Children's National Medical Center

Ballou High School Student Dead After Attack in Classroom

The teen was attacked after he refused to let others use his cellphone, he told police before he died

A 17-year-old boy with special needs has died after three people attacked him in a classroom at Ballou High School earlier this month, police say. 

Joevon Smith was attacked on Jan. 10 inside a classroom at the Southeast D.C. school, police reports show. He died 19 days later, on Monday, Jan. 29. The cause of his death is still unclear. 

Before Smith died, he told police he was attacked after he refused to let others use his cellphone.

Paul Penniman, a tutor at Ballou, was at the school on Tuesday as students learned what happened. 

"I think the kids are, in a certain way, numb already," he said. "I've worked at schools where there have been deaths before, and it's almost like it's another day for them, because they have so many peers who die for various reasons." 

On Jan. 10, attackers hit Smith multiple times in the face and body, a police report says.

One of the attackers sprayed him with "perfume," a police report says. Additional information on the substance was not available immediately. 

Smith was taken to a hospital later that day.

Less than three weeks later, he died at Children's National Medical Center, on Monday, Jan. 29. 

Police are investigating. A medical examiner will determine Smith's cause of death. 

It's unclear if police or the school have identified the attackers. 

News of the death investigation comes as Ballou grapples with a new report that revealed a third of D.C. Public Schools high school graduates last year should not have graduated.

Ballou, a school with a chronically low graduation rate, drew national attention in June after every senior graduated and was accepted to college.

But an investigation by WAMU and NPR showed only 57 of the 164 who received diplomas actually were on track to graduate. Half of the 2017 graduates were counted as absent for more than three months of the school year but were allowed to graduate anyway, the report said.

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