The abduction and assault of a 5-year-old girl who was playing in the courtyard of Drew Model School in Arlington has prompted school officials to review security procedures.
Drew Principal Raymond O'Neill said he did not know what, if any, changes might be made as a result of the incident, which happened earlier this week. "The school has had very good controls over what is happening during the day. I'm sure there's room for improvement, but I can't say exactly" how security policy could change, he said.
According to Arlington police and school officials, a girl in the extended-day program for kindergarteners was taken from a fenced outdoor courtyard of the school at 3500 S. 24th St. at about 3:10 p.m. Monday and molested by a man who had twice been ordered to leave the school grounds earlier in the day.
Police arrested William Lewis, who they said has no fixed address, and charged him with trespassing, attempted rape, exposure and abduction. Lewis is being held in Arlington County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bond.
Barry Hulick, spokesman for the Arlington police, said the exact sequence of events is still unclear. He said that moments after the girl was abducted, other children informed a teacher that a man who was not the girl's father had offered her money if she would go with him.
School personnel found and restrained the girl's attacker inside the Drew Community Center adjacent to the school until police arrived at 3:25 p.m., Hulick said.
O'Neill said he did not know how many children were in the courtyard, which is fenced but not locked. The teacher was outdoors with the children, he said, but "wasn't necessarily seeing every kid each minute."
"The only thing I can surmise is that it happened very quickly and quietly," he said. The teacher "was there and on duty and was alert."
Police said their initial report, gathered from witnesses, did not indicate whether a teacher was in the courtyard when the girl was abducted.
O'Neill sent a letter to parents of all 435 Drew students Tuesday, telling them of the incident and urging them to remind their children to resist strangers by saying "no."
Police in the Youth Resources Unit said it is difficult to monitor access to Drew because many adults attend daytime programs at the community center.
"The situation does lend itself to more strangers being about the school," said Lt. Gil Haring. He said that while this is the first time a child has been abducted from school property, there have been other incidents of men exposing themselves to schoolchildren or trespassing on the grounds.
A special police task force that focuses on the area around 24th Street and Shirlington surveys the school grounds sporadically, Haring said. "I will certainly recommend to [the task force] that they consider varying their times to include school hours," he said.