RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — State health authorities confirmed Thursday that they are investigating an incident that occurred at a Richmond high school in which students arrived in the morning to find hallways smeared with blood.
When students at Community High School arrived on Monday, May 16, they found a wet floor sign blocking off a portion of the hall — and beyond it, blood spilled across the floor.
Now, officials with the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program tell 8News they’re investigating the incident on the basis that it may represent an “occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens.”
According to police, the blood was left by an intruder early Sunday morning, where it remained for over 24 hours.
The intruder, identified as Garin Pappas of Warrenton, smashed windows at the school, injuring himself on the shards, then walked around the hallways.
RPS spokesperson Sarah Abubaker told 8News that Pappas then “went down the stairs to the basement.”
8News reported earlier this week that the school security system was triggered and night security arrived within 15 minutes. Richmond Police arrived shortly thereafter. Pappas was apprehended and received medical treatment.
Now, questions are being raised over the school’s health and safety procedures.
“Equipment and environmental and working surfaces are required to be cleaned and decontaminated after contact with blood or other potentially infectious material,” VOSH wrote to 8News.
VOSH cited regulations put in place by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) which regulate exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
They read, in part, that cleanup should take place “immediately or as soon as feasible when surfaces are overtly contaminated or after any spill of blood or other potentially infectious materials.”
Abubaker said that by Monday, the blood only remained in the basement area, “There was no blood in the stairwell when students arrived, as the custodian had already cleaned that area.”
She added that the area had been blocked off and was actively being cleaned by custodial staff when students arrived Monday morning.
Some parents have spoken out about the incident.
“Children have been traumatized,” a Richmond mother, whose daughter goes to Community High, told 8News on Tuesday. “They said ‘it smelled really bad’ because it had been there for two days.”
Photos sent to 8News showed that bloodstains appeared to still be visible on the school walls and some lockers on Tuesday, after the administration claimed the initial cleanup had been completed.
Parents also raised concerns about the school’s communication strategy. Although the incident occurred early Sunday morning, parents were not notified until Monday afternoon.
Abubaker explained that the school division prioritized the cleanup over notification to families.
“While it may have been a better idea to do so in the morning, it was important to address the issue at hand, which was cleaning and sanitization, then craft a message to families,” Abubaker said. “We are apologetic for any delay in communication that may have caused additional stress to families.”
VOSH told 8News their investigation into the incident could take up to 6 months.