NORFOLK, Va. — Leaders at Chesterfield Academy want parents to talk to their kids about staying safe. The warning comes after a student at the school said a suspicious man followed her on her way home
"There are a lot of walkers,” said Chesterfield Academy parent Megan Whitby. “For the most part, I see them in groups. But, you do see the kids stagger here and there."
Chesterfield Academy's principal sent a letter home to parents on Wednesday. It said a student reported a man in a dark hoodie followed her home after school on Tuesday. The letter said that the girl quickly walked back to the school, and another parent also reported it.
Norfolk Police said they are investigating the situation and take every report of suspicious activity seriously.
"It was alarming,” Whitby said. “You never want to think of a kid being snatched, especially so close to home."
Neighbor Frank Bellido lives around the corner from the school. He said he saw a strange guy hanging around his house that same afternoon when a girl walked by.
"She stopped on the corner and when she stopped, he was behind her,” Bellido said. “He slowly walked over and posted up right in front of the doors over here."
He said the girl quickly headed back to Chesterfield Academy.
"The guy followed her, so I went to the corner and waited,” Bellido said. “I guess an adult came next to her and helped her cross the street. When he saw the adult, he turned around and walked back."
Bellido said as a father of three he remains on high alert, but had never seen the man before.
"This is our neighborhood,” Bellido said. “So, anybody that looks a little suspicious, we will look out for other kids.”
Whitby picks her daughter up from school but knows not all parents can.
“Hopefully parents will be vigilant, not just of their kids, but other kids they see walking to and from,” Whitby said.
Norfolk police patrolled the school at dismissal Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They want to remind people of all ages to be aware of their surroundings, travel with others when possible, let friends and family know where you're going and do not focus on electronic devices when walking in public areas.
Norfolk School District Officials said there will be an increased police presence for a few more days.
After the incident, Acting Principal Maritsa Alger sent the following message to parents and staff on Wednesday:
This is Acting Principal Maritsa Alger. I want to advise you of an incident that occurred yesterday at dismissal, what we did to address the situation and how you can help in the future. Specifically, a student walking home reported she was followed by a Caucasian man in a dark hooded sweatshirt. She avoided him by running back to the school.
One other student witnessed this incident and shared a similar account of what happened. As a result, I contacted the Norfolk police and requested a patrol for today’s afternoon dismissal period.
I am also asking parents and guardians to talk with their children about what they can do to stay safe. This includes walking to and from school in groups, not accepting anything offered by a stranger and telling school administration immediately when they feel threatened by the presence of another person. Your partnership with the school is all-important in ensuring the safety of our students. As always, thank you for your support.