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Parents concerned after DC students are robbed while walking home from school

At least three students have been robbed at the Fort Stevens Recreation Center in the Walter Reed community.

WASHINGTON — Families in Northwest D.C. are voicing their concerns over two recent robberies targeting students from the D.C. International School (DCI) in the Walter Reed community. 

At least three students were targeted at the nearby Fort Stevens Recreation Center which is just a six-minute walk from the campus.

The most recent incident happened Friday around 3:30 p.m. according to Tracie Cole who called 911 after she saw one of the victims. 

"He came to the school crying and upset saying that they stole his bookbag and a few other items from him. Staff was out there checking to see if he was okay," she said.

Cole said that the boy had green grass stains on his back as if he had been thrown to the ground. 

Just two days prior, another group of DCI students were targeted at gunpoint. 

"A car pulled up beside them and four masked individuals got out, flashed a weapon, and robbed two of the DCI students," the school's Executive Director, Michael Rosskamm, wrote to families in a letter.

A witness who saw the first robbery told WUSA9 she heard a pop and saw a group of teenagers all wearing ski masks, one of them was pointing a gun in different directions and kids were playing and families were nearby. 

As a mother of a child who goes to DC International School, Cole said she is warning students to go straight home and avoid congregating at the park. She said it's time for increased police presence and safety around the school. 

"Just some adult eyes to try to help these kids that just want to learn, trying to go to school and then they are on their way home getting jumped, robbed or beat up," she added. 

Former DC Board of Education Valencia Mohammed has joined efforts demanding increased patrolling and surveillance at the rec center that serves all ages. 

"If it's on DC property, why don't we have surveillance cameras to safeguard the community on D.C. property? Any given day we have about 25 seniors that are in that building and children love this area," Mohammed told WUSA9. 

Mohammed said the area needs to be protected during the hours that students are walking to and from school. 

In a follow-up letter, DCI said it is making moves to help keep students and staff safe, including internal actions, partnerships with community resources, and continued advocacy.

"We consider safety our first and most important responsibility and want to make sure we are clear and transparent in what is happening in our community and what we are doing about it," the letter reads.

The letter includes a breakdown of the actions being taken in detail.

Internal Actions (as described by DCI): 

  • Security Guard – We have hired a security guard through the Joffe Emergency Services Agency to be on campus from 9:30 - 6 p.m. daily to improve safety in a variety of ways https://www.joffeemergencyservices.com/
    • We have been pleased with Joffe and they have been helping us identify safety improvements around our building and grounds
  • Crisis Response Plan – We have a crisis response plan and every year we update it to make sure it is current and clear for our current context. In addition, whenever there is a safety incident in our community we reflect using the plan and make any updates or changes to ensure it is improved
  • Improved ATL and Family curriculum – We are revamping our curriculum to improve the way we discuss Social-Emotional Learning in support of stronger peer relationships and belonging across our community
  • Drills and practice – We implement the lockdown and fire drills that are mandated by OSSE to ensure we have the appropriate safety protocols in place in case the need for those actions surface

Partnership with Community Resources (as described by DCI):

  • Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) – Through these incidents, we have engaged with MPD and the new Commander of the Fourth District, Commander Lavenhouse. We met on Monday 9/18 and she is freeing up her team’s capacity to patrol Fort Stevens and the surrounding area during and after dismissal for the next few weeks. 
    • We are also engaging with the Community Liaison officers to build further partnership and collaboration so that MPD is ready and able to engage with the DCI community when needed in a productive and supportive manner
  • Urban Park Rangers through DPR – We have been in communication with the Urban Park Rangers who monitor Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) fields. The Park Rangers will have a presence at Fort Stevens Field and work with the recreation center staff to ensure more staff visibility.

Messaging to Students (as described by DCI):

  • After dismissal, go directly home or to another supervised space: If students do not have after school or athletics events they should head home immediately after dismissal (or to another supervised space)
  • Be aware when traveling: Wearing air pods/headphones or staring at your phone can make you less aware and also signal to potential thieves that you are an easy target
  • Travel together: When possible travel in a group especially after dismissal

Continued Advocacy (as described by DCI):

  • Safe Passage: We continue to advocate with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education and Ward 4 Councilmember Lewis George’s office to be included in the city’s Safe Passage program
  • SRO Support: We continue to partner with MPD’s School Safety Division to ensure we have a School Safety Officer (SRO) at our school following any incident of public safety, as well as request additional patrol units following incidents of public safety
  • Patrols at Fort Stevens: We have been successful in advocating to designate Fort Stevens as a “hot spot” for MPD from 4 - 5pm so that there will be ongoing patrols and presence at that location for at least the next few weeks. We will continue to advocate that this is upheld as a priority, as the Commander let us know that they are short-staffed and cannot commit to this happening daily.
  • Safety at arrival and dismissal: As one of the public schools with the largest arrival/dismissals in the city, we maintain an open line of communication with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to ensure we have consistent presence from a crossing guard(s) at arrival and dismissal. We have also recently updated our dismissal policy to increase student safety.

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