Dozens of parents, teachers, and students have accused administrators of ignoring MS-13 gang infiltration at a Maryland middle school, The Washington Post reported.
Fights, gang graffiti, selling drugs in the restroom and other violent acts have become too familiar, at William Wirt Middle School in Riverdale, according to dozens of students, teachers, and parents. Those interviewed requested anonymity by the newspaper to protect them from the repercussions of gang members.
Wirt sits in Prince George's County, just 10 miles from the White House. The primarily Hispanic school has no metal detectors.
“Teachers feel threatened but aren’t backed up. Students feel threatened but aren’t protected,” one educator told The Post. “The school is a ticking time bomb.”
MS-13 is the violent El Salvadoran gang that started in the 1980s in Los Angeles. There are more than 10,000 members in the U.S., primarily made up of Central and South Americans.
One educator at the overcrowded school told the newspaper they saw a handful of students shouting obscenities and throwing items around the classroom at the beginning of the school year. Soon after, the same students were seen inscribing "MS-13" on their skin, desks, and paper. Some students openly counted cash they allegedly earned from selling pot in the school's restrooms.
The educator said administrators have ignored repeated complaints from teachers.
An eighth-grade girl alleged an MS-13 gang member raped her in the fall in an off-campus attack. She initially reported the incident to police but retracted the accusation for fear of retaliation from the gang. Investigators called the report unfounded.
Now, the girl lives in fear of being stabbed when she leaves the school.
“If someone doesn’t do something soon,” the girl’s father said, “there’s going to be a tragedy at that school.”
Spring is gang "recruitment season," and the fights intensify, some teachers said.
“The jumping, the recruitment, they are trying to do it here,” eighth-grade science teacher Maureen Williams said, adding that she's familiar with the gang from years of teaching in Los Angeles.
Williams said administrators and police don't seem to be taking the problem seriously at Wirt.
“They are not doing enough,” Williams said. “They need to get a grip on it before it proliferates.”
A Prince George's police officer is stationed at the school.
How many times were police called during this school year?
Police responded to 74 calls during the 2017-18 school year, as of May 1, according to authorities.
What do police and administrators say?
A police spokeswoman deferred to the school's leadership when The Post requested a comment.
“This is their house, so we’re going to defer to school leadership,” police spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said. “If school security isn’t telling us about something, then we don’t know.”
Wirt Principal Rhonda Simley declined repeated requests from The Post for an interview.
“The principal is aware of concerns about gangs in the community, but has not experienced any problems in school,” John White, a spokesman for the county school system, wrote in an email.