Fairfax County Schools to Resume Using Motorized Partitions After Child Was Crushed to Death

Schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, will be allowed to use motorized panel doors again after a little boy died in a "tragic accident" at his elementary school.

Wesley Lipicky was killed on May 18 Friday after he was crushed between a motorized panel and a wall at Franconia Elementary School in Alexandria. He was 9 years old and in third grade.

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a letter to principals on Friday that an internal review of the incident had been completed and schools could resume using the motorized panels under the following conditions:

  • Students are not permitted to be in the gym, on the stage, in the cafeteria, or anywhere else where the doors are located when the doors are being opened or closed.
  • Only specific staff, designated by the Principal, may operate the equipment.
  • Access to the operating key will be restricted to these designated employees only.
  • Staff members are required to monitor both sides of the partition when it is opening or closing.

"We are determined to ensure that another accident of this type never happens again in any FCPS facility. Crisis counselors remain at Franconia to offer support and guidance for students, staff and parents," Brabrand said in the letter.

Modernfold, an Indiana company that made the partition, previously said the device was working when Lipicky was injured.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Wesley Lipicky. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends and the entire community. Based on what’s known at this time, all indications are that the partition was functioning properly and this was a terrible accident. We will continue to be a resource to the school in any way that we can," Modernfold's managing director, Bryan Welch, said in a statement.

Lipicky was in the school gym when he and a teacher simultaneously pressed a button to open the partition, police said.

Lipicky was caught between the partition and a wall and suffered traumatic head injuries.

An autopsy found his death was accidental. Police say no charges are expected. The teacher was on administrative leave.

Brabrand stopped all use of the partitions while the incident was under investigation.

"We're going to do a complete, comprehensive review and make sure that something like this never happens again in Fairfax County schools. It is a true tragedy," Brabrand had said.

School officials said safety protocols are in place but did not tell News4 what those were or whether they were followed. Children are not supposed to operate the partitions, the superintendent said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is investigating. Virginia state officials said they would look into any other accidents involving room partitions.

In New York, the partitions have been linked to two deaths. Schools are required to install safety devices to stop the partitions if a body is detected between the device and a wall. Virginia education officials said they were not aware of any such requirements on the state level. 

Lipicky's obituary was published in The Washington Post.

"Wesley was such a wonderful son. It's hard to put into words how much he means to so many. He was an excellent student, a true friend to so many, a wildlife (especially penguins) lover, a teammate, companion, and the best son any parent could have ever hoped for. It's so hard to imagine a world without his glowing presence," it said.

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