Security At DC's Wilson High to Be
Rhee Addresses School Violence
By Theola LabbÃ© 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
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.