Student “swarms” create concern in NW Arlington

Residents and businesses near Lamar High School are experiencing discomfort as "swarms" of students plague the area during lunch hours

  • Arlington ISD School Bus
    (File photo / Russ Rendon)
Zack Maxwell

Large crowds of unruly students from Lamar High School are creating problems for the school’s neighbors.

On any given school day, it’s not uncommon to witness large crowds of students, on lunch break, walking to nearby establishments such as Walgreens and Kroger.

But the behavior of some students is intimidating neighbors, many of whom have aired their complaints online.

Following an egregious incident last week, several hundred neighbors in Northwest Arlington began calling for the AISD and the City to curb the issue.

Multiple police officers responded last Wednesday during lunch after a fight broke out at the Kroger in the 900 block of Lamar Boulevard. The fight had cleared by the time officers arrived, although it was reported that it had migrated up the street to Walgreens.

There were suggestions that a pastor at Lamar Baptist Church was possibly harassed by the students, but that hasn’t been confirmed and no reports were filed with police. The church declined to comment on the situation.

Police reported to the AISD that “issues at the Walgreens and church” did not materialize into more than a “disturbance of groups of students.”

“The problem is students seem to not be monitored during lunch and other times during the day, allowing them to leave campus,” said Linda Micah, a retired teacher and nearby resident who shared her opinion at last week’s School Board meeting.

Linda went on to state that students steal from local stores, harass patrons in stores and in parking lots, ask for money, block people from exiting their vehicles, and physically push people.

Neither Kroger’s or Walgreens’ manager would publicly comment on the situation. Walgreens’ manager suggested thefts at his store “are no greater” than they’ve normally been, while Kroger’s manager deferred action to the School District and Superintendent.

AISD spokesperson Leslie Johnston said the District is aware of the growing concerns and is working with the school and police department to develop a plan.

Police presence at the Kroger has been enhanced during lunchtime, although it’s not expected to last forever. For added security, officers closely patrol the area around Lamar. This will continue for “as long as resources allow.”

Lamar administration “continues to work with its students about behavior in the community” by making daily announcements.

“We actively discuss with students the importance of being good neighbors,” Johnston said.

She also acknowledged concerns by Micah and others that freshmen and sophomores may be leaving the campus during lunch, despite District guidelines to the contrary.

While the District is “not considering” limiting seniors and juniors from leaving campus during lunch, Johnston said “additional steps are being taken to make sure underclassmen are not leaving campus.”

Lamar’s principal, Andy Hagman, issued a letter to parents Friday in which he said the school has been in contact with Kroger, Walgreens, and other area businesses to better understand how their needs can be addressed.

After Spring Break, the school will “redouble” its efforts at preventing underclassmen from leaving campus, which should have a positive impact on a “litter problem” reported along Lamar Boulevard. Class time will be dedicated for students to reflect and discuss the “symbiotic relationship” they have with the community.

Jaimie Sullins, President of the Board of Trustees, said the District has met with Lamar’s principal, a police supervisor, and Assistant Superintendent Michael Hill to develop a plan of action.

“We want to have immediate communication with the community,” Sullins said. “We’re talking about where to go from here. We welcome feedback.”

For Micah, she hopes a solution is reached soon, as she’s concerned Arlington police are being asked to disproportionately allocate resources that could be used in other areas.

“The police shouldn’t have to be monitoring our kids the way they are, they’re needed in other parts of town,” Micah said. “It’s not fair to the police or the citizens in other parts of town who are having problems.”