More than 150 students at Arlington's Washington-Lee High School have received two-day suspensions from school on grounds of "gross insubordination" for going to their lockers while classes were in session.

School officials said the new suspension policy, which began Jan. 9, is needed as a "last resort" to cut a dramatic rise in locker thefts, vandalism, and class-cutting. School rules require that students go to their lockers only between classes.

Principal William Sharbaugh said the action followed more than 50 thefts of expensive coats, money and other items from lockers. There also has been widespread vandalism at the school, including wash basins wrenched from walls and trash fires, he said.

Sharbarugh said a request for voluntary compliance with the locker rule was ignored by students, despite repeated warnings issued over the school's public address system.

"This was an extreme situation and it wasn't getting any better," said Merwin Liss, president of the Washington-Lee Parent Teachers Association. "We couldn't get the students' attention any other way."

The school, the largest of Arlington's three high schools, is the only one in the county with a rule prohibiting unauthorized locker visits.

The enforcement polciy has upset some parents, several of whom met last week with county School Superintendent Larry Cuban. Cuban supports the measure.

"This whole thing is really stupid," said Rose Brown, whose 16-year-old daughter was suspended last week for going to her locker after school to get a book for a test. "This makes my daughter look like a thief or an arsonist."

Sharbaugh said that "gross insubordination" is entered on offending students' records, but that the papers are not part of the transcript colleges receive and are destroyed when a student graduates.