D.C. Schools Superintendent Floretta McKenzie said yesterday that a system-wide security plan, drawn up shortly after a rash of assaults on children on or near school property, has not yet been instituted fully but steps taken so far have made students safer.
At all schools, she said, badges and signs have been distributed and safety awareness programs have started. Other measures, such as recruiting parents as volunteer security aides, are still being developed, she said.
McKenzie, speaking at a joint meeting of the City Council's education and judiciary committees, said that as much as $3.5 million is needed to purchase two-way radios for security personnel and to extend the hours of crossing guards.
Members of the Board of Education, the Corporation Counsel and the U.S. Attorney's Office, Police Chief Maurice T. Turner and Fire Chief Theodore Coleman attended the meeting.
McKenzie said city agencies need to "work in concert" to increase the safety of children after school hours.
A training session for teachers and administrators was held recently and more sessions are planned, she said. About 80 volunteers, more than half from Bancroft Elementary School, where three sexual assaults and attempted assaults occurred recently, will begin training as security aides in a few weeks, she said.
McKenzie said that directives pertaining to the reporting of school incidents have been revised and will be issued to all school officers next week. She and other officials were criticized earlier this month for not reporting the incidents at Bancroft immediately to parents, and an investigation was ordered.
Turner said police expect to arrest "within a couple of days" one of two suspects wanted in connection with the incidents at Bancroft.
Before the assaults, which included the fatal stabbing of a 13-year-old Northeast girl, 44 officers were assigned to high schools and junior high schools and 21 "officer friendlies" visited public and private schools to give safety tips. Now, "all police districts have been ordered to give special attention to schools and in instances where schools have requested help, community relations officers have been sent there."