Police and medics have been dispatched to Wakefield High School at least twice for students experiencing suspected substance abuse-related issues since Tuesday’s fatal overdose.
The dispatches seem to point to administrators taking an extra-cautious approach to the medical treatment of students observed to be under the likely influence of drugs and alcohol in schools.
Arlington County police and medics were dispatched around lunchtime today for what was initially described as a possible overdose. The dispatch suggested that a 14-year-old student was breathing normally but exhibiting signs of impairment.
“At approximately 12:10 p.m. on February 6, police were dispatched to the 1300 block of S. Dinwiddie Street for the report of a possible overdose,” Arlington police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed to ARLnow. “The preliminary investigation indicates this is a possession of alcohol by minor incident. The patient did not require transport to the hospital. The investigation ongoing.”
“They had to call EMS out of an abundance of caution,” said Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia.
Medics were also dispatched to the school during dismissal this past Thursday, following an extended lockdown for a potentially armed trespasser, for what was initially feared to be a student overdose.
“At approximately 3:23 p.m. on February 2, police responded to Wakefield High School for the report of an overdose,” said Savage. “The investigation determined this was not an overdose incident, but it did involve possession of a suspected controlled substance by a juvenile. Petitions for a narcotics violation were obtained for the juvenile. In accordance with Virginia Code, additional details are not releasable due to the juvenile’s age.”
It’s not just Wakefield and not just high schools that are experiencing drug-related issues in Arlington. Around the same time as today’s incident, police were dispatched to Kenmore Middle School for a report that administrators had discovered possible drug paraphernalia.
Parent groups have been sounding the alarm about drug use in Arlington Public Schools for at least a year. A twin epidemic of opioid use and mental health issues have led to the deaths of at least three APS students since Christmas. Parents marched outside Wakefield and spoke out at the School Board meeting last week following the death of the 14-year-old student who suffered the apparent overdose on Tuesday.
Wakefield principal Chris Willmore told WJLA that it’s unclear whether drugs in general are being used more often by students, but said that the nature of the drugs being used has changed.
“I don’t know if it’s gotten worse in terms of the number of kids that are using illicit drugs,” Willmore said in an article published by the station today. “It’s the deadliness of the fentanyl now that’s the most concerning.”
The national epidemic of fentanyl-related deaths has been blamed, at least in part, on accidental overdoses stemming from the powerful synthetic opioid being added to fake prescription drugs. Users believe they’re taking oxycodone or even the focus-enhancing drug Adderall but instead get a crudely-made counterfeit containing a fatal dosage of fentanyl.
WJLA’s article noted that Arlington police have no plans for sweeps of schools using drug-sniffing dogs.
Arlington County police say they are actively reaching out to and engaging with the younger population, building relationships, and that there’s a youth outreach unit.
When 7News asked if narcotics-trained K9s might be searching the schools for fentanyl, a spokesperson said the county does have these K9s available but there are no plans to use them at schools.
An email sent by Willmore to Wakefield families after this afternoon’s emergency response is below.
(Updated at 2:05 p.m.) A group of Kenmore Middle School students allegedly attacked a student from another school after a basketball game yesterday.
Police were flagged down around 4:55 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of S. Carlin Springs Road and 2nd Street S. for a report of a fight. They found a student bleeding from the nose, according to scanner traffic, and were told by witnesses that he was assaulted by a group of Kenmore students.
“The officer located the juvenile male victim and determined he was walking in the area with a group of witnesses when they were approached by the five known juvenile male suspects,” the Arlington County Police Department said today in a crime report. “The suspects allegedly followed the group and threw items towards them before assaulting the male victim. The suspects fled the scene prior to the arrival of police and a canvass of the area yielded negative results. The victim was treated on scene by medics for injuries considered non-life threatening. The investigation is ongoing.”
The victim was a Dorothy Hamm Middle School basketball player, two tipsters told ARLnow and an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed. The team played at Kenmore Tuesday afternoon, according to a game schedule. The suspects had just attended the game, we’re told.
Both tipsters separately told ARLnow that the victim later went to the hospital for treatment of a broken nose and other injuries.
Kenmore’s principal sent the following letter to families this afternoon.
Dear Kenmore Families,
I wanted to alert you to an incident that happened outside of Kenmore near the public bus stop after yesterday’s basketball game.
Several students were involved in a verbal and physical altercation with a student from another middle school. The incident started after a verbal altercation near the bus stop and continued up the street.
These actions do not reflect our core values and beliefs at Kenmore and under no circumstances do we condone this type of behavior. We take these incidents very seriously and disciplinary action will be taken. We have contacted the parents of those students directly involved. We ask for your continued partnership in talking with your children about the serious nature of these incidents.
Thank you to community members who stepped up to help the school address this incident. We are committed to being a No Place For Hate School and will continue to promote a positive environment for all.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.
Kenmore Middle School
Recently, a thriving, 200-plus Whatsapp group for Kenmore Middle School’s Spanish-speaking parents received unexpected membership requests.
They came from Ethiopian and Mongolian parents, who told the group’s moderator, Janeth Valenzuela, they could find ways to overcome the language barrier.
Valenzuela — who has spent years organizing the Hispanic parents so they can navigate and volunteer in Arlington Public Schools — let them in.
“One thing I’ve noticed in all these years in advocacy is that if we only focus on Hispanic parents, we miss out on the parents who are in need, but they don’t have leaders who represent them because their community is smaller,” she said. “Parents need to belong to the school community.”
So she and another parent, Marianne Talbot, decided to expand the parent group and rename it Kenmore Community Families in Action. The group, which launched this fall, provides low-budget family and community events, a family support group, an after-school student club, a speaker series and regular Zoom conversations with Principal David McBride.
“Education goes hand-in-hand between the schools, the parents and the community,” Valenzuela said. “If the three don’t work together well, we don’t accomplish anything.”
Recently, the group invited a representative from a tutoring service APS uses to help a few dozen students set up tutoring accounts on their iPads. But it also does fun things, like hand out certificates to students after they completed a mile run for P.E. class.
“We wanted to show the students who don’t have it easy… that we may not understand and we can’t walk a mile in their shoes but we appreciate them doing it,” Talbot said.
Talbot says the group is a non-competitive alternative to the local Parent-Teacher Association. She resigned as president of the Kenmore PTA after not seeing eye-to-eye with other parents on how it should be run. The PTA did not return a request for comment.
The co-founders said Kenmore Community Families in Action meets the needs of caregivers who don’t typically attend PTA meetings, aren’t used to their structure or don’t feel welcome there.
One reason for low attendance rates among immigrants is lack of representation, says Elder Julio Basurto, who provides Spanish-language interpretation at PTA meetings.
“I have seen as an interpreter that we are underrepresented throughout the county… I went to Drew School, which is almost 50% Latino, and in the last meeting there wasn’t one parent for me to interpret for. That tells you a lot.”
The rebirth of the group comes amid a broader conversation about whether PTAs are representative. School Board-elect Bethany Sutton recently said PTAs and their influence in advisory groups create an “echo chamber.”
“I don’t think PTAs are representative of parents, generally speaking,” Sutton said in an Arlington Parents for Education candidate forum ahead of the election on Nov. 8. “It’s a small microcosm of people who have availability, energy and commitment to do certain things at certain times of the day, week or year.”
After a driver collided with a child on a bicycle on S. Carlin Springs Road this week, neighbors and advocates are calling for street safety upgrades.
For its part, Arlington County says it has already been working on safety measures for the area, which has narrow sidewalks, little or no pedestrian buffer and a history of crashes. Upcoming steps include reducing speeds near the schools in the area: Kenmore Middle School and Carlin Springs Elementary.
“We are looking into the details from police regarding the crash and will identify next steps based on the report,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said.
And Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti has recently gotten involved, too. He tells ARLnow he has walked the area with advocates and will be meeting with staff next week.
“First and foremost, I understand that the young man is okay and the safety of our kids and our residents is highest on my mind,” de Ferranti said. “Second, the accident raises important and urgent questions about safety in that whole corridor… We need to do better to address them.”
How the crash happened
Just before 7 p.m. on Monday, a driver traveling south on S. Carlin Springs Road proceeded through a green light and struck a juvenile riding a bicycle in the crosswalk, Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said.
The driver remained on scene. The child, who did not require a trip to the hospital for treatment, was tended to on scene by medics, Savage said. No citations were issued.
While ACPD does not provide identifying information, she did say the child involved was older than first reported on social media.
The boy was bleeding, but injuries appeared NLT. He was tended to by medics and police in the back of what appeared to be an @APSVirginia white van (logo on pass door – assuming Kenmore M.S. related) to in the 7-11 parking lot. pic.twitter.com/qtr4Yijzrn
— Matthew Young (@matthewyoung31) October 3, 2022
A history of unsafe sidewalks
Community advocate Janeth Valenzuela tells ARLnow that she passed by the crash around 6:45 p.m. and saw emergency responders. She says she’s been working on safety along S. Carlin Springs Road for many years now, and has suggested everything from building a bridge for kids crossing the road to erecting a fence to prevent kids from getting pushed into the street.
“I’ve been proposing a lot of things, but they don’t take it into consideration,” she said. “The solution is hard.”
S. Carlin Springs Road is an important walking route for Kenmore students, but she and other residents say the pedestrian amenities are poor. Sidewalks are narrow and not well maintained and often do not have any landscaping separating pedestrians from traffic.
And people have been telling the county the same thing for nearly a decade, according to a 2014 report by the APS Multimodal Transportation and Student Safety Committee and Advisory Committee on Transportation Choices meeting minutes from 2017.
During one ACTC meeting in 2017, a father said moms with strollers pass kids playfully shoving each other on the sidewalk as cars whiz right next to them. In the winter, if the sidewalks aren’t plowed, kids walk in the road, he added.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Kenmore Middle School’s student release was delayed and the school was placed in “secure the building” mode due to a possible security threat this afternoon.
Initial reports suggest that an individual who is known to carry a weapon was spotted outside, despite being banned from the school. Numerous police units are on scene, searching for him and one other person.
The school normally lets out at 2:24 p.m.
“Kenmore is currently in a delayed dismissal,” said an email sent to families at 2:25 p.m. “Students are being held safely in the building.”
A police spokeswoman said police are investigating and that the school was secured “out of an abundance of caution.”
“At approximately 2:07 p.m. police were dispatched to the report of a juvenile trespasser in the area of Kenmore Middle School,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “Out of an abundance of caution, the school was placed on secure the school as police investigate.”
An Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed the enhanced security stance, which locks the school to the outside but allows students to continue to move about inside. Nearby Carlin Springs Elementary was also briefly secured, said Frank Bellavia.
Students could be seen starting to leave both schools around 3 p.m.
“Secure the school status has been lifted,” Savage told ARLnow just after 3 p.m. “Police remain in the area investigating.”
APS said in a separate email to parents that school buses may be delayed as a result of the incident.
“Due to police activity in the area of Kenmore Middle School and Carlin Springs Elementary, dismissals are delayed,” said the email. “The delayed dismissal at the two schools is likely to impact transportation across the school division. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.”
Scanner traffic from before the incident was moved to an encrypted police channel suggested a slight delay in obtaining a usable description of the two individuals, with arriving officers unsure whether someone seen running into the school was one of the two people or a student.
There will be a police presence at Kenmore Middle School on Friday after two separate incidents yesterday.
The school told parents Wednesday afternoon that threatening graffiti with the statement that “I’m gonna shot this school on Friday 11/5/21” was discovered in the 8th grade boys’ bathroom earlier that morning.
“While we do not believe this to be a credible threat, the investigation is ongoing,” the school’s principal wrote.
Additionally, last night parents were informed of a separate incident that day, in which a student showed another student an airsoft gun in a school bathroom.
“The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) was immediately made aware, made contact with the student and took possession of the antique ‘airsoft gun’ and appropriate disciplinary action is being taken,” wrote principal David McBride.
“There is no change to our schedule for Fri, Nov. 5, as a result of the threat; however, as a precaution, there will be a police presence at the school on Friday,” McBride wrote.
Arlington Public Schools students have the day off today for Diwali as part of a three-day week that also saw Tuesday off for Election Day.
Friday’s police presence at Kenmore, located at 200 S. Carlin Springs Road, comes as APS charts a path forward for its relationship with the police department, after voting to remove School Resource Officers from school grounds earlier this year.
The full emails from the Kenmore principal are below.
Local Teacher Finalist in TV Contest — From Stacey Finkel, Kenmore Middle School PTA President: “Eurith Bowen, Functional Life Skills teacher at Kenmore Middle School, has been named a finalist for LIVE with Kelly and Ryan’s Top Teacher search. Eurith Bowen is a phenomenal educator who teaches from her heart, and has inspired an entire community to embrace students in a very special way. Eurith teaches students who are identified as having disabilities.” [Live with Kelly and Ryan]
Bridge Repair Work Underway — “Work is underway to rehabilitate the North Glebe Road (Route 120) bridge over Pimmit Run, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation… This summer, North Glebe Road between Military Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) will be closed for about nine days to efficiently replace the bridge deck and beams.” [VDOT]
Most Choosing In-Person Learning in Fall — From Superintendent Francisco Durán: “Based on preliminary results from the family selection process, an overwhelming number of families are choosing to return in person in the fall… Previous communications stated that we are planning for both normal capacities as well as developing contingency plans should 3-foot distancing be recommended; however, we want to be transparent that 3-foot distancing is not feasible with the enrollment we are anticipating.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Masks for Youth Sports Questioned — “An Arlington County softball dad created a petition to take on the county’s school system on sports and mask mandates. The school system’s spokesperson sent FOX 5 an emailed response on Tuesday, affirming student athletes will be required to wear masks during competition until the end of the school year… Nearly 300 people have signed the petition made for 500 signatures, calling for the Arlington County Public School’s Superintendent to drop the youth sport mask mandate.” [Fox 5]
Milk Spills into Stream from I-395 — “If you see a white substance in Long Branch Creek, don’t have a cow – it’s just spilled milk, according to the Arlington Fire Department. The department said an incident on Interstate 395 led to a milk truck leaking ‘approximately 50 gallons.’ According to a tweet, that milk has made it into Long Branch Creek near South Troy Street.” [WJLA, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Musical Send-Off for Kenmore SRO — “Kenmore Middle School students came up with a fun way to commemorate the retirement of School Resource Officer Jackie Pagan. They presented a musical dance number Friday, Jan. 11, as part of a flash mob.” [Patch, WJLA, Twitter]
Arlingtonian Has Olympic Aspirations — Arlington resident Sarah Anyan qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which will be held next month leading up to the Tokyo games this summer. [RunWashington]
Lots of Police Activity on Clarendon Nightlife — “The 3100 block of Wilson Boulevard in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington County is a hot spot. There are bars, restaurants, and a metro stop all in a block radius… there’s also a surge of calls to Arlington county police, and problems that lead to those calls in the first place.” [WUSA 9]
Del. Levine Pushing Minimum Wage Bill — “A state delegate’s proposed bill to allow localities to set their own minimum-wage levels, provided they do not dip below the federal government’s level, has drawn a tentative response from one local official and outright opposition from two chambers of commerce…. But not everyone agrees with the thrust of [Del. Mark] Levine’s bill. Kate Bates, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, said chamber leaders oppose the legislation.” [InsideNova]
Beyer Tapped for Economic Committee — “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi today recommended Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as the Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee… The Speaker’s recommendation must be confirmed by a vote of the full committee to take effect.” [Rep. Don Beyer]
The Disney musical “Newsies” is set to debut at the Kenmore Middle School Theatre (202 S. Carlin Springs Road) in mid-July.
In association with Encore Stage & Studio, the performance brings together children in order to foster a passion for the performing arts and culture. Students in the program participate in workshops taught by professional artists.
The storyline of “Newsies” takes place in New York, where young journalist Jack Kelly leads other journalists in a rally against unfair working conditions.
The musical originated as a film in 1992, but the first live performance took place at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2011.
“There are many exciting dance numbers including ‘Seize the Day’ and ‘King of New York,'” Sara Duke, the executive director of Encore Stage & Studio, said. “The audience will be impressed.”
Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 703-548-1154. Prices are $15 for adults and $12 for children, students, seniors or members of the military. Opening night takes place on Friday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. Other show times run through Sunday, July 28.
Photos via Encore Stage & Studio
Oliver Freeman’s goal is to have at least one Arlingtonian on a World Cup-winning team by 2030.
Freeman’s soccer program, Love the Ball, is launching its first Arlington camp this summer in a partnership with the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
The four-day camp is planned to run from July 22-26 at Kenmore Middle School (202 S. Carlin Springs Road).
“Most of the time, we are doing soccer, but one thing that really interests me when we came to this country is soccer is not number one,” said Freeman. “It’s not the most important sport. Looking outside, I don’t see kids playing that. Back home in England, that’s all kids do.”
Every day is themed around a different country and technique, like a Brazil-themed day focused on dribbling or a Germany-themed day focused on passing. Freeman said kids are encouraged to wear clothing or colors from that country on those days.
The camp is aimed at kids ages 4-12 and costs $250 for full-day classes.
According to the program’s website, Freeman coached with the famous Chelsea Football Club in the U.K., coaching players in community sessions, holiday camps and advanced centers.
The Love the Ball program started in Britain in 2012 and came to the U.S. in 2016. Freeman said over the last few years they’ve seen growth and currently have 10 coaches working in about 20 schools throughout the region, but this is the first year the program has operated in Arlington.
Freeman said being chosen as a partner by the parks department is a strenuous process, but he’s hoping if this year goes well the program can expand with more camps. The partnership promotes Love the Ball through Arlington’s summer camp catalog and gives them access to the Kenmore Middle School field.
“I really hope to instill a love for the game,” Freeman said. “It’s not just a camp. Hopefully, they go home and start kicking the ball around. They have to do stuff on their own time if they’re going to be good at it.”
For the most part, Freeman said he’s also yielded to the American terminology of “soccer” rather than “football.”
“You have to choose your battles,” said Freeman. “Unfortunately, kids get too confused. If you say football, they’ll start trying to grab the ball. Sometimes I have kids from South America or Europe, and I call it football to them and their parents.”
Next week, Kenmore Middle School will be recognized as one of the country’s top five schools for including special needs students in its community.
The Special Olympics selected Kenmore last fall and will present the Unified Champion Schools National Recognition Program award next Friday, April 12, from 1-2 p.m. at the middle school.
Winning schools were chosen based on demonstrating “excellence” for including special needs students in sports and youth leadership, among other benchmarks.
The award is being presented alongside ESPN.
ESPN is Coming. Come join the Inclusion Revolution! Kenmore Middle School is a Unified Championship School. #TheRevolutionIsInclusion#SpecialOlympics @APSKenmore @michelewhubert @KenmorePTA @APSVirginia @arlinclusion @fox5dc @AutismAPS @BestBuddiesCR pic.twitter.com/uyY2BOc4hC
— KMSLifeSkills (@KMSEurith) March 29, 2019
Can't stop the feeling… or the CHEERING when you learn that @ESPN is coming to YOUR SCHOOL in April to present your @SpecialOlympics Unified Champion Schools banner. @APSKenmore just found out the news – high-fives all around! #InclusionRevolution https://t.co/3leXgC0pZE pic.twitter.com/SQ06MPXbPv
— Special Olympics VA (@SOlympicsVA) September 10, 2018
Yorktown and Washington-Lee high schools are also Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools, according to a map of participants.
The program reported that nationwide 6,500 schools participate in the program, which allows 272,000 students to participate in sports inclusive of special needs.
The Unified Schools Program is managed by the Special Olympics and funded via a grant from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, per its website.
Separately, President Trump recently backtracked on his administration’s plan to cut funding for the Special Olympics after public outcry mounted in support of the program, reported Politico.