Security At DC's Wilson High to Be

Rhee Addresses School Violence

By Theola Labbé  Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, March 21, 2008; Page B01

D.C. Schools  Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is putting more stringent security  measures in
place at Woodrow Wilson High  School in Northwest after 13 students were arrested in two
fights this  week.

When students return from spring break March  31, they will be confined to eating lunch in
their classrooms instead of being able to sit with friends anywhere on the sprawling campus.
Three additional  security officers will be on duty, for a total of 10.

Rhee outlined the measures in a letter she plans to  mail to parents tomorrow. In the letter,
she says she is making the changes to "decrease the incidents of violence and to help all
students remain focused on  their learning and feel safer in school."  Rhee said this
was a short-term  solution while officials work out "longer term plans to protect our students."
Parents say the problems are related to the transfer of ninth-graders, including older
students with behavioral problems, to  Wilson.

Mai Abdul Rahman, whose 18-year-old son was  assaulted late last month, said she learned
from detectives that her son was attacked by 18-year-old ninth-graders. "They need serious
help in terms of counseling and  smaller classes," Rahman said. "How many kids are we
going to suspend and expel?  It's a cycle unless we deal with the issue."

Safety issues are not unusual at or limited to Wilson. In the city's high schools, students pass
through metal detectors and visitors show proof of identity and sign in.

But spokeswoman Mafara Hobson said  Rhee, who attended a PTSA meeting at the school  
Wednesday night, wanted to particularly address the Wilson situation after she and her
office received phone calls and e-mails about reports of  violence at the school.

"The chancellor is committed to examining security  concerns across the [school system] to
ensure the safety of all of our  students,"  Hobson said.

Nineteen incidents involving assault or fights  among students have been reported at Wilson
this school year, with three months  left. Hobson said 22 incidents were reported last school

Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes said  other campuses have had problems this year.
"It's like a School of the Week;  every week, it's a different school," Groomes said. School
and police officials  could not provide school-violence figures yesterday to compare with

Five Wilson students were arrested this week in an  incident stemming from arguments in
the cafeteria. The next day, eight students were arrested in what Groomes called a "major
altercation." Wilson took several  steps to mitigate the problem, she said, such as having
two student entrances, instead of three.

Rhee acknowledged that "we're having a problem, and  that it's a serious problem, and
that's recognition that I really welcome,"  Rahman said. She said her son was hit with fists
and kicked in the head after being jumped by a group of students in the school gymnasium
Feb. 26.

Rahman said she watched a video of the incident, which was captured on a hand-held
camera. All ninth-grade students were moved from junior highs to high schools this school
year. That also caused problems at Ballou Senior High School,  where ninth-graders from
one neighborhood started fighting with students from another neighborhood, Groomes said.
In her letter to parents, Rhee said officials planned to meet with the staff of alternative
programs to work on easing the transition of their students into a regular school environment.

Wilson has four students from the Oak Hill youth detention facility, 12 from the city's detention
center on Mount Olivet Road NE and 11 from a program for suspended students, according
to school system figures.