(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Alexandria City Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools are investigating allegations that members of the Robinson Rams junior varsity football team spit at and made a racial slur against T.C. Williams High School football players in a game on Monday, April 5.
“Yes, I am aware of these reports,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “It is horrifying that our students were the victims of this abuse and assault. I have been in contact with the School Board Chair, Vice Chair and Superintendent about this incident. I have also connected with my counterpart in Fairfax County, Jeff McKay. I believe it is being investigated by both school systems and I hope it will be addressed promptly.”
The game was played at James W Robinson, Jr. Secondary School, and the Rams won 20-6, although T.C. players reportedly walked off the field in protest before the end of the fourth quarter.
ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that he is working with Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand and his team to “collaborate with the leadership of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to address this issue and support our students.”
“I want everyone to know that we are taking this matter seriously and have been in communication with our students and coaching staff who were involved or who witnessed the incident,” Hutchings said in an email.
Hutchings continued, “These events in our schools continue to shine a light on the importance of our antiracism work at ACPS and across the nation and the need for an open dialogue about how this impacts our students and their social, emotional and academic learning. To that end, once we have developed next steps with VHSL, we will share additional communications with the ACPS community.”
The incident is the second of its kind in Fairfax County Public Schools in recent days. On March 5, members of the Marshall High School Varsity Football Team allegedly spat at and made racial slurs against their Wakefield High School opponents.
FCPS released the following statement to ALXnow:
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) 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. We will hold anyone found to have used such language while representing any of our schools accountable for their words and actions.
FCPS will investigate any incidents thoroughly and will be taking swift and appropriate action if deemed necessary. Per Virginia High School League (VHSL) rules, players heard using such language will be ejected and suspended for additional game(s). Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in an immediate review of the game by officials and coaches.
The primary responsibilities of schools are to foster an open, respectful and inclusive learning environment for all students. We recognize that we have much work to do in our schools and will continue to strive to promote equity, sportsmanship, respect, and fair play on and off the field.
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 FCPS. This is not about one team versus another; it is about our responsibilities to one another as members of a community. 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. 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.
T.C. Williams High School Principal Peter Balas emailed students about the incident. He wrote that Titan Athletics Director, James Parker, and he met with the student athletes and coaches of both the varsity and junior varsity football teams. He also said that T.C. has contacted the Robinson athletics staff.
“These discussions were in response to allegations of inappropriate interactions between athletes on opposing teams at Monday night’s junior varsity football game,” Balas wrote. “Specifically, we were collecting information and statements to learn more about what happened regarding the allegations that one of our students was spat on during the game and called a racial slur.”
Balas continued, “Please rest assured that we will continue to work with our staff and students regarding this situation and that we will make sure our students are supported and protected. The work that we have been doing in our school division on becoming an anti-racist school division means that we must confront these issues head-on and be unapologetic in addressing matters around racism and racial equity.”