Some Arlington parents call for increased security; 1 school introduces new safety protocols

Some Arlington, Virginia, parents are calling for more security and greater transparency in public schools, after a student’s apparent overdose and a trespasser kept kids in classrooms for extended periods during the same week at Wakefield High School.

“It is time for action, rather than merely messages of ‘Care and Concern’ from the Arlington Public School and Virginia officials,” Wakefield parents John and Elizabeth Bartrum said in a letter to state and school system leaders.

The pair wrote that the school system “continues to appear as a sanctuary zone for illegal activity,” and that there appears to be a lack of focus on security. The parents urged leaders to consider allowing drug dogs to conduct routine sweeps and to initiate a review of how a trespasser entered school property.

In an interview, John Bartrum also told WTOP the school system should consider bringing school resource officers back into schools.

WTOP has contacted the school system and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office for comment.

“The psychological trauma when my daughters are sending me texts that say, ‘Dad, I want to make sure that I tell you I love you in case I don’t make it, because we hear that there are guns in the school and I hear sounds and they sound like a gunshot,'” Bartrum said. “There wasn’t any gunshots that went off, but she didn’t know that.”

It’s unclear whether there’s a standard protocol for a trespasser, Bartrum said, noting that “some of the teachers barricaded their doors and other ones didn’t.” The county, he said, should initiate a review of its response.

A teenager was arrested and charged in the incident.

Bartrum’s kids also told him there have been “a lot of drug overdoses in the school.” In the aftermath of a student’s apparent overdose, Arlington Public Schools has committed to making naloxone readily available in all schools.

At a school board meeting Thursday night, Superintendent Francisco Durán said all middle and high school staff members were trained on how to address suspected overdoses. The county is also installing emergency boxes to increase supply of the drug.

But, Bartrum said, “You’ve got to ask, ‘Why are there problems?'”

“The unfortunate thing is that people are losing trust and faith in the school system, not necessarily in their teachers or in their local principals, but in the system at large,” he said.

Washington-Liberty High tightening security measures

Separately, changes are coming to some security protocols at Washington-Liberty High School, according to a letter to the school community obtained by WTOP.

Principal Tony Hall said this week that while the changes “won’t be popular with everyone in the W-L community,” the school is taking action to keep students safe and ensure that “hallways and bathrooms are not places where bad decisions are made.”

Students won’t be allowed in hallways during the first and last 10 minutes of class periods, Hall said, and that includes trips to the bathroom. Exceptions will be made for medical or mental health emergencies, and under some other circumstances.

Starting Tuesday, the school will also conduct random hallway sweeps.

Students who leave class will be expected to have a paper or laminated hall pass.

Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland is also considering changes to bathroom policies.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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