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Virginia schools respond to more allegations of 'racial slurs,' 'spit' at football games

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 4/8/2021 Heather Graf & Don Parker
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Fairfax County Public Schools announced Wednesday that officials will soon be holding a "stand-down" meeting for athletic teams and coaches to begin  what they call "an important conversation to support student-athletes in demonstrating appropriate behaviors required to play sports in FCPS." (You can read the letter in full below.)

"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," said a letter sent to the FCPS community.

That update from Fairfax County Public Schools comes amidst new racial allegations stemming from a JV football game between FCPS' Robinson Secondary School and Alexandria's T.C. Williams High School.

"As a mom, as a person, it’s just sad to see young people go through this," said Anna Jaeger, whose son played for T.C. Williams in the game against Robinson Secondary. "This is something that I went through growing up in the 80s and I thought we were beyond that, but apparently we’re not

In a letter to families, the principal at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria addressed allegations that a JV football player was spat on and called a racial slur during a recent game.

7News On Your Side has learned that this was at Monday's JV game against Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County.

Caption: WJLA

"My discussion with (my son) unfortunately, was that this is going to happen, and as a mother of a black child you have to let them know that and just hope that they have the tools to respond appropriately and leave the situation."

A T.C. parent who was on the sideline during the game told 7News there were two alleged incidents that involved spitting and the use of racial slurs that took place with less than two minutes in the game.

The first time, she said the referees were made aware of TC's accusations against Robinson. 

The second time, she said T.C. Williams' coaches intervened, pulled their players from the field, and ended the game.

Timothy Graf's son was also playing in the game for T.C. Williams. He says the scene as players walked off the field was heartbreaking.

"This is a 15-year-old kid and I could feel his anger and his anguish so acutely that it broke my heart," Graf said. "As a father it made me just want to go over and give him a hug and say 'hey, it’s gonna be ok buddy.'"

One parent said she was proud of what the coaches did, and how T.C. Williams' staff and players handled themselves.  But she says she's disappointed that things like this are still happening.

"There needs to be real change.  It's 2021," she said.  "I hoped that my kids would never be exposed to the things my husband and I encountered in our youth."

A spokesperson for Alexandria City Public Schools confirmed that T.C. Williams coaches pulled their players from the game early "to protect students".  

"There is no tolerance for this behavior.  Coaches sent all of the players to the buses and informed the referees that our team would not be finishing the game," an ACPS told 7News.

The superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools, Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. also sent a letter about the alleged incident Wednesday, saying he's working closely with leadership at Fairfax County Public Schools "to address this issue and support our students"

"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," Hutchings said.

Hutchings said ACPS is "taking this matter seriously" and that "once we have developed next steps with VHSL, we will share additional communications with the ACPS community".

This comes just a few weeks after a similar controversy involving a football game between Arlington's Wakefield High School and Fairfax County's Marshall High School.

After their football game on March 5, members of the Wakefield High School team went public with allegations against some members of the football team at Marshall.

Arlington athletes want answers after 'spit' & 'racial slurs' flew during football game

On March 19, Arlington Public Schools and Fairfax County Public Schools addressed the issue in a rare joint statement, saying both school districts embrace diversity and strongly condemn hate speech and racial intolerance of any kind. 

The two school districts said they will "be working together to repair the harm done" and to support their students.

Football fallout: Parents at Wakefield HS & Marshall HS respond after racial allegations

A group identifying themselves as "Concerned Parents of Marshall High School Varsity Football Players" reached out to 7News On Your Side on March 26.

Those Marshall parents issued a strongly-worded statement, saying an investigation done by Fairfax County Public Schools found Wakefield's claims were "unsubstantiated."

"There is no evidence of racial slurs and spitting by the Marshall players or harassment by our coaches, volunteers and spectators on March 5," said the statement from Marshall parents.

7News reached out to the Virginia High School League on Wednesday regarding the allegations that have come out of this week's JV game between T.C. Williams High School and Robinson Secondary.

A VHSL spokesperson said the that so far, neither school has reported the incident to VHSL.

Alexandria City Public Schools said the school divisions are gathering information and will reach out to VHSL when the investigation is complete.

"It doesn’t matter what color you are, you have to discuss race with your children to make them understand that this behavior is not acceptable," said Jaeger.

Meanwhile, 7News reached out to Fairfax County Public Schools on Wednesday to ask whether the school district could respond specifically to the new allegations made against the JV football team at Robinson Secondary School.

An FCPS spokesperson referred us to the letter sent out Wednesday morning, which does not mention Robinson by name, but acknowledges recent allegations regarding the use of racially charged language and racial slurs.

Full letter from Fairfax County Public Schools released Wednesday, April 7:

Dear FCPS Community,

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.

Fairfax County Public Schools

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