Reports of a suspicious man outside two NW Philadelphia schools have parents, staff and police on alert

Reports of a man seen lurking around Manayunk and Roxborough schools is causing a stir among parents and school officials. 

According to various reports received this week, an adult male was reported to be approaching children in the area of St. John the Baptist Church in Manayunk, whose former school is the temporary home of Green Woods Charter School’s lower division. The man is described as being a white male, older, having “stringy” salt and pepper hair, and was last observed driving a black SUV.

Safety precautions 

Jean Wallace, CEO of Green Woods, said that while a few parents at her school claim to have seen something, “nobody’s really sure what they saw.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Wallace related that she and parents are cooperating fully with police, and have been in contact with both 5th District officers and the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit. She said both are aware of what’s taken place and have officers assigned to monitor the area.

In addition, 5th District police were present for Thursday afternoon’s dismissal, and are again scheduled to be present for Friday’s dismissal. In addition, school crossing guards and St. John’s staff have been present to assist with safety.

“Fortunately, we’ll have a lot of adults present,” she said.

No arrests 

PPD spokesperson Christine O’Brien confirmed on Friday that no arrests have been made in regard to the alleged episode at Green Woods. A preliminary investigation was conducted and the department’s Special Victims Unit was notified.

Captain John Cerrone, commanding officer of the 5th Police District, is on vacation until next week, and was unable to comment on what steps his officers are taking. However, according to police sources, typical response in similar situations is to notify district officers about suspicious activity during their shift’s roll call.

The first reported incident 

This episode follows on the heels of another incident last week at Shawmont Elementary School in Roxborough, where a letter released by Principal Michael Graff indicated that an older man, bearing a similar description to the person allegedly involved in the Green Woods incident, apparently threatened a student on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at approximately 4 p.m.

O’Brien said that police were notified about this incident, but the report only indicates that a man was seen waving at children. While no additional information has been verified, police are continuing to look into this incident.

Staff at Shawmont directed NewsWorks’ inquiries to the Philadelphia School District’s Office of Communications. PSD spokespersons were not immediately available for comment. 

‘We don’t want anyone to panic’ 

Wallace insisted that safety is her number one priority. Referencing her former career as a Philadelphia Police officer, Wallace said she “feels strongly that our number-one priority as adults is to be diligent in regard to the safety of our children.”

Green Woods will continue to be alert and will keep parents informed of new information as it comes available.

“We don’t want anyone to panic,” said Wallace. “We want everyone to have the right information.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal