A man hiding in a Woodbridge High School classroom sexually assaulted a 17-year-old female student during an after-school program Wednesday night, said Detective Dennis Mangan, Prince William County police spokesman.
Around 7 p.m., the student entered a classroom to get something for a teacher when the man jumped out from behind a desk and pushed her against a wall. He held her while touching her inappropriately, police said. She was able to get away and tell what happened to school administrators, who then contacted police. She escaped unharmed.
According to police, the attacker is a white man between the ages of 35 and 40. He is 5 feet 6 inches, 160 pounds with receding reddish brown hair and a beard. He was wearing a black turtleneck and dirty jeans during the attack and left the school through a back door.
“We believe the attacker is someone from local neighborhoods that snuck into the school,” Mangan said. “He was not looking to go after the specific victim, but was hiding in the classroom waiting for whatever reason.”
School officials confirmed the incident Thursday and made an announcement to students telling them that an incident occurred. A letter was also being sent to parents.
Prince William County school officials plan to do their own investigation along with Prince William County police, who brought in the victim yesterday to make a composite sketch of the attacker using a computer program. The sketch was not completed Thursday night and should be released today.
“I have no idea if the man was an employee of the school or a parent of a student,” said Irene Cromer, Supervisor of Community Relations for Prince William County schools. “We are looking into what happened along with the police and will see if there’s anything we can do to improve our security in situations like this.”
Calls placed to Donald Mercer, director of Risk Management and Security for Prince William County schools, were not returned as were calls placed to Marvin Thompson, the associate superintendent for Area IV, which includes Woodbridge High School.
The attack happened during a busy night at the school. According to school officials over 1,000 people were in the school at the time of the attack doing various activities, most were watching a pair of basketball games between Woodbridge and Potomac high schools.
There were three police officers hired by the school at the basketball game to control the crowd. Three school administrators, including Principal Alan C. Ross, were also in the school, along with one member of the school’s security personnel. There were also around 20 teachers at the school at the time.
“Things like this happen all over and all you can do is just be ready,” said Harry Kantrovich, the president of Woodbridge’s Academic Boosters and a member of the school’s Parent Student Organization, who has a daughter at the school. “I think Woodbridge does a great job of keeping the place safe and keeping parents informed of what happens. My daughter takes part in a lot of after-school activities and I’ve never felt that she was not safe there.”
According to Benjamin Wood, Woodbridge High School’s Director of Security, the school keeps all outside doors, except one near the main office which is guarded by a security officer, locked during the day — excluding a brief time in the morning when students are entering the building for class.
After school the doors are locked depending on the activities. Certain ones are left open depending on the situation, but are monitored by security cameras, Wood said.
Besides the basketball games, a Boy Scout troop meeting, a dance rehearsal and a coffee house were being held. The fans at the basketball games were contained in the gymnasium area by a metal gate that separates the gym from the rest of the school.
According to Wood, there are also other metal gates throughout the school’s hallways that stop people from wandering into different areas of the school.
Also, all classrooms remain locked throughout the day. At Woodbridge, though, there are sections of classrooms, called pods, that do not have doors but instead are sectioned off by dividers and could be entered without going through a classroom door.