FCPS: ‘We have work to do’ after second reported instance of racism during football game

A second reported incident of racism at a football game involving Fairfax County Public Schools students has prompted the school system to schedule a meeting with athletic teams and coaches.

FCPS will be holding a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches “to begin this important conversation to support student-athletes in demonstrating appropriate behaviors required to play sports” in the school division, according to a new statement from the school system.

The statement “speaks to several incidents and we acknowledge that we have work to do as a school division,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Tysons Reporter.

Of the “several incidents” Caldwell alluded to, two have been widely reported.

The more recent incident reportedly occurred at a junior varsity football game between T.C. Williams High School and James W Robinson, Jr. Secondary School on Monday night (April 5). During the game, a Robinson student allegedly spat on a T.C. Williams player and called him a racial slur. After this happened, the T.C. Williams team left the field in protest.

In the earlier incident, varsity Marshall High School football players were accused of using racial slurs against Wakefield High School in Arlington. One allegedly spat on a Wakefield player.

In the weeks since the game on March 5, the Wakefield students and parents have launched a campaign to demand accountability and change.

FCPS says in the statement that was released this morning that it “is aware of a number of allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs in the past few weeks.”

“Our school division embraces diversity and strongly condemns hate speech and offensive, hateful language or racial intolerance of any kind on the sports fields, in school buildings or anywhere on or off school premises,” the statement says. “We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions.”

FCPS says that players heard using such language will be ejected and suspended for future games, in accordance with Virginia High School League policies. Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in an immediate review of the game by officials and coaches.

The school division pledged to investigate “any incidents thoroughly” and to take “swift and appropriate action” if necessary. It has not, however, provided any update on the status of the investigation into the incident involving Marshall and Wakefield, despite multiple requests for comment from Tysons Reporter.

Meanwhile, some Marshall High School football parents have said the investigation has been concluded and the claims made by Wakefield students were unsubstantiated. The parents say that at least two administrators have communicated this result, but FCPS has not confirmed that its investigation has concluded or commented on any findings.

The parents argue that FCPS’s refusal to release a statement “has compounded the harm to the Marshall players’ health, psychological wellbeing, and reputations.”

“Because of the inexplicable refusal of FCPS to publicly support its students by releasing a statement about the results of its investigation, we are stepping forward to set the record straight,” they said in a statement to Tysons Reporter.

According to the parents, “the media firestorm and public shaming of the Marshall players that began with an irresponsible and untrue social media post has led to an outpouring of social media harassment and threats against those students.”

In the weeks since the game between Marshall and Wakefield, Arlington Public Schools and FCPS issued a joint statement in which the school divisions committed to providing training and education for athletes, coaches, and staff “so that, together, we are all working to support students.”

“This situation has deeply affected both school divisions, our families, students, and our respective communities,” APS Superintendent Francisco Durán and FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said. “It has provoked strong emotions in both communities, and has become divisive by pitting schools against one another. This is not about one team versus another; it is about our students and how we can come together to support them and take necessary actions to ensure this situation does not repeat itself. Our students deserve better.”

FCPS has now reiterated that language of shared responsibility.

“We will do the work to come together in fair treatment and take necessary actions to ensure these efforts support inclusion both in the classrooms as well as across our athletic programs,” the statement said. “We value each and every student and staff member, and we are committed to doing the work to ensure all are treated in this regard.”

Tysons Reporter has contacted Robinson Rams Athletic Boosters Club for comment but did not hear back prior to publication.

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