Students at Blake, Rockville and Sherwood high schools in Montgomery County returned to their schools yesterday to find patrol cars, police officers and grief counselors. Friday's stabbing after a high school football game left one 15-year-old student dead, another in custody, and a school system and community struggling to understand how they arrived at this moment.
"It's terrible," said Evan Levine, 18, a senior at James Hubert Blake High School, where Kanisha Neal, 15, was stabbed Friday night. "It shouldn't happen around here. It shouldn't happen anywhere."
In August, a gang-related stabbing followed a summer school session at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring. Two weeks ago, Stephone Wiggins, 23, of Germantown was attacked off-campus after a football game at Seneca Valley High. And on Friday, Kanisha's stabbing, the first intentional killing of a student during a campus event in the school system's history, officials said.
A circuit court judge in Rockville decided yesterday that the 15-year-old suspect, a junior at Sherwood High School, will remain detained until her next hearing, set for Oct. 12. Authorities are not naming the girl because she has been charged as a juvenile.
Last night, school board members were subdued as they offered condolences to the families affected by Friday's killing. Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said he met with County Executive Douglas M. Duncan to talk about strategies for addressing the violence. He has also been in close contact with the chief of police, J. Thomas Manger.
Board members also expressed a determination to find solutions. "We need to do some very radical things here in Montgomery County to get to the root cause of the violence we see,'' said board member Valerie Ervin (Silver Spring). "We have a lot of work to do."
Dozens of parents attended a community forum at Sherwood High last night, and many had pointed questions for school administrators and law enforcement officials about security on school campuses.
"The writing is on the wall. We've heard a lot about gangs . . . ,'' said Cedric Barry, the father of a 10th-grader at Sherwood. "My question is, what is the atmosphere within the administration if a student feels threatened -- that they can come to you? That they can talk to you and get a response?"
Earlier in the day, students at Rockville High were more focused on remembering Kanisha. "She was a really nice, sweet girl," said Chloe Brown, 14, a freshman. "She was always kind. She never got into confrontations."
But Chloe also said that other students sometimes made fun of her. "They would say things to her because she was a big girl, and they would make fun of her because of that," she said.
Jacquelyn Richard, 15, and her sister Stephanie, 17, were in the parking lot with the rest of Blake's marching band Friday night when they saw a commotion.
Stephanie, a senior, said she saw a car hit Kanisha. At first, she said, she thought someone had a gun because of the sound the car made. "When she got hit, it made a bunch of loud bangs," she said. "I was really scared."
She said she didn't find out until the next day that Kanisha had died. "It hadn't hit me . . . that I watched someone get murdered in my own high school," she said. "It's just really traumatizing."
Officials and parents said they know there are no simple solutions to the recent increase in violence but are focusing on what can be done to help prevent small disputes from erupting into violence.
"It's sad to me that a dispute could get to a point of a stabbing,'' said Karen Troccoli, who has a sixth-grade son and a second-grade daughter in Montgomery schools. "There are a lot of preventative things we should be doing as a school system and community -- to deal with gang and social issues -- to prevent this kind of thing from escalating."
School safety experts say that what is happening in Montgomery is a reminder that no community is insulated from violence.
"We talk about gangs and drugs and guns, and they are all threats," said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm. "But the biggest threat that we have is our own complacency. Just when something can't happen here, it does.''
Football games "present a place where something that started somewhere else may come to be finished," Trump said. "It's a large crowd, and crowds provide anonymity. So people may jump in and do things that they might normally not do."
Montgomery school officials had doubled the number of police officers at Friday night's game from two to four because of small fights the previous week at the Blake-Paint Branch game. Additional school administrators, safety personnel and faculty also were on hand.
Last night, school board member Stephen N. Abrams (Rockville-Potomac) said that it is important for the community to not overreact. It's important to recognize "that a heightened sense of awareness has to be balanced with a continuation of normal activities for kids in schools," he said.
But Charron Martin, whose daughter Shanice is a senior at Blake, said she wants the school system to make significant changes to keep students safe. She suggested forgoing evening games for daytime weekend games.
"I think they do need to have stricter security," she said. "If they need to search everyone who goes into the game, then they have to do that."
Staff writers Tim Craig, V. Dion Haynes and Ernesto Londono contributed to this report.