Tysons, VA

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. Read More

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A Fairfax County Public Schools student reported being targeted by anti-Asian slurs and other kinds of harassment during an encounter at Longfellow Middle School in McLean earlier this week, FCPS confirmed to Tysons Reporter.

The Fairfax County Police Department says a juvenile reported to an officer on Tuesday (March 23) that he was confronted by “several other juveniles” while attempting to use a recreational field at Longfellow around 6:20 p.m. on March 22.

According to police, the individual said that the people who confronted him “made derogatory remarks relating to his race and natural origin. The juvenile also mentioned the group spat near him.”

The student was not injured or assaulted, but the incident is under investigation by the school resource officer assigned to Longfellow Middle School. The FCPD says it is also “working collaboratively with our partners in FCPS to ensure that all students are treated fairly and with respect.”

While the incident took place on Longfellow grounds, the victim does not attend that school, according to FCPS spokesperson Helen Lloyd.

“The student involved was not a student at Longfellow Middle School, nor were any of the alleged perpetrators,” Lloyd said. “This incident took place out of school hours and is still being investigated, including whether the alleged perpetrators were FCPS students.”

FCPS acknowledged the ongoing investigation in a letter to the McLean community from Longfellow Principal Jim Patrick and McLean High School Principal Ellen Reilly. The letter, which was provided to Tysons Reporter by FCPS, states that the slurs reportedly directed at the student were anti-Asian.

“We stand with our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, staff and community and unequivocally denounce racism and discrimination of all kinds and to condemn all acts of hate,” Patrick and Reilly said in their letter. “We are committed to ensuring safe spaces for all of our students and interrupting any experience that would cause pain and trauma as a result of racialized (or other identity based) violence.”

The reported incident occurred on the same day that public officials and community members gathered in Annandale for a vigil to mourn the eight people — including six Asian women — who were shot and killed in the Atlanta area on March 17, a tragedy that put a spotlight on the racism that people of Asian descent experience in the U.S.

The Pew Research Center found last summer that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic fueled an uptick in discrimination against Asian Americans.

In a report released on March 16, the advocacy coalition Stop AAPI Hate said since March 2020, it has recorded 3,795 hate incidents — ranging from verbal harassment and shunning to physical assaults — including 140 incidents in the D.C. area.

When it met on March 18, the Fairfax County School Board unanimously supported a resolution condemning violence and discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans. The county board of supervisors followed suit on Tuesday (March 23).

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand issued a statement last week saying that the school system “condemns all acts of violence” while acknowledging the “misinformation and xenophobic language that have led to aggression toward, harassment, and exclusion of our students and families from AAPI communities.”

“It is our responsibility to ensure that all people are treated with dignity and humanity in our schools,” Brabrand said. “These behaviors are more than being unkind and will not be tolerated. Our success and well-being as a school division depends upon us standing united against any acts of violence and hatred committed against any person or group within our community.”

FCPS says that anyone with information related to the incident at Longfellow Middle School should contact their school principal or Fairfax County police.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Virginia to Further Ease COVID-19 Restrictions in April — “As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to rise in Virginia, certain sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate with additional capacity and indoor and outdoor gathering limits will increase starting Thursday, April 1…More than two million Virginians, or approximately one in four people, have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam’s Office]

Fairfax County Board Adopts Resolution Condemning Anti-Asian Racism — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to adopt a resolution condemning “all bigotry, harassment, and hate violence directed at Asian Americans in our community.” The move came  in response to the murder of eight people, including six Asian women, in Georgia on March 16 and reported increases in discrimination against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Chairman Jeff McKay]

Falls Church City Advertises One-Cent Reduction in Tax Rate — The Falls Church City Council voted 5-2 on Monday (March 22) to grant a first reading to the city’s proposed FY 2022 budget with a real estate tax rate of $1.34 per $100 of assessed value, a one-cent decrease from FY 2021. Public hearings on the budget, tax rate, and capital improvement program have been scheduled for April 12 and 26. [City of Falls Church]

Access to D.C. Cherry Blossoms Will Be Limited — “The National Park Service announced today it will be “limiting all vehicular and pedestrian access” around the Tidal Basin once the cherry blossoms start to bloom, which would close down access to parking and paddle boats as soon as this weekend…Pedestrians will still be able to access the Tidal Basin and admire the flowers, the agency said, until crowds surpass a certain capacity.” [Washingtonian]

Town of Vienna Revamps Website — “We have lift off on the Town’s new website!! Info has been streamlined, and navigation organized to be user-focused. On the homepage, scroll down to see links to popular pages, news items, calendar, and links to meeting minutes & media.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Updated at 7:30 p.m. — The superintendents of Fairfax County and Arlington public schools say the Virginia High School League should mandate diversity and inclusion training for all high school athletes, coaches, and officials after allegations of racism at a football game between Marshall and Wakefield high schools led to escalating tensions.

Stating that their divisions “embrace diversity and strongly condemn hate speech and racial intolerance of any kind,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand and APS Superintendent Francisco Durán called the incident “an opportunity to take a step back and discuss how actions have consequences and that our words can deeply hurt others.”

“This situation has deeply affected both school divisions, our families, students, and our respective communities,” they said. “In recent days, 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.”

Brabrand and Durán added that FCPS and APS will both “provide training and education for our athletes, coaches, and staff so that, together, we are all working to support students.”

The full statement can be found on the Fairfax County Public Schools website.

Earlier: Members of Marshall High School’s football community, including the coach, players, and parents, are refuting previously reported accounts of racist taunts against the Wakefield High School football team.

On Wednesday (March 17), Wakefield students came forward detailing their experiences in which they allege being called the n-word and “boy” during a game against Marshall High School on March 5. One student said he was spat on.

Wakefield players and parents have started a campaign calling for accountability from school athletics officials, including a petition demanding “an immediate apology” from Marshall and its football program that has garnered almost 5,000 signatures.

Arlington Public Schools confirmed that an incident occurred, and Fairfax County Public Schools said it had investigated and is addressing the reports, but in the last 24 hours, Marshall community members have issued statements and written letters disputing the Wakefield players’ accounts.

“Our players, coaches, and parents refute these allegations whole-heartedly,” Coach Jason Strickland said in a letter to the school community. “I believe our players, coaches, and parents because I did not witness nor have I been shown actual proof of these accusations occurring.”

Following up on the letter, an FCPS spokesperson said Strickland’s response addresses a “highly charged situation.”

“Families, students, and community members are upset and emotions are high. Regretfully, harsh words and accusations on social media have also contributed,” she said in a statement. “It would not be unusual for a coach to want to communicate directly with his or her players and their families about an intense matter that been publicly escalated by multiple parties.”

Parents of students at Marshall also penned a statement that refuted every claim made by the Wakefield community and criticized media reports for being one-sided.

“We at Marshall High School are defending the players of the Marshall Statesmen football team for remaining strong and resilient regarding the allegations of racism and other slanderous remarks by Wakefield High School players,” the statement said. “There is no culture of racism and bigotry at Marshall High School on the football team.”

They also said Wakefield students called Marshall students the n-word and other derogatory names. Further, they added, Marshall students had to wear masks, so they could not spit on students. Coach Strickland confirmed that Marshall was enforcing mask-wearing during the game. Read More

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Morning Notes

Marshall High School Principal Addresses Racial Slur Allegations — In a letter sent to families yesterday (March 17), Principal Augie Frattali acknowledged reports that Marshall students spat and shouted racial slurs during a football game against Wakefield High School on March 5. The full letter, provided to Tysons Reporter by Fairfax County Public Schools, is below.

Dear Marshall Community,

As many of you are aware, there are serious allegations that have been made involving some students within our the Marshall HS Community regarding an incident at a recent football game. These have been shared widely on social media and are very hurtful to all individuals involved.

Please know that we have taken this situation very seriously and are in direct contact with Fairfax County Public School’s Region 2 office and the Office of Equity and Employee Relations.

We have done an intensive investigation into this situation and appropriate actions were taken against individuals by the Virginia High School League from both schools.  I also worked collaboratively with the Wakefield HS principal to ensure that there will be an opportunity for the students to join together to discuss their actions and develop a plan moving forward.

Thank you for all you do to support the Marshall High School.

Tysons Partnership Warns Against Delaying Metro Silver Line Phase 2 — Tysons Partnership President and CEO Sol Glasner argues in a letter to the Metro board that opening the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is necessary for the “fulfillment of the promise not only of Tysons, but of the entire Silver Line corridor.” The nonprofit says budget constraints should not delay the project’s completion. [Tysons Partnership]

Merrifield Church to Host Free Drive-by Food Distribution Event — “Free boxes of food will be available at First Baptist Church Merrifield (FBCM) on Saturday, March 20, from 11:00 AM until all are distributed. All members and surrounding community are invited to partake of the distribution.” [Greater Merrifield Business Association]

Northern Virginia Reports Uptick in COVID-19 Cases — “The Virginia Department of Health reported 674 new cases in Northern Virginia on Thursday, the most since Feb. 13.  The region’s seven-day average of new cases, which peaked Jan. 18 at 1,628.4, had fallen as low as 318.4 on Saturday, but now stands at 407 cases per day.” [Inside NoVA]

Falls Church Healthcare Startup Raises $10 Million — “CMT Solutions, a leader in patient access services for laboratory diagnostics, announced a close on $10.0MM of Series A fundraising…CMT is using these funds to further develop our technology solution, with a new product launch, that will greatly help the healthcare community with diagnostic testing.” [CMT Solutions]

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Marshall High School players called members of the Wakefield High School football team in Arlington County racial slurs during a recent game, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirms.

Wakefield student-athletes Lukai Hatcher and Izaiah Lang took to social media last night (Wednesday) to post about the events they say transpired during an away game against Marshall High School on March 5.

“Me and my teammates were called racial slurs, taunted, and even spit on by Marshall players,” they said in a widely-shared joint statement posted on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere. “We also experienced unfair treatment by each of the refs and were harassed from the sidelines by coaches and Marshall parents.”

Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed a portion of the allegations.

“An incident did occur between Marshall and Wakefield high schools where Marshall players used racial slurs at the Wakefield football team,” Bellavia told ARLnow, an affiliate site of Tysons Reporter.

Wakefield Principal Dr. Christian Willmore says the racial slurs included the n-word and the word “boy.” He also confirmed that there was spitting.

A Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson told Tysons Reporter in a statement that the school system has “expectations of behavior” for students and staff and that “allegations such as these are taken seriously.”

“We does not accept acts of intolerance,” the statement said. “When administration learned of the March 5 matter, we conducted a thorough investigation. The investigation was extensive and involved VHSL, officials, staff, players and families from both teams.”

FCPS personnel, including school leadership, regional office administrators, and the divison’s chief equity officer, are working with all the families involved and the coaches from both teams to develop a plan for restorative justice, the statement said.

“At FCPS, our primary responsibility is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Every student must understand the value of appreciating each other’s differences, extending common courtesy, and treating each other with respect,” FCPS said. “We must all be committed to do better.”

Game footage shows a fight breaking out between the teams. APS confirmed that three Wakefield students were given three-game suspensions as a result of the fights, but the sanctions have since been knocked down to one-game suspensions, per Virginia High School League guidelines.

Marshall ended up winning the game, 19-18.

Hatcher and Lang alleged in their statement that what happened on March 5 has happened before.

“Marshall High School’s athletic teams have been known to demonstrate a culture of racism and unsportsmanlike behavior,” including foul play on the basketball court, they said. “We are shining the light on the continuing culture of tolerance for unjust and discriminatory practices in sports for minority athletes and seeking accountability in support of change.”

“We as a team complained to the refs all game about the way that we were being treated yet the flags were consistently thrown on us and even our coaches,” Hatcher and Lang added. “We should not be punished for defending ourselves and each other especially because during the entire game the refs, [whose] job it is to ensure each game is fair and who were supposed to protect and defend us, did not.”

The claims made against the referees, coaches and parents have not been confirmed.

Hatcher and Lang are pressing for change in the wake of the March 5 game.

“This isn’t new and enough is enough!” they wrote.

Photos via @JavellEdge/Twitter, @lukai_hatcher/Instagram

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Morning Notes

Voting for McLean Community Center Board Begins — Residents of Small District 1A-Dranesville can now request a ballot to vote in the McLean Community Center’s 2021 governing board election. 13 candidates — five adults and eight teenagers — qualified to run for three adult and two teen vacancies. Ballots and affidavits verifying voters’ residency must be returned to MCC by mail or in-person by 5 p.m. on May 15. [McLean Community Center]

Metro Orders New Fleet of Railcars — “Metro has selected Hitachi Rail Washington LLC (“Hitachi Rail”) to build the system’s 8000-series railcars in the U.S. The contract, valued up to an estimated $2.2 billion, includes a base order of 256 railcars, with options to build up to 800 in the fleet. The project is expected to create direct and indirect jobs in the region.” [WMATA]

Vienna Leaders Skeptical of November Municipal Elections — Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill last week that moves all municipal elections to November. Elected officials in the Town of Vienna, which traditionally holds elections in May, argue that having separate local elections makes them less partisan and prevents them from getting overshadowed by state and national races. Supporters of the change say it will save money and ensure better voter turnout. [Sun Gazette]

Virginia Issues Preliminary Guidance for Graduation Ceremonies — Virginia plans to allow in-person graduation ceremonies for high schools and colleges this year. Draft guidelines from the Department of Education state that masks and social distancing will be required, and attendance will be capped at 30% capacity, with a maximum of 5,000 people for outdoor events and 500 people for indoor events. [Patch]

140 Anti-Asian Hate Incidents Reported in D.C. Area in Past Year — “140 hate incidents have been reported against Asian Americans across Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. since March 2020, according to a new report by Stop AAPI Hate…The report comes as eight people, including six Asian American women, were killed in a shooting rampage in the Atlanta area.” [DCist]

McLean Depression Treatment Company Joins NASDAQ — “Greenbrook TMS Inc., the McLean mental health company that first went public two years ago in Canada, is now trading in the U.S. markets. The local depression therapy provider made its debut Tuesday on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol ‘GBNH.'” [Washington Business Journal]

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A review panel charged with providing community oversight of local law enforcement has challenged the results of an investigation by the Fairfax County Police Department for the first time since it was formed in 2016.

The Fairfax County Civilian Review Panel delivered a report in October that disputed the FCPD’s findings that racial bias did not play a role in an interaction between a Reston District Station police officer and an African American man that took place in Herndon in 2019.

Because six of the nine-member panel disagree with the outcome of the police investigation, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed the police department to address the panel’s requests for the next steps. The matter was discussed at a board meeting on Tuesday.

The panel received a complaint of racial profiling in May 2019 from a man who said he felt that he had been targeted by a Fairfax County police officer and suspected of trespassing “for no reason at all.”

According to the investigation file, the officer began following the man’s car when he turned at a red light in Herndon and stared at the officer. When he ran the car’s license plate and it matched with a woman in Virginia Beach — what he knew to be “a source city for illegal substances” in Fairfax County — his suspicions grew and he followed the man into his apartment complex in Herndon.

The officer approached the man and asked him for his identification, where he lived, and other identifying information. In the complaint submitted to the county, the man said he was shaken by the encounter, which he recorded on his cell phone, and was “extremely frightened and nervous.”

According to the report, the officer stayed in the parking lot for a few more minutes after he verified the man’s identity and ran the license plate again.

The man, whose name was not released, said he felt the incident was racially motivated because the officer believed he did not live in the apartment complex and stood in a manner that hindered his ability to get out of his car. No force was used in the incident.

In official comments to the panel, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said that while the officer exhibited a series of “poor, cascading assumptions and judgments that were wrongly based on his training,” there is no evidence that race was a factor in the incident.

He acknowledged that FCPD said the encounter indicates that there are some elements that need to be “train[ed]-away.”

“We can’t just keep going to proactive patrol training,” Roessler told the civilian panel during the course of its investigation. “I pray that you are understanding that, as your chief, I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.” Read More

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The results of a recent survey on whether to rename Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and George Mason High School triggered surprise, anger, and tears during a Falls Church City Public Schools School Board meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 17).

A majority of respondents — 56% overall — support keeping the names Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, two key historical figures from Virginia who publicly supported an end to slavery, while privately enslaving Black people. For George Mason, 26% support a name change, and for Thomas Jefferson, that population is 23%. The rest had no opinion.

K12 Insight, a consultant hired by the school board, surveyed parents, staff members, students in grades 6-12, and community members from Oct. 14 to 28 to gauge whether they want to see new names for the schools. For both schools, three-quarters of the community members who responded wanted to keep the names, and the margins were smaller for parents, students, and staff.

The discussion to rename the schools began on June 30. With the survey results back, school board members have scheduled a vote on whether to move forward with the name changes for Dec. 8.

Those who support changing the names cited the fact that the men participated in slavery and urged the school to embrace social change and support students who may feel marginalized.

Those who voted to keep the names responded that slavery was a norm at the time that should not disqualify these men from being honored.

School Board member Lawrence Webb, the only Black person on the board, said during a work session on Tuesday that he was surprised by the results of the survey.

“There are a lot of folks who are progressive and supportive of community relations,” he said. “I’m sort of bothered by how folks have couched this conversation of ‘This is something that was acceptable at the time.'”

Webb disagreed with those who characterized a school name change as a waste of resources. The amount of money would be “nominal,” and for George Mason, the timing would coincide with an ongoing project to build a brand new high school.

According to FCCPS, renaming George Mason would cost an estimated $96,760, and renaming Thomas Jefferson would cost around $13,500. The K12 Insight survey cost $8,500. Read More

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