A senior at the District's Eastern High School was stabbed and critically wounded yesterday in a school hallway during an argument that apparently began over a bag of corn chips.
D.C. police said the student, whom they identified as Gerald Mooney, 18, was stabbed once in the abdomen by another student as the two stood in a hall near the cafeteria. The stabbing occurred shortly after noon, officers said.
Mooney was taken by ambulance to D.C. General Hospital, three blocks away, and was listed in critical condition last night.
Late yesterday, detectives were still questioning witnesses. They said they had made no arrests.
Several school officials said it appeared that Mooney was stabbed after he and another student argued over a bag of corn chips that one of them had grabbed from the other.
The stabbing is the latest in a series of violent incidents at District high schools in recent years. However, nearly all of them have occurred on street corners near school grounds, not inside the buildings during class hours. Eastern, the city's largest high school with more than 2,000 students, had no such trouble till now.
Yesterday's incident also illustrates a problem that is arousing growing fear among educators, parents, and especially teenagers: that the smallest argument or a wrong glance may provoke violence that can lead to injury or death.
"This issue comes up a lot, and people are concerned," said Reco Griffin, the student member of the D.C. Board of Education. "Everyone worries about getting in a little incident because they do blow up."
Two weeks ago, James S. "Jay" Bias, 20, was shot to death outside a Prince George's County shopping mall shortly after talking to a saleswoman in a jewelry store; police have charged the woman's husband in the slaying. And last month in Southeast Washington, a 19-year-old man was shot to death by a robber who had demanded the leather jacket he was wearing.
In hopes of curbing the violence, several high schools have begun using teams of students to mediate disputes among their classmates. Some principals forbid students to wear coats or carry book satchels during class hours for fear such items could easily conceal a weapon. At Eastern High, Principal Ralph Neal regularly patrols school grounds with a District police officer during lunch and after the end of classes. Neal could not be reached for comment on yesterday's stabbing.
Last year, the D.C. school system reported nearly four dozen incidents in which students were assaulted with dangerous weapons, mostly guns or knives. There were also 41 instances when a student was caught carrying a deadly weapon. Officials did not know the numbers for this school year.