Dozens of public schools in the District were roped off with yellow tape on May 5, as FBI agents and fire officials investigated suspicious letters that contained white, powdery substances.

The FBI’s National Capital Response Squad, along with the D.C. Fire Department, the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service responded to repeated calls from 29 public schools over suspicious letters. Calls about an additional 10 letters followed on May 6. Four were intercepted at the post office.

Mary Church Terrell Elementary School located in Ward 8 was the first school to notify authorities, leading to school buildings being emptied hundreds of police officers being deployed.

“This is outrageous and not a laughing matter,” said Councilman Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). “When people target our innocent children, we must be ever vigilant to protect our schools at all cost.”

Elementary schools targeted were Brown, Powell, King, Lafayette, Reed, LaSalle, Ross, Houston, Peabody, Beers, Eaton, Bunker Hill, Aiton, Amidon, Plummer, Maude, Marshall and Burroughs Educational Campus. Other targeted middle and high schools included Ballou, School Without Walls, Banneker, Phelps, Ellington, Hardy, Eastern, Hamilton and Johnson.

D.C. Public School System (DCPS) officials reported that students were never exposed to the substance.

“The safety of your students is one of our top priorities and we remain committed to ensuring that your students are safe and receiving a world-class education. DCPS will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates when new information is released,” D.C. School Chancellor, Kai Henderson, said in a statement on May 6.

No hazardous substances were found in the mailings. No illnesses or injuries have been reported linked to the findings.
Similar mailings are under investigation by the FBI and postal inspectors in Dallas, the FBI said in a news release.

The FBI reported that each item packaged will be analyzed for hazardous substances by an approved regional lab before it is transported to the FBI’s Laboratory at Quantico, Va.

According to the FBI, the addresses on the letters were printed, not handwritten. Each letter was addressed to a school and not a specific person.

 

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO