretion of the school’s security team and should be handled accordingly. When property of value over $500 is reported stolen, however, it should be reported to the Montgomery County Police Department, Onijala said.