Montgomery Co. Public Schools release statement after third-party review of Blacksburg student deaths

The Montgomery County School Board is evaluating the findings of a third-party review after the deaths of two students in an apparent murder-suicide.

In January, the School Board passed a resolution requesting a third-party review into the circumstances of the deaths of the two students.

As we’ve previously reported, the two Blacksburg High School students were found dead in a parking garage on Nov. 7, 2023.

10 News later spoke with the parents of one of the victims, who said their daughter, Serenity Hawley was shot in the chest by her ex-boyfriend, Croney Monk before he killed himself.

A petition began to circulate on social media, quickly gaining signatures. It requested an independent investigation into Montgomery County Public Schools.

The School Board requested that Gentry Locke, a law firm conduct a legal analysis of the matter, and provide the school board with legal advice and recommendations to support its consideration of “whether or not school officials acted in compliance with relevant policies, procedures, regulations, and laws.”

The school district released the following statement following a review of the report:

On January 30, 2024, the Montgomery County School Board passed a resolution requesting a third-party review into the circumstances related to the off-campus deaths of two Blacksburg High School students on November 7, 2023. On February 19, 2024, the School Board engaged the law firm of Gentry Locke to conduct the review. The School Board requested that Gentry Locke conduct a legal analysis of this matter and provide the School Board with legal advice and recommendations to support its consideration of whether or not school officials acted in compliance with relevant policies, procedures, regulations, and laws.

During the course of the review, the Gentry Locke team conducted more than 23 interviews with Montgomery County Public School employees and members of the Blacksburg High School community. The legal review also evaluated records obtained from the Blacksburg Police Department, reviewed emails between faculty members and Central Office staff, and collected and reviewed emails between various faculty members and students. The review considered relevant student videos, school policies, student files, and publicly accessible social media accounts. The information gathered was then evaluated to determine compliance with relevant federal and state laws and regulations, and relevant policies and procedures.

Those interviewed were questioned as to their knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the students and the extent of any relationship they had with the students. School employees were asked about their awareness of school policies regarding harassment, bullying, and Title IX, and what training, if any, was provided in these areas to faculty, staff and students. The interviews also explored employees’ understanding of the mandatory reporting requirements under state and federal law and school policies. Employees were also asked about the application of threat assessment policy and procedures, and the impact on school services of personnel moves and funding cuts that occurred prior to the deaths.

Following an extensive review and legal analysis of the records received and the information obtained from witnesses, Gentry Locke presented its report to the School Board on April 23, 2024. The report’s factual findings detailed a time of significant change occurring within the school division around the time of the students’ deaths. The report also outlined systemic failures within the school division related to Title IX compliance, the initiation of threat assessments, and compliance with law enforcement Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). As a result, the report made recommendations related to additional training needs designed to address these concerns. The School Board is in the process of evaluating the report and determining what additional actions may be necessary.

Montgomery County Public Schools

A copy of the report has not been released at this time.


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