Manassas Journal Messenger | Are students safe?

Woodbridge High School officials are assessing after-school security in light of the reported sexual assault of a 17-year-old student Wednesday night in a school classroom.

Principal Alan C. Ross said Friday that he is meeting with school administrators, teachers and parents for ways to improve security for after-school events in the wake of the attack.

“[Thursday] night I was walking hallways during evening activities looking for ways to improve security,” Ross said. “We learned Wednesday that while we may think the place is secure that there are more things we can do.”

Prince William County school officials also want to learn from this incident. Marvin Thompson, associate superintendent of Area IV that includes Woodbridge, said the school system is not looking to make any major changes in after school security but is hoping to learn from what happened at Woodbridge.

“Along with educating students, we want our schools to be secure,” Thompson said. “If they are not in the seats, how can we teach them?”

Around 7 p.m. Wednesday, a 17-year-old Woodbridge student was at the school for an after-school event. She was asked by a teacher to get something from a classroom when a man 35 to 40 years old jumped out from behind a desk and sexually assaulted her.

Police released a composite sketch of the attacker Friday, who is believed to be from the neighborhood.

The girl was able to escape and contact authorities, but the attacker ran out a back door of the school. School officials said there were around 1,000 people at the school at the time, including three police officers, three administrators and 20 teachers.

“If anything we learned from this is that there’s another variable,” Thompson said. “We learned something new that we need to be able to watch out for and plan for.”

Ross has been meeting with the school’s director of security, Benjamin Webb, about ways to improve the school’s security and they plan to make changes in the near future.

He’s also talked with other school principals on ways to keep the school safe.

“The scary thing is that this guy, from the description the police gave, looked like a parent,” Gar-Field principal Roger Dallak said. “We are going to see what comes out of this and see if there’s anything we can do to help our security.”

One of Ross’ ideas is to keep all after-school activities in proximity to each other. Another is to make sure that no one, especially students, goes down a hallway or into a classroom alone.

Ross also talked to the custodial staff, who work at night, to make sure that no door is unlocked unless they are working in the room at the time.

“We’re going to do some things that are going to inconvenience people at the school during these activities,” Ross said. “But we’ve seen what can happen.”

Other changes, yet to be determined, are expected.

“It’s sad that this has to happen, but we don’t live in Mayberry,” said Mike Lee, the chairman of Woodbridge’s parent advisory board. “I know it’s going to make going to things at the school more difficult, but the safety of the students is what’s important. As a parent, I’m happy to see the school react quickly to make sure the school is safe.”

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