Press Club

Morning Notes

Metro Delays Due to Safety Snafu — “Metro’s Chief Safety Officer reports that nearly half of Metro’s 500 rail operators have lapsed recertification… In consultation with the Board of Directors, Metro management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage.” [WMATA]

APS Changes Bell Schedules — “The School Board in Arlington, Virginia, voted to lengthen the school day by a little less than 10 minutes and to rearrange school start and end times in the first change to the county school system’s bell schedule in more than two decades. At its Thursday meeting, the board unanimously voted in favor of the adjustments.” [WTOP]

Psaki Spat With Arlington GOP — Outgoing White House Press Secretary (and Arlington resident) Jen Psaki “acknowledged that there have been instances in which she shared information with the Secret Service about threats… She said that no one has physically come to her home, but added, ‘There is a circulation of my address among the Arlington Republican Party.’ The Arlington GOP in a statement to The Hill said it ‘has not publicly disseminated any Biden Administration official’s home address.'” [The Hill]

Rosslyn Tunnel Congestion Revisited — “The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is pressing leadership of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority not to forget about congestion at the Rosslyn tunnel. In a May 6 letter to (outgoing) Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld, NVTC chair Carek Aguirre urged the transit agency to ‘recognize the strategic importance of moving swiftly to design a solution to relieve train congestion’ at the tunnel.” [Sun Gazette]

Wakefield Rowing Storms State Tourney — “At Saturday’s regatta… the Warriors stood just as deep as any other school on the Occoquan River and stepped into the dynasty conversation themselves, with the boys’ and girls’ top varsity eight boats each rowing to titles.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Trucker Protest Returning — “The People’s Convoy is slated to be in D.C. by Tuesday, as they’re currently in Ohio. Further, a convoy leader tonight took to the microphone to try and squash fear over being hit with eggs in the city, saying: ‘I happen to like eggs.'” [Twitter]

DCA Using UV to Zap Covid — “Reagan National and Dulles International airports now have ultraviolet disinfection technology to combat the spread of viruses including Covid… The airports authority’s statement of work specifically called for the technology to disinfect the air in 39 spaces at National and 73 spaces at Dulles, including ticketing and baggage claim areas, security checkpoints, transit platforms and gate hold rooms.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Real Estate is Really Expensive — “There may be an end in sight at some point for rising single-family home values in Arlington. But so far, it hasn’t been reached. The average sales price of the 100 single-family properties that went to closing in April was $1,348,813. That’s up 14.5 percent from a year before.” [Sun Gazette]

Missing Falls Church Teen — “City of Falls Church Police seek information to help a teen return home. Abigail… is 16 years old and was last seen at her home in the City at about 3 a.m. on Sunday after an argument with family. Abigail is about 5 feet tall, has black brown hair and a nose ring.” [City of Falls Church]

It’s Monday — Rain and storms, some severe, in the afternoon and evening. High of 77 and low of 64. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:16 pm. [Weather.gov]

Photos courtesy Will Wiard, Geoff Collins, Dave Statter and Kelly Harrington

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The Barcroft Apartments, a 1,334-unit, market-affordable apartment complex along Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A progressive group says an Amazon- and county-funded plan to keep the Barcroft Apartments affordable will actually displace low-income residents.

The more than $300 million purchase of the 60-acre, 1,334-unit complex along Columbia Pike will take what are currently aging but affordable market-rate apartments and renovate or reconstruct them, while converting them to dedicated affordable units.

The hasty and hefty purchase happened, county officials said, in response to the possibility that the complex could be redeveloped without affordability protections. That is what happened to the nearby Columbia Gardens Apartments, which are being torn down to make way for townhouses.

But the group Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE), an offshoot of Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority, says the Barcroft Apartments plan is flawed and will actually displace some long-time residents. The rent they are currently paying, according to rates listed online, is actually lower than the dedicated affordable rates that the rents could eventually rise to.

ACE is holding a rally this afternoon at Doctor’s Run Park, across the street from the apartments in the Douglas Park neighborhood, to speak out against what it says is the “predicted displacement of Arlington tenants within next year in [the] highly diverse Barcroft Apartments.”

From a press release:

On May 12, 2022 at 4 p.m., Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE) organizers and tenants from Barcroft Apartments will hold a press conference and rally at Doctor’s Run Park, 1301 S. George Mason Drive. During the press conference, tenants will share their experiences trying to prepare for skyrocketing rental costs, and organizers will reveal the results of a recently completed survey conducted by organizers and Marymount University predicting tenant displacement of low-income residents.

Barcroft Apartments provides a home to one of the most culturally-diverse neighborhoods in the area, and was recently sold to new owners Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. The current agreement involving Arlington County, Jair Lynch Real Estate Partner, and Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund risks displacing long time tenants in the upcoming years because their rental rates will be increased by 3% every year up to 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) starting next year. A majority of the long-time tenants that were surveyed by ACE make below 60% AMI which also increased this year as well.

Tefera Negash, a five year tenant, said, “This was the last place in this area that was in our budget. This will bring too much inconvenience in our life on top of the economic difficulties we are experiencing recently.”

Nupur Chowdhury, community organizer for ACE said, “I’m a Bangladeshi-American living here in Arlington. My family and I have lived in Barcroft for 17 years. As someone who is living and active in this community, I am afraid that the scheduled rent increases year after year will make it too expensive for our diverse community to continue living here.”

Asked about the rally, Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said she and Jair Lynch, the developer that is buying the complex with the loans from Amazon and Arlington, have been in touch with ACE.

“No Barcroft residents are being displaced,” Venezia asserted.

She issued the following statement in response to inquiries from ARLnow.

The Jair Lynch team and I have been working one-on-one with ACE since early this year. Last week we spoke with them directly to talk about their survey, the results, and their concerns. Our conversations have been collegial and constructive. We continue to share that no Barcroft residents are being displaced. Starting in 2023, rents may increase a maximum of 3% annually, up to the 60% AMI rent limit. The County remains committed to working with residents who need financial assistance. Last Friday and again this Tuesday, I followed up with additional information for families facing financial hardship, including a handout in 11 different languages about existing County programs that they could share with any residents. We are working to connect struggling families with rental resources, such as housing grants, including the potential for an information event about County resources at the property. County staff continues to be available to ACE and all Barcroft residents and to provide information and resources as needed. The Arlington Department of Human Services team is also available to help Barcroft residents with assistance for food, rent, and other services, regardless of immigration status. Residents can call 703-228-1300.

A representative with Jair Lynch echoed Venezia in saying that no residents will be displaced.

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High school students across Arlington staged walkouts Monday afternoon and rallied to demand measures to codify Roe v. Wade.

After a Supreme Court draft opinion to overturn the 1973 decision that protects abortion access leaked last week, youth-led student group Generation Ratify Virginia helped organize walkouts across the state. In Arlington, Washington-Liberty, Arlington Tech and Wakefield High students left their schools and rallied to discuss the implications if the ruling is overturned.

Wakefield organizer Anabelle Lombard said they will not be the “post-Roe generation” and will be vocal to fight for their future. About 300 students gathered on the school’s football field during the walkout, according to Generation Ratify Virginia.

“Today, Virginia students have made it clear that we are going to defend our access to abortion and preserve our rights to reproductive healthcare,” Lombard said in a statement. “We have made it clear that we need these rights supported by a strong legal backing of gender equality that enshrining the Equal Rights Amendment in our constitution would provide.”

“We have made it clear that Gen-Z will not stand idly by as a few conservative judges strip away our right to choose — a right that the majority of Americans agree should be upheld,” she added.

About 100 students at each Washington-Liberty High School and Arlington Tech participated in walkouts, some wearing green to show support for abortion rights.

Washington-Liberty senior Valentina Lopez-Landeo said she organized the walkout at her school to unite and inform students because abortion rights isn’t something talked about in school.

“Roe v. Wade is not something that we ever thought would be overturned so once we got the news of that, I guess most of us, specifically seniors, wanted to rally up against all that,” she said. “We do believe that we are the new generation and we wish for change and we realized that we can ask for more change if we join together.”

Lopez-Landeo was particularly proud to see the number of freshmen and sophomores who attended the walkout.

“Hearing them voice their opinions on it was so inspiring because I felt like we were leaving them in good hands and… they were going to make sure that the school and students in school kept up with trying to search for change,” she said.

Felix Hedberg, Policy Director at Generation Ratify Virginia and junior at Richmond’s Open High School, said students want to have their voices heard.

“It’s time to listen to youth,” Hedberg said in a statement. “Virginia was the 38th state to ratify the [Equal Rights Amendment], shining the spotlight on Virginia in the movement for gender equality and reproductive justice. Generation Z is ready to capitalize on that attention to ensure [Gov. Glenn] Youngkin and Virginia Republicans won’t succeed in rewriting Virginia as a commonwealth against abortion access.”

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Morning Notes

Construction scaffolding in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bye, Bye Bank Building — “A new residential development is on the boards for Columbia Pike. Marcus Partners filed plans late last week with Arlington County for a new 250-unit residential development at the site of the Bank of America office building at 3401 Columbia Pike. The six-story building will have ground floor retail, a central courtyard and 287 parking spaces on 2.5 below grade levels.” [UrbanTurf]

It’s Official: No Caucus — From Blue Virginia: “The @arlingtondems announce that their School Board Endorsement Vote process is canceled, as there is only one candidate (Bethany Zecher Sutton) left after the other withdrew.” [Twitter]

Rents Still Rising — “The median Arlington apartment rent in April was up 16.8 percent from a year before, the third highest growth rate among the nation’s 100 large urban areas, according to new data. The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,999 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,420 for two bedrooms, according to data reported by Apartment List.” [Sun Gazette]

Truck Crash Caught on Camera — From Dave Statter: “Just happened. 3rd crash in as many days on I-395S at Exit 8C/Rt 1. It appears the red car didn’t stop & no other cars struck. @VSPPIO has all lanes open.” [Twitter]

Protest Outside DEA HQ in Pentagon City — “I’m outside DEA headquarters in Arlington, where protests have gathered to draw attention to terminally ill patients’ rights to try experimental drugs like psilocybin.” [Twitter, The Hill]

WaPo Reporter Rappels Down Hotel — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [Washington Post]

Boeing HQ May Draw More Companies — “Even without a sizable addition of jobs or expansion, Northern Virginia landing another major corporate headquarters has strategic ‘marketing value,’ Terry Clower, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, said in an interview. The presence of a headquarters attracts the attention of other corporations, as well as site-selection consultants who advise companies where to locate new facilities. ‘Nothing draws a crowd like a lot of people,’ Clower said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro: Ridership Rebounding — “Metro ridership is outpacing projections through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022 by nearly 40 percent. Through March, ridership has exceeded the initial forecast by 28 million passenger trips as more people chose bus and rail for travel throughout the region. Metrobus leads the way, accounting for 60 percent of overall Metro ridership, compared to about 40 percent for rail.” [WMATA]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 48. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Blossoms are out along Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Police Oversight Board Appointed — “The Arlington County Board is excited to announce the newly appointed members of the Community Oversight Board (COB)… The Oversight Board will consist of seven voting members who are residents of the County and reflect our demographic diversity along with two non-voting members with prior law enforcement experience.” [Arlington County]

Local Chef Feeding Ukraine RefugeesBayou Bakery owner and chef David Guas is on “the frontlines in Przemyśl, Poland with [José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen], to give a helping hand to the emergency food relief for #UkraineRefugees crossing the border. Guas will be preparing and providing meals to help nourish those communities.” [Instagram]

Large Fight Near TJ Middle School — “3500 block of 2nd Street S. At approximately 3:47 p.m. on March 21, police were dispatched to the report of a large disorderly group of juveniles who appeared to be preparing to fight. Upon arrival, officers were approached by two juvenile victims who stated that they were physically assaulted by two juvenile subjects. Officers located the subjects in the area, detained them and determined one had sustained minor injuries consistent with being struck with BB gun pellets.” [ACPD]

Convoy Rumbles Through Arlington Again — From public safety watcher Dave Statter yesterday: “#TruckersConvoy2022 has made its presence known on I-395N, noisily crossing the 14th St. Bridge. @DCPoliceDept has the usual ramps blocked & #traffic is slowing.” [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — A cloudy morning, then rain starting in the afternoon. Gusty winds and storms possible later tonight. High of 61 and low of 45. Sunrise at 7:08 am and sunset at 7:24 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Another day of trucker convoys in the area have resulted in major traffic headaches for those heading into D.C.

Police have just lifted a series of road closures in District, implemented to try to mitigate the vehicular demonstrations against Covid-related policies. Several convoys headed through Arlington earlier this afternoon, and there were recent reports of a slow-moving group on Route 110 near the Pentagon.

The damage has been done: northbound traffic on I-395 is backed up to Shirlington, while inbound traffic on I-66 is backed up well past the Rosslyn tunnel.

There are also considerable delays on the GW Parkway, in both directions prior to ramps heading into the District, as well as backups on the Key Bridge and N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn.

More via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1504890738529734663

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1504917414236102663

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(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) After a week of ineffectual laps around the Beltway, the “People’s Convoy” is now jamming up part of I-395 in Arlington.

The convoy, which features a mix of big rigs and personal vehicles, is intended to protest the Covid-related government mandates. It received considerable media attention last week but didn’t do much to disrupt traffic.

Today, however, it is heading into D.C. by way of Arlington and I-395, and creating traffic headaches and a lot of noise in the process.

Traffic cameras show flag-adorned protest vehicles moving at a snail’s pace in the main northbound lanes of I-395, approaching the 14th Street Bridge. Virginia State Police vehicles can also be seen, monitoring the demonstration. The northbound I-395 HOV lanes over the Potomac remain open and seem to be flowing freely.

Public safety watchdog Dave Statter, from his perch in Pentagon City, reports a non-stop honking of horns from the convoy.

Some of the backup can perhaps be explained by traffic restrictions in the District. Authorities there have blocked access from I-395 to 12th and 14th streets “to keep traffic moving safely through the area.”

“Motorists should expect traffic delays in reaching your destination,” the District said in a tweet shortly before 2 p.m. “If possible, you should consider delaying travel on these routes or use alternative transportation such as Metrorail.”

Metro, meanwhile, said the numerous bus lines heading to and from the Pentagon may be delayed due to the convoy.

As of 3 p.m., just over an after the convoy first reached the Pentagon City area, traffic was still slow approaching the Potomac crossings and in D.C.

More via Twitter:

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Morning Notes

Police Holding St. Paddy’s Event — “On Friday, March 18 from 8-10 p.m., join officers on N. Hudson Street at Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon for the Don’t Press Your Luck anti-drunk driving event. This event is free and open to the public and is designed to highlight the effect alcohol has on motor skills.” [ACPD]

Sub Suspended for Russia Rant — “Arlington Public Schools has suspended a substitute teacher who, during a Spanish class, expressed approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and urged students to read Russian-run propaganda outlets. The substitute, John Stanton, 65, made the comments during an eighth-grade Spanish lesson on Friday at Swanson Middle School.” [Washington Post]

How to Help Ukraine — “Arlington and Ivano-Frankivsk were formally declared sister cities on March 4, 2011… The Arlington Sister City Association has identified the following trusted organizations as providing a variety of services to the Ukrainian people. Please consider helping our friends during this difficult time.” [Arlington County]

Local Foster Dog Delivers — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “If you order through UberEats, keep an eye out – Orlando might be your delivery-dog! Orlando loves joining his foster mom on delivery runs, and always sings along to the songs on the radio. We give him a 5-star rating!” [Twitter]

‘Freedom Convoy’ May Be Coming — “The U.S. protesters inspired by the self-styled ‘Freedom Convoy’ that occupied downtown Ottawa for weeks headed out from Southern California last week for a cross-country trip to the D.C. region. They plan to arrive this weekend, and Virginia State Police describes the convoy as a “still-fluid situation.” [Washington Post]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 46 and low of 26. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 6:06 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Thanksgiving week in Shirlington (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

ACPD Thanksgiving Anti-DUI Event — “On Thanksgiving-eve, traditionally a time of celebrations with heavy alcohol consumption, ACPD, in partnership with WRAP, is hosting a Thanksgiving anti-drunk driving event to highlight the impact alcohol has on motor skills. This free event is open to the public and will take place on Wednesday, November 24, at N. Hudson Street and Wilson Boulevard, from 8:00-10:00 p.m.” [ACPD, Twitter]

Shirlington Apartment Employee Slashed — “An employee of the residential building discovered that the laundry room had been locked and upon opening it, discovered the unknown male suspect inside. The suspect produced a knife and struck the victim’s hand, causing a laceration. The suspect then fled the scene on foot. Arriving officers canvased the area with negative results. The victim was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries.” [ACPD]

Bus Driver Protest in Ballston — “Arlington Public Schools bus drivers are protesting again, this time in Ballston. They’re chanting and getting passing drivers to honk in favor of better pay and fair treatment.” [Twitter, WJLA]

County Seeks Budget Feedback — “Each winter, the County Manager presents a proposed operating budget to the County Board in order to plan spending for the next fiscal year. We’d like to know your thoughts on how Arlington should prioritize necessary spending in FY 2023. Help us get better insight on questions such as: How would you rate the importance of County programs and services?” [Arlington County]

Clement: Fewer Signs Stolen This Year — “In her annual election wrapup at the first Arlington County Board meeting after the votes were in, perennial protest candidate Audrey Clement told board members that she’d been able to gather up a good portion of her campaign signage from medians. ‘I recovered about 450 signs, or two-thirds of the total,’ she told board members. ‘This is a significant improvement over 2020, when two-thirds of my signs were trashed.’ Clement ran second in the four-candidate County Board race.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Monday — A chance of showers today, mainly before 10 a.m. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with a high near 52. Northwest wind 7 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Sunrise at 6:59 a.m. and sunset at 4:49 p.m. Sunny tomorrow, with a high near 43. Northwest wind 9 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Braving the rain and wind, Arlington Public Schools bus drivers demonstrated along S. Arlington Mill Drive on Friday, calling for better pay and greater respect.

Huddled under umbrellas across from the Arlington County Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street) in Shirlington, about 50 drivers held signs saying, “We need our bonus” and “honk 4 drivers” and “equality for all” to cars passing by.

“It was amazing,” said Arlington Education Association President Ingrid Gant. “The bus drivers and attendants wanted to make sure their voices were heard. They felt like they were empowered to let the public know that we love their kids and we love working for Arlington, but they want to be heard and want to be treated like the rest of employees.”

The bus drivers were protesting what they say is unfair treatment when compared to other APS employees, she said. Drivers are waiting on longevity bonuses and had expected the same summer school bonuses other staff received. They are also frustrated with how they’re treated by transportation office staff.

“The longevity bonus, we’re still in the process of trying to figure that out,” she said, adding that drivers began their advocacy when they learned summer school bonuses wouldn’t apply to them.

This summer, facing deep staff shortages and having promised a robust summer school program, APS offered $1,000 bonuses to teachers and $500 bonuses to assistants who signed up. In September, when APS doled out those bonuses, Gant said bus drivers felt left out despite having worked through the summer.

In addition, drivers recently lost a third of their parking spaces at the bus depot, and most have to take a shuttle from the Barcroft Community Center to their bus. Some have been given placards permitting them to park around the lot, but have recently been getting ticketed.

She said a lottery system was established to ensure spots were distributed fairly, but it was conducted while bus drivers were on their routes, leaving other staff to get the coveted spots.

“The bus drivers are feeling like they’re the last people on the totem pole,” said Gant, who has brought these concerns to Superintendent Francisco Durán since August.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia tells ARLnow that APS is working to address drivers’ concerns, which they have also raised during School Board meetings.

“[We] are working to address the concerns related to compensation and workplace climate that our drivers and attendants have raised in recent meetings. Most recently, staff members were provided a timeline to improve the climate within the office,” he said. “Our bus drivers provide a vital service to students and the community and we are committed to responding to their feedback and ensuring they feel valued and appreciated as members of the Arlington Public Schools team.”

As for the bonuses, he said those were targeted to classroom staff.

“Teaching summer school is voluntary,” he said. “Bonuses were provided to teachers and assistants in an effort to address a significant shortage in teachers for the summer school program. In addition, teachers are on 10-month contracts and summer school is not required of them. Bus drivers are on 11-month contracts which includes summer school.”

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(Updated 10/25/21 at 9:50 a.m.) Hundreds of students walked out of their classrooms this morning to take a stand against sexual assault and harassment in Arlington Public Schools.

Walkouts were held from 11 a.m. to noon at Yorktown, Washington-Liberty, Wakefield high schools, H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, and Arlington Career Center. The Yorktown walkout — held just two weeks after reports that a group of students yelled inappropriate sexual language and touched a fellow student inappropriately at a football game — trekked from the campus to nearby Chestnut Hills Park for a rally, then returned.

“It was so amazing to see so many people come out,” YHS student body president Sebastian Morales-Talero tells ARLnow. “Seeing them come out gave me hope that things will be better and that we can change as a community.”

He said another organizer was in tears over the show of support from fellow students.

During a speech by Scotney Young, a social worker and sexual assault prevention specialist for local nonprofit Doorways, many students raised their hands to indicate they’ve experienced sexual violence or know someone who has.

“It was really powerful to see so many students using their voices and actions to speak out against sexual violence and to demand more action from school administrators,” Young tells ARLnow. “Sexual violence thrives when there is a culture and system that allows and accepts it, and these students were saying they want to change that.”

Young said she conducts educational programming focused on giving young people the tools they need to have “respectful, safe and supportive relationships and interactions free from violence.”

Today’s protests were tied to similar ones at schools nationwide, according to School Talk emails APS sent to high school families last night (Thursday). In his email to families, Yorktown Principal Kevin Clark connected the walkout to the Homecoming game.

“While we do not have additional details about this activity, we understand that this is to raise awareness about the issue of sexual assault and harassment and ensuring appropriate responses,” Clark said. “While we know of recent events at the Yorktown Homecoming Football game, there have also been similar walkouts at other schools across the country recently.”

During half-time, a handful of YHS students allegedly used “inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote to students and families two weeks ago. A report of sexual battery was filed with Arlington County Police Department.

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