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Nearly two dozen staff members at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Northwest stayed home on Monday out of concern about what some described as inconsistent leadership, lax communication, and lack of preparation for on-campus emergencies.
The recent emergency that triggered this sentiment occurred on the morning of Nov. 2 when the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) responded to reports of gunshots in the parking lot Roosevelt shares with nearby MacFarland Middle School.
Staff members and students getting their day started heard the gunshots, some of which damaged teachers’ cars. Accounts include details about people outside of Roosevelt running for cover and even attempting to enter the building after administrators initiated a lockdown.
One staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity said administrators lifted the lockdown in less than an hour and kept the normal schedule intact, even though teachers and students in some parts of the building hadn’t yet heard from them.
An email The Informer later secured showed that Roosevelt’s acting principal Brandon Eatman communicated with staff members about the shooting in the early afternoon.
The staff member said that without opportunities to practice during lockdown drills, teachers had no idea of how to navigate the emergency, especially as students reacted to by-the-minute reports about the shooting circulating on social media.
“We’ve done multiple fire drills this year already, and it’s absurd that we haven’t done one lockdown drill,” the staff member said.
“There are a lot of new teachers who don’t know the lockdown procedure.”
Eatman and assistant principal for climate and culture Darryl Powell, didn’t respond to The Informer’s request for comment.
On its website, DCPS said it has coordinated guidance for emergency planning, response and compliance. Central office employees work with schools to ensure fidelity to protocol. In total, public schools are supposed to perform 10 fire drills throughout the school year, along with two lockdown drills, one shelter-in-place, one evacuation and relocation, and a bevy of other procedures related to natural disasters.
A lockdown drill scheduled well before last week’s lockdown will take place on November 16.
Months earlier, community members at Roosevelt experienced an emergency that required a response much like what DCPS said administrators executed on November 2.
In a statement, a DCPS spokesperson said that Roosevelt and MacFarland went into lockdown mode throughout that entire morning. Both schools lifted the lockdown once MPD completed its investigation. Until then, administrators cleared hallways and postponed outdoor activities while locking doors and prohibiting people from entering or leaving the premises.
DCPS didn’t respond to an inquiry about whether mental health professionals were dispatched. However, they said administrators communicated with all appropriate parties.
“DCPS actively works with MPD during these challenging incidents and remains in constant communication with school officials,” the spokesperson said. “We consult with MPD to ensure we can communicate incidents to DCPS families and share updates in a timely manner.”
As of Monday, 177 homicides have been reported in the District this year, along with more than 1,200 assaults with a deadly weapon.
Some shootings have happened near public and public charter schools. Toward the end of October, authorities found a young woman fatally shot in a car near Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Northwest. In August, a 15-year-old youth was charged with shooting and wounding two classmates near IDEA Public Charter School in Northeast.
Another shooting near Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in Northwest that month claimed two lives.
On the morning of November 3, teachers and staff members at Roosevelt took part in meetings where they shared ideas about how to move forward. As one staff member recounted, participants heard various perspectives on the situation, depending on one’s location in the school and whether their classroom had an intercom system.
The staff member who requested anonymity said that administrators followed the proper steps when it came to gathering information, alerting teachers, and clearing the hallways.
However, they expressed empathy with frustrated colleagues.
“We didn’t know until 10 minutes later that something happened outside of the building,” the staff member said. “I felt I got the information [during the incident], but I could see if someone had another interpretation of how it went down.”