News & Politics

DC Public Schools Briefly Banned Students From Bringing in Beverages

For 45 harrowing minutes, this was banned at Wilson High School. Photograph via iStock.

For about 45 minutes on Wednesday, students at Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest DC were put under the impression that they could no longer bring coffee, half-emptied water bottles, or any other open container carrying liquids into school, effectively throwing an airport-style layer of security theater on the District’s top public high school.

“We would like to apprise all families that, per a directive from Chief [of Schools] John Davis below, unsealed containers containing liquids may no longer be brought into Wilson HS,” the email read. “This includes hot beverages, smoothies, previously opened water/juice/soda bottles, and reusable drink containers of any type.”

Davis will also become the acting chancellor of DC Public Schools on September 30 when the current chancellor, Kaya Henderson, steps down.

But Davis’s new policy was short-lived. Less than an hour later, Wilson administrators sent another email to parents informing them that the directive was being retracted, and that students could, in fact, bring their beverage of choice with them. “Please disregard previous messages regarding open containers in the school,” the second email read.

Just what led to this brief period of confusion that could have led to high-school students going thirsty or campus vending machines enjoying a retail boom? DC Public Schools chalks it up to an over-active send button at the head office while Davis and other administrators were reviewing their security policies, according to spokeswoman Michelle Lerner.

It was inadvertently sent out to our schools,” Lerner says. “But it is not a policy change. That was a mistake on our end. We always look at our security policies. This one should not have been sent because we are not changing that policy. We just made a mistake there.

Although the very brief open-container ban was sent to all DC schools, only Wilson passed it along to parents, though the school system is not saying who at Wilson sent it out to the larger community. Still, Lerner says to disregard the entire episode. Students can bring in coffee, smoothies, half-drunken sodas, and “whatever it is young people are drinking these days.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.