(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.”
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Fall sports are back at ACPS starting next week.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings made the announcement official at a School Board meeting last Thursday, but said that students and parents shouldn’t expect it to look like it used to.
“Fall season of athletics will begin on February 15, just so that everybody is aware,” Hutchings said. “We will be following CDC guidelines, so it won’t look exactly the same as it used to.”
Fall sports starting Monday, Feb. 15, include:
- Cross country
- Field hockey
Hutchings clarified later that precautions include masks and limiting spectators at sporting events after School Board member Margaret Lorber expressed concerns about jumping into reopening with an activity that requires physical contact and students breathing on each other.
“Students will have to wear masks at all times for the sports being played, it’s not optional,” Hutchings said, “and we’re not going to be able to have spectators at all of the events.”
Hutchings said next week will mark the beginning of the fall sports season after ACPS canceled plans for winter sports in November.
“We withdrew from participating in winter sports, which I still stand behind, but as you saw with community health metrics now we’re not at the highest risk level,” Hutchings said. “We never intended to not be a part of the fall sports season.”
Practicing begins as ACPS begins phasing students into in-person classes, starting with K-5 special education programs and English learner programs in early March. Hutchings said initially, only students whose families selected the hybrid option on a survey sent to parents will attend school in-person. Throughout March, ACPS will begin to transition the rest of the hybrid students into the schools in phases.
The T.C. Williams High School Football Boosters expressed enthusiasm about the planned opening on Facebook.
“If you haven’t heard the football season is on!” the group said. “Practice starts Monday and then a shortened 8 game season will begin Monday night February 22.”
Well it’s the Superbowl, I guess.
In a national championship game sapped of all build up and anticipation by a year of pandemic and political upheaval, some local restaurants are still using the upcoming event to promote specials.
Zebra noted that some locations like Northside 10 in Del Ray and Sweet Fire Donna’s in Carlyle have Super Bowl specials. In Old Town, Irish bars O’Connell’s and Murphy’s will also have Super Bowl specials, Zebra reported.
A little outside of Alexandria, Black Rose Lounge at 5815 Seminary Road is planning to host a Super Bowl viewing party, though with Alexandria at now over 100 dead from the coronavirus pandemic: gathering in person is still discouraged.
For those hoping to order food, though, the football event occurs amid Alexandria’s extended Restaurant Week. Many of the specials compiled by Visit Alexandria are still applicable.
Every slice at Lost Dog Cafe Alexandria is a touchdown. Order pizza from us this weekend to enjoy with the big game! Which team will you be rooting for? 🏈🍕 #food #pizza #pizzatime #pasta #salad #sandwich #bacon #foodstagram #lostdog #alexandriava pic.twitter.com/MCwmYImnMe
— Lost Dog Alexandria (@LostDogCafeAlex) February 3, 2021
Photo via Tim L. Productions/Unsplash
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(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Herman Boone, the T.C. Williams High School football head coach for the school’s 1971 state championship-winning team, has died at 84 years old.
Boone was famously memorialized in the 2000 biographical film Remember the Titans, where he was played by Denzel Washington. The film dramatizes the Titans’ famous 13-0 season after Alexandria’s high schools were integrated.
In 2016, Boone was inducted into Alexandria’s Living Legends group not only for his coaching, but for fighting to get 50 scholarships for the team’s African American athletes, according to the group’s biographical page.
“Boone held clinics to help players with their homework, keeping them eligible to play and helping them get into college,” the Living Legends group said in its biography. “Boone took an active interest in the lives of players and kept in touch with former players, such as [then] Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook.”
Boone also volunteered with civil rights organizations like the NAACP and the Urban League of Northern Virginia, engaging in “kitchen table” discussions with local civil rights leaders. His death comes just months after the death of the team’s defensive coach Bill Yoast, who was also featured prominently in the film.
A long-time local resident, Boone was married and a father of three daughters.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson hailed Boone as “an irreplaceable part of our history and integral in building the community we enjoy today.”
Sad to hear of the loss of an Alexandria legend and pioneer.
Coach Boone was an irreplaceable part of our history and integral in building the community we enjoy today.
RIP, Coach Boone https://t.co/ZhJPqdJk4I
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) December 18, 2019
More from an Alexandria City Public Schools press release, below:
The Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium at T.C. Williams High School is falling apart, but a long-discussed renovation project is primed to start taking shape early next year.
Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) laid out a timeline for the upcoming improvements at a School Board meeting on Dec. 5. Staff said potential contractors will be invited to bid in January, with approval of a deal for the work set for March. After that, staff said work is expected to take place over the course of that spring and summer.
New additions to the stadium are planned to include:
- The addition of an eighth lane on the track
- Replacement of the artificial turf
- New restrooms
- A new concession stand
- A ticket booth
- Replacement of the scoreboard, which will be moved to the other side of the field
- Safety lighting
- A new press box to replace the current, condemned one
- An upgraded the sound system, designed to face away from the nearby houses
- Field lighting
A meeting held on Nov. 12 revealed lingering frustrations from neighbors, who are concerned about how lights and sound from the field will impact their quality of life. Residents also say the new lights fly in the face of a promise made to the surrounding community when T.C. Williams was first built.
The varsity football team, meanwhile, played its home games indoors at The St. James sports complex this season due to the poor condition of Parker-Gray stadium.
In addition to the stadium work, staff said there is repair work underway at the gym and repairs to the garage at the school are in the earliest stages of design.
Staff photo by Vernon Miles