Virginia Governor Signs School Partition Safety Bill After Child Is Crushed to Death

What to Know

  • Nine-year-old Wesley Lipicky died in May 2018 after he was crushed by a motorized room partition in his school in Alexandria, Virginia.
  • On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law to set classroom partition safety rules statewide.
  • Lipicky's grandmother said she did everything in her power "to see that a tragedy like this never happens to another family."

Never again. After a 9-year-old boy was crushed to death by a motorized partition in his Northern Virginia school last year, lawmakers took action to try to prevent a similar tragedy anywhere in the state.

In honor of Wesley Lipicky, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill Thursday to set safety standards for the use of motorized partitions in schools. This makes Virginia the second state in the country with a law requiring the use of safety devices with all motorized partitions in schools. Only New York has a similar law.

The creation of the law comes after a News4 consumer investigation found that of the 21 school districts in the D.C. area that have partitions, 17 districts had no formal, written policies on who is allowed to operate them.

DC-Area Schools That Have Motorized Room Partitions

Click on the dots to see where room partitions are located.

Source: Information provided by school districts.
Note: D.C. Public Schools was unable to provide information on room partitions. Culpeper County Public Schools, Manassas Park City Schools and Spotsylvania County Public Schools said they do not have any partitions.

Lipicky was killed in May 2018 when he got caught between a motorized partition and a wall inside his school in Alexandria.

Northam said he was "devastated" by the third-grader's death.

"I commend his family and Delegate Mark Sickles for their advocacy in passing this legislation, which will keep our children safer and ensure that no other family has to suffer through a similar tragedy. I am proud to sign this bill into law," the governor said in a statement Thursday.

Starting July 1st, the Wesley Charles Lipicky Act will ban the use of motorized partitions when students are in the room unless the partitions have additional safety devices, such as motion sensors. Also, the law will require annual training for anyone who operates the partitions.

The Lipicky family has said they take comfort knowing that no other families will have to experience the loss they have suffered.

Lipicky was helping a teacher operate a partition in the gym of Franconia Elementary School in Alexandria on May 18, 2018 when he got caught between the huge partition and a wall, Fairfax County police said. He suffered severe head injuries and died at a hospital that night.

In the wake of the News4 investigation published in September 2018, a number of local school districts strengthened their safety policies, and Sickles (D-Fairfax) introduced the safety bill that state lawmakers unanimously passed last month.

Sallie Dievendorf, Lipicky's grandmother, told News4 in an exclusive interview last month that her work with Sickles to protect children statewide kept her "sane."

"Nothing that I do will bring Wesley back. Nothing can be done to do that," she said. "But I will do and have done everything within my power to see that a tragedy like this never happens to another family, at least in Virginia."

Dievendorf said she thinks her late grandson would be proud.

"He'll be glad that it can't happen to anyone else," she said.

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