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Deputy making a difference in the lives of county students –

by Judith Hruz


Some might argue that there are more exciting jobs in law enforcement than being a School Resource Officer to high school and middle school students.

Sgt. Cynthia DeFriece of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office might agree that is true, but there are few jobs more important than hers.

“The impact you make on the kids, the trust they have in you, that’s everything,” she said.

DeFriece is responsible for keeping students off the truancy rolls and out of what is often called “Truancy Court” – now the county’s Truancy Prevention Program, designed to offer early intervention to improve attendance in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) by discovering the root causes of truancy and assisting students and their families with issues that impact attendance.

That’s her official duty.

Her job is a lot more than that.

Based at Col. Zadok Magruder High School in Derwood, with frequent visits to Redland and Shady Grove middle schools, which feed into Magruder, DeFriece has become a constant force in the lives of the students, someone they have come to trust.


She offers that in large doses, and in doing so, gives students someone they can talk to about anything and everything.

She discusses the importance of coming to school every day, but that is just the beginning. She discusses their classes, their careers and their futures.

The impact she has made during her years at Magruder and Redland have not gone unnoticed – not by her law enforcement colleagues, school officials or parents.

“Sgt. DeFriece has been an outstanding member of our staff,” Magruder High School Principal Leroy Evans said. “Her work with students and families has been a valuable asset to our school community. She has been a source of valuable information and insight. She creates a presence of security and professionalism.”

Evans said DeFriece is a frequent participant in student conferences and the conflict resolution process and makes herself available to all schools in the Magruder Cluster.

“She is a problem solver and very dedicated to her work with schools,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have her as a member of our team, as well as the support of Sheriff [Darren] Popkin and his entire department.

Popkin, too, is thrilled with the work DeFriece is doing with students.

Five years ago, he selected DeFriece, then a 10-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, to be the first deputy sheriff assigned as a School Resource Officer.

He said his deputy was “warmly welcomed” by Evans and his staff “as a valued addition to the traditional school community.”

“Sgt. DeFriece’s daily presence at Magruder has created a personal rapport between the student body and a representative of law enforcement,” he said. “She has fostered bonds not only within her assigned high school, but at the feeder middle schools.”

DeFriece also has worked alongside members of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office to limit truancy by students attending these middle schools, Popkin said.

“The positive relationships she has developed with these young men and women carries over to their high school years,” the sheriff said. “There have been many instances where students have contacted Sgt. DeFriece with concerns ranging from threats of physical violence, to potential drug use. In these cases, the trust that she developed helped prevent instances of violence or injuries.”

Through participation in the county’s truancy program, most student participants make noticeable improvement in attendance, academics and attitudes toward school, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the program served over 300 families, with 245 students demonstrating significant reductions in truancy and 157 students successfully graduating from the program, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office website.

DeFriece also works in partnership with other allied law enforcement agencies, including the Montgomery County Police, Rockville City Police and the Gaithersburg Police Department.

DeFriece also earned the Unsung Hero Award from the Rockville Public Safety Awards in 2017.

According to the nomination form for the award, submitted by the Sheriff’s Office, “There have been many occasions that Deputy DeFriece has been able to provide mentoring to young students — female and male — at a critical time in their development. The relationship of trust she has been able to develop has carried over to the students as they enter high school and cannot be overstated. The positive impact that Deputy DeFriece has had, and continues to have, with these children is apparent, as their performance improves and their absenteeism reduces.”

As nice as the accolades might be, it is her relationships with the students that matters to DeFriece. And a desire to make a difference in their lives.

“You have to have a passion for it,” she said.

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