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(Updated at 11:55 p.m.) Wakefield High School was placed in lockdown Thursday afternoon after reports of a trespasser, possibly armed with a gun, and a threat against a student.

The cause for concern is related to a recent shooting in the Green Valley neighborhood, according to initial reports. So far, there are no reports of any acts of violence inside the school.

The initial dispatch went out around 12:30 p.m. A large police presence surrounded Wakefield and officers — some heavily armed — searched the building and classrooms, as well as nearby neighborhoods.

During the search, a student who was not considered a suspect was escorted out of the school by police, ARLnow hears.

The lockdown was lifted and student dismissal started shortly after 3 p.m. under the watchful eye of police.

“ACPD’s investigation determined the trespasser, possibly armed with a gun, is not currently on school property,” Arlington Public Schools said in a statement. “The investigation into the incident is ongoing, according to ACPD… All students and staff are safe.”

“After-school and evening activities are canceled,” the statement added. “The safety and security of your student is our top priority.”

During dismissal, a medic unit was dispatched to the school for what what described as a separate incident unrelated to the trespassing.

Groups of parents started gathering near the school after the lockdown started but were then directed to a reunification center at a nearby church, per scanner traffic. TV news crews also gathered outside of the school.

Wakefield students were dismissed early Tuesday after a student was hospitalized in critical condition after an apparent overdose in a bathroom. Friday classes were cancelled as of Thursday evening, according to APS.

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Men’s restroom sign at county office building at Sequoia Plaza (staff photo)

(Updated, 2:40 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is “aware of and are reviewing” new draft policies handed down by the Commonwealth late last week regarding the rights of transgender students.

On Friday evening, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released updated “model policies” directing local school boards to adopt a set of new policies relating to the treatment, rights, and actions of transgender students as well as who teachers are allowed to identify as transgender.

The guidelines, seen as a rebuttal to last year’s Democratic-led policies, are set to regulate everything from which bathroom a student can use to the meaning of “the phrase ‘transgender student’.”

In response this morning, APS released a statement saying that it is reviewing the guidelines and will continue to adhere to its own policies related to transgender students.

“APS will continue to uphold our core mission and policies to ensure that every child receives equal educational access and opportunities,” read the statement in part, which is co-signed by Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán and School Board Chair Reid Goldstein.

“We value the many diverse identities within our schools, where every student can authentically express themselves, including those in the LGBTQIA+ community,” the statement continued. “APS continues to take seriously the privilege and responsibility of working towards a shared understanding and mutual respect for all people.”

APS’s response also noted there’s a 30-day public comment period that begins Sept. 26 prior to the enactment of the new state-directed policies. APS spokesperson Frank Bellavia told ARLnow that VDOE could make changes to the policies in response to public comment.

“There is a 30-day public comment period, at which point the VDOE will review comments and make potential changes prior to posting a final document,” Bellavia wrote. “School divisions will need to then review the final document prior to any action.”

Fairfax County Public Schools are “thoroughly reviewing” the guidelines as well.

The new policies, under the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), say that teachers and staff can identify as a transgender student only those whose parents provide written permission.

“The phrase ‘transgender student’ shall mean a public school student whose parent has requested in writing, due to their child’s persistent and sincere belief that his or her gender differs with his or her sex, that their child be so identified while at school,” says the guidelines.

Even if a parent does submit the required written request, however, it does not mean teachers and staff are required to use the student’s name or gender if the staff member believes it will violate their “constitutionally protected rights.”

The new policy has received backlash from some who say that this could result in students being misgendered, outed, and put in harmful situations. It also stands in contrast to APS’s policy first adopted in 2019, which says that students have the right to decide their own gender identity.

“Every student has the right to be addressed by names and pronouns that correspond to the student’s gender identity. Regardless of whether a transgender student has legally changed their name or gender, schools will allow students to use a chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity,” reads APS’s policy.

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Amina Luvsanchultem and her family receiving the college scholarship from Amazon (photo courtesy of Amazon)

Amazon surprised a Washington-Liberty student with a $40,000 college scholarship and a paid internship with the company earlier this week.

An Amazon engineer showed up at the door of W-L senior Amina Luvsanchultem on Monday (April 11) with a surprise Amazon Future Engineer scholarship, the company announced in a press release.

The $40,000 scholarship will go towards her studying computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) next fall. Additionally, she’ll take on a paid internship with Amazon after her freshman year in college.

A video from the company shows Luvsanchultem answering the door and being in understandable shock while being greeted with the news.

Luvsanchultem is a first-generation Mongolian-American student who hopes to work at NASA one day, Amazon said. She also founded the organization Students for Racial Equity, which works with students, parents, and educators to better understand how race, cultural, and linguistic diversity impacts Arlington classrooms.

The Amazon scholarships were aimed at high school seniors from “underserved and historically underrepresented communities.” Recipients were chosen based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, participation in school and community activities, work experience, future goals, and financial need.

Of the 250 scholarships (totaling $10 million) handed out by Amazon, 18 were to students from the D.C. region. Luvsanchultem was the only student from Arlington to receive a scholarship.

More than 70% of recipients identified as Black, Latino, and Native American while half identity as women, Amazon notes.

Construction on the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City is coming along while, earlier this month, the second phase of the headquarters was approved by the county’s Planning Commission ahead of County Board consideration.

Rising high school seniors can apply for next year’s round of Amazon Future Engineer Scholarships when the application opens again in the fall. Requirements include completion of an Advanced Placement computer science course in high school, the intent to pursue a computer science degree at a four-year school, and a teacher recommendation.

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A woman holding an Apple iPad (file photo)

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Oakridge Elementary students are no longer allowed to take their school-issued iPads home due to reports of “inappropriate use.”

The policy will be in place “for the foreseeable future,” Principal Lynn Wright told families in a School Talk email, after “teachers, students and families have shared that iPads are being used inappropriately outside of school hours.”

“Please remind your children that the iPad is a learning tool specific to school assignments,” Wright wrote.

Word of the email comes a day after Arlington County police were dispatched to the school for a report of “pornography” on a student’s iPad. ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said no one was arrested or charged following the report.

“At approximately 10:39 a.m. on March 24, police were dispatched to the 1400 block of 24th Street S. for the report of a juvenile incident,” she told ARLnow. “The investigation determined no crime had occurred.”

Separate from Thursday’s police dispatch, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that a rumor about “several incidents of Oakridge students using their iPads to view hard-core porn” was “not true.”

In 2017, a group circulated an online petition calling for APS to “discontinue immediately the current 1:1 iPad program within APS elementary schools for grades K-5,” which supplies each student with an APS-purchased device. The petition garnered just under 400 signers.

The iPad email comes amid a rise of violent incidents and other misbehavior in and outside of schools, as we reported yesterday.

The full email to Oakridge families is below.

Greetings Oakridge Families.

Students’ iPads will remain at school for the foreseeable future. This is a result of an increase of technology misuse and breach of the APS Acceptable Use Policy that students and families acknowledged at the start of the year. Teachers, students and families have shared that iPads are being used inappropriately outside of school hours. Inappropriate use includes, but is not limited to: nudity, inappropriate Google searches, messaging via Google docs, video downloading, recording other students without their consent, and gaming. Additionally, students have become heavily reliant on the use of their iPads for Non-APS related activities. We are going to re-establish the expectations specific to this technology. Please remind your children that the iPad is a learning tool specific to school assignments.

We are currently checking all iPads to ensure that they are being used appropriately. If we discover inappropriate content on your child’s iPad, you will be notified immediately.

To ensure that children have access to the technology during the school day, we ask that you return all charging equipment. This will help create more consistent and clearly defined iPad usage routines. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. We want your children to remain safely engaged in their learning. Please contact either Mr. Sean Jones (ITC) or myself if you have any questions or concerns.

Take care,

Lynne Wright

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The interfaith prayer vigil for Ukraine at Marymount University (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 9:35 a.m. 03/23/21) Most college seniors spend spring break tossing back cocktails somewhere warm and inviting — a last hoorah before graduation.

But one Marymount University student did pretty much the exact opposite. He traveled to his birth country of Ukraine, which Russia invaded nearly four weeks ago, to help some of his family members flee their homes and resettle in Poland.

A.C. — who asked the college to abbreviate his name fearing his safety and that of his family — has family members living in the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city. The war has caused a massive refugee crisis, and 10 million people have fled their homes in Ukraine, either for more remote parts of the country or for neighboring countries, chiefly Poland.

“It’s a lot worse of a situation than even what’s being shown on TV. When I was in Lviv, every five to 10 minutes the sirens would go off, warning anyone and everyone to find shelter or evacuate,” A.C. said in an interview with his school. “Near the edge of Lviv, I saw several bodies just laying outside buildings because there aren’t really any spots right now to bury victims. It was all very nerve-wracking.”

Some of his family resettled in Warsaw, Poland’s capital, but others told him they plan to stay in Kyiv — along with an estimated two million others sticking it out, either because they do not have a place to go or the means to get there, or in defiance of Russia.

“I pleaded with them, begged them to leave… told them, ‘you will die if you stay here.’ While I admire their patriotism for Ukraine, it’s inevitable what will happen and I would rather them be alive than sacrifice their lives,” A.C. said. “They’re attacking churches, hospitals, apartment complexes. They’re just openly targeting civilians because of their nationality — it is genocide, and there’s no other way to describe it.”

The Marymount senior predicts that if he is not thwarted, Russian president Vladimir Putin will target neighboring countries, a concern shared in particular by many Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians — all of which were formerly under the control of the Soviet Union.

A.C. left Ukraine at six years old and has since become an American citizen, but he stays in touch with his roots through the Ukrainian embassy in D.C. and nearby Ukrainian churches, which offer volunteer opportunities, language classes and festivals.

Now, he’s tapping into his patriotism in a different way. He has attended protests outside the Russian embassy as well as at Lafayette Square, joining other demonstrators calling on the U.S. government to hold Russia accountable. He is also raising awareness for Ukraine on his campus.

During a recent interfaith prayer vigil for peace, he delivered a poem he wrote entitled “My Ukraine.” In it, he contrasts the country’s war-torn history and present-day circumstances with depictions of it as “a land of innocence and prosperity… filled with fields of sunflowers glistening… with magnificent churches and cathedrals.”

“I stand by my nation of Ukraine,” A.C. told Marymount.

Addressing his birth country and its people, he said, “I love you. Fight for our land. This is our land. This is our home. Slava Ukraini.”

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Washington-Liberty High School students browse copies of “Beloved” and “Maus” (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) This afternoon, a group of Washington-Liberty High School students are giving their peers more than 100 copies of two politically controversial books.

The books are “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel following a Black family during the Reconstruction era, and “Maus,” Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust and his father’s life during World War II. Both have explicit content that has some parents and politicians questioning their place in schools.

Controversy around “Beloved” is part of the origin story for a bill passed by the state Senate earlier this month, which would require teachers to label classroom materials that have sexually explicit content. “Maus,” meanwhile, rocketed into the national spotlight after a Tennessee school board voted last month to remove the book from its curriculum due to “inappropriate language” and an illustration of a nude woman.

In addition to labeling classroom materials that have sexually explicit content, the new law requires teachers to notify parents if they are going to teach the materials. It gives parents the right to opt their children out of these lessons and request alternative materials.

But some high school students in Arlington and Fairfax counties are calling the law “backdoor censorship” and organized the distribution in response. It began at 3:15 p.m. in Quincy Park, near W-L.

“Great thinkers and proud Virginians like Thomas Jefferson, Maggie Walker, James Madison, George Mason and Oliver Hill — men and women who understood the importance of education and the value of studying difficult and divisive ideas — are rolling over in their graves,” W-L freshman and giveaway organizer Aaron Zevin-Lopez said in a statement.

Zevin-Lopez tells ARLnow he teamed up with George Marshall High School student Matt Savage — who has been facilitating distributions in Northern Virginia schools this month — to host a book giveaway in Arlington.

“Kids at my school understood that the Governor was attempting to limit reading rights within schools, so we thought that handing out the books beforehand could be a great way to spread the message of resistance and making sure the youth understands our past, both good and bad,” Zevin-Lopez said.

The two students are leaders of the Virginia chapter of a Gen-Z political advocacy group called Voters of Tomorrow, which is providing financial support for the giveaway.

“When the government establishes laws to label literature in terms of a single factor like ‘sexually explicit’, regardless of that factor’s significance to the larger world of literary merit or meaning, it edges closer to censorship,” said Savage, president of Voters of Tomorrow Virginia. “It means we are labeling content for the sole purpose of suppressing it.”

The students say requiring teachers to define their lessons in terms of how much “sexually explicit” content it contains will dissuade them from using anything that may be considered “objectionable.” They add that the law will force teachers to draft two entire lesson plans for one class on the objection of just one parent.

The bill is similar to one passed in 2016, which became known as the “Beloved” bill because it was inspired by a mother’s attempt to have the novel removed from her son’s English class. It was vetoed, however, by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — and his veto narrowly avoided being overturned by the House of Delegates.

The question of parental involvement in education became a central theme of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign after McAuliffe said during a debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Passing the law was a campaign promise of and priority for Youngkin when he assumed office. The Republican governor unsuccessfully tried to pass other laws, including one rooting out curriculum based on critical race theory, and created a tip line for people to report teaching strategies they object to.

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Arlington County school bus (Photo courtesy Chris Rief)

(Updated at noon) Arlington Public Schools is bringing athletics back early and reducing quarantine periods, despite more than a thousand Covid cases reported among students and staff this past week.

Starting next week, the school system will adopt revised CDC guidance, Superintendent Francisco Durán wrote in an email to the school community Wednesday. The isolation period for staff members who test positive will be halved to five days. The new guidelines also reduced the quarantine period to five days for a student or staff member who is considered a close contact to someone who tested positive.

“Students who are exempt from quarantine (e.g., those with up-to-date vaccinations, are asymptomatic and are able to wear a mask) will be excluded and verified by Contact Tracers before being able to return to school,” Durán noted.

APS will still require a 10-day isolation period for students who test positive for COVID-19, despite the CDC’s recent change to guidelines allowing a five-day isolation for positive cases under certain conditions. That’s because APS is unable to ensure that “consistent physical distancing and mask protocols [are] in place at all times, including during meals.”

“Maintaining safe, consistent in-person learning is our priority,” Durán wrote. “APS will maintain in-person learning except in limited instances to address high transmission in a classroom or school. Switching any class or school to virtual learning–even for a short period of time–will be a last resort.”

There are 864 students and 183 employees who have tested positive for Covid over the past week, according to the APS Covid dashboard as of publication time. That compares to 56 positive student cases over a seven-day period just over a month ago, in early December.

Arlington is currently seeing its highest Covid hospitalization rate since January 2021. Nine people were hospitalized on Wednesday alone, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The seven-day moving average of daily hospitalizations is now just above four.

As teachers and community members expressed concerns about the surge in Covid cases over winter break, driven by the new Omicron variant, Durán committed to return in person. Last week’s snowstorms ended up cancelling school for the entire week, but students returned to classrooms on Monday.

While some in the community have urged more caution amid the Covid wave, others have advocated for schools and activities to remain open.

In a statement Monday, prior to Wednesday’s announcement, the pro-school-reopening group Arlington Parents for Education said that “APS should follow the CDC-recommended five days for isolations and quarantines instead of ten in order to significantly increase APS’ ability to staff schools and to reduce students’ days out of school.”

Arlington Parents for Education and more than 1,500 petition signers have also called for APS to resume athletic activities, which were “paused” for two weeks to start the new year, a move not mirrored by other local school systems.

In his email, Durán said that in-person athletics and extracurriculars returned early, on Wednesday, “following our current testing, vaccination and mask requirements.”

Only family members can watch events, Durán wrote in his email. Other limitations for spectators could apply based on facility.

The full message from Superintendent Durán is below.

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A teen is facing charges after he allegedly threatened and then scratched a fellow student with a knife on a school bus earlier this week.

The incident happened aboard an Arlington Public Schools bus Tuesday afternoon, along Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Clarendon areas. The teen also allegedly ran after the victim and a witness while armed with the knife, after they all got off the bus, police said.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING (late), 2021-11300165, 2100 block of Clarendon Boulevard. At approximately 4:45 p.m. on November 30, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 3:30 p.m., the juvenile victim was riding a school bus when he became involved in a verbal altercation with the suspect. The suspect allegedly brandished a knife and held it to the victim, causing a scratch. A witness pushed the suspect away and he exited the bus. A short time later, the victim and witness were walking in the area of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Barton Street when the suspect began to run towards them with the knife. They were able to run to safety. The investigation is ongoing.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow that it was a Yorktown High School bus, but was unable to provide more information.

“I don’t have any additional than what is in the crime report,” Bellavia said.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said today that the suspect has been identified and is now facing charges.

“The involved juvenile has been identified and charges are pending,” Savage told us. “This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact the Police Department’s tip line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]

Police have responded at least two other notable incidents associated with Yorktown over the past few months.

In early August, a brawl broke out outside of the school amid summer classes. Police said at the time that they were investigating the fight, which was caught on video.

In October, a girl walking near the school during the homecoming football game was touched inappropriately, prompting a police investigation and, later, walkouts and a petition against sexual misconduct at Yorktown. The petition has garnered tens of thousands of signatures to date.

Over the summer the Arlington School Board voted to remove School Resource Officers from schools. The Board is set to consider the draft of a new, scaled-down agreement with ACPD at its Dec. 16 meeting. The Board chair recently said that she believes Arlington schools remain safe even without the SROs as a regular presence in the buildings.

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Students at the inaugural session of the Dyslexic Edge Academy at Drew Elementary School (Photo courtesy of Krista Gauthier)

(Updated, 2:50 p.m.) A new, free literacy program has come to Drew Elementary School thanks to the local non-profit Sliding Doors, Virginia Tech, and the local NAACP branch.

The Dyslexic Edge Academy launched this week with 11 first graders at Drew Elementary in Green Valley. The goal is to help those students who struggle with reading by focusing on their strengths.

“People with dyslexia tend to gravitate to and be very good in STEM fields; science, technology, engineering and math,” Krista Gauthier, executive director of Merrifield-based Sliding Doors, tells ARLnow.”What we want to do is not only make sure that kids receive the evidence-based instruction that they need, but also play on their strengths. To us, confidence is as important as reading.”

The students meet with instructors after school in a group setting twice a week for 90 minutes. Half of the session is spent with one-on-one tutoring using the Orton-Gillingham approach, which breaks down reading and spelling using multisensory skills like sounds and hand motions. The other half of the session is spent on STEM-related projects.

The STEM activities include everything from kitchen chemistry to rocketry to robotics to coding,” says Gauthier.

That could mean making slime, building model rockets, or operating an underwater robot, she says. It’s hoped that field trips to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the Smithsonian could be part of the curriculum in the future as well.

While the program is starting with 11 students, the expectation is that it will have 20 students by early next year. The pilot program will run until at least May 2023.

About 20% of the population has some form of dyslexia, according to statistics from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. Yet, many school systems haven’t adapted to help these students and private tutoring can be prohibitively expensive, explains Symone Walker, co-chair of the Arlington Branch NAACP Education Committee.

She believes this is a big reason why there’s such an opportunity gap at some Arlington schools, including Drew Elementary.

“We really wanted to target a population that has been disproportionately impacted by the achievement gap,” says Walker. “We’re very familiar with how Drew has been historically passed over, looked over in the community, and we wanted to give back where we saw the greatest need.”

Both Walker and Gauthier say that the opportunity and achievement gaps that exist in county schools have a lot to do with reading scores and how schools are teaching literacy.

The Dyslexic Edge Academy will use the multisensory Orton-Gillingham approach to teach reading, as opposed to the balanced literacy approach that’s currently being taught in Arlington public schools.

“When we talk about multisensory, we’re talking about big motions,” says Gauthier. “We actually use something called ‘skywriting,’ which is as the child is actually forming the letter in the air… they’re actually saying the letter, repeating the letter, attaching the sound to the letter.”

What’s more, by bringing cool STEM-related projects into the learning, it helps students gain confidence.

“They really begin to associate something they struggle with, with something they love,” says Gauthier. “It really actually plays into them wanting to read as well.”

As Walker points out, a lot of NASA employees have some form of dyslexia. In fact, that includes more than half of NASA employees, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity.

“We want to produce more Arlingtonians who work for NASA,” she said.

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(Updated, 12:30 p.m.) Some Marymount University students say they can’t afford a new housing policy that will require them to live on campus all four years.

Last week, a group of 15 students demonstrated outside of the Catholic university on N. Glebe Road in protest over a policy that will take effect next fall, requiring most students to live on campus during their entire stint at the school.

“Beginning in the Fall of 2022, all current and new undergraduate students who do not live with family members in the local [D.C] area will be required to live in University housing,” a university spokesperson told ARLnow.

A Change.org petition in response to the new policy calls for it to be rescinded, alleging that it’s a “blatant money-grab.” Plus, notes the petition, some off-campus leases have already been signed for next year, leaving students “to choose between breaking their lease or breaking university policy.”

The petition has more than 650 signatures.

The university tells ARLnow that this policy came from “input” they’ve received from students who say living on campus helps them have a “more engaged and fulfilling Marymount experience.” It also eliminates “problems with landlords and local housing laws, a growing trend that has been brought to our administration’s attention in recent years,” according to the spokesperson.

Those students who disagree with the policy say this makes attending Marymount University unaffordable for them when they could find lower cost housing options off-campus.

The lowest priced on-campus housing option is Rowley Hall, a dormitory on campus offering double rooms (as in, shared with another student). It costs $4,743 a semester, according to 2021-2022 housing rates, which works out to be more than $1,100 per month, per student. However, that option is only open to freshman and sophomores.

“We feel like we’re being priced out,” Giancarlo Ganzaba, a second-year Marymount student, tells ARLnow. “Not all of us can afford to keep [paying that]. We have to take out loans to be able to pay for on-campus living. We just can’t afford it.”

Ganzaba lives in the Rixey at 1008 N. Glebe Road, on Marymount’s satellite campus in Ballston, which was acquired by the school in 2019 and converted into university housing.

It was just announced last month that some of the student housing in the Rixey is going to be converted into hotel rooms. An attorney for the university noted that “student housing availability on site has consistently exceeded demand for student housing at Marymount,” according to the Washington Business Journal.

Ganzaba current pays $6,500 a semester to live in a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with three roommates at the Rixey. That’s about $1,600 a month.

While that may be competitive with average rent levels, it is still incredibly expensive housing,” he says. “I could afford to live somewhere else off campus a few miles away and be a commuter. But they are taking that option away from me.”

Marymount, however, says that student who need it will have access to financial aid for housing.

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You’ve probably seen the headlines about a youth trend called “Devious Licks” that challenged students to steal or damage items at school and post video of the act on TikTok.

Now Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán is warning parents about additional challenges that encourage behavior that could result in the school system seeking police intervention.

Durán said in an email to parents yesterday evening that the theft challenge in September “affected APS schools at every level – elementary through high school.” TikTok banned the trend on Sept. 15.

“We are seeking your help in reminding students of the consequences and serious nature of these challenges,” Durán wrote.

A statement from the superintendent on Friday linked to a WTOP report about additional monthly challenges, which encourage  “destructive and harmful acts at school.”

From WTOP:

  • October: Smack a staff member on the backside.
  • November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school.
  • December: Deck the halls and show your b****.
  • January: Jab a breast.
  • February: Mess up school signs.
  • March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria.
  • April: Grab some “eggs” (another theft challenge).
  • May: Ditch Day.
  • June: Flip off the front office.

“Any involvement including filming, assisting, and sharing videos could lead to school consequences,” Durán wrote. “Depending on the severity, engaging in the behaviors listed above could lead to law enforcement involvement.”

As described, the above challenges could rise to the level of criminal vandalism, indecent exposure or even sexual battery and assault.

This summer the Arlington School Board voted to remove sworn School Resource Officers from school grounds. The Arlington County Police Department and APS are now working on a new agreement for a “Youth Outreach Unit” that would “have meaningful conversations, answer questions, and build relationships.”

The Friday letter from the superintendent, encouraging parental vigilance, is below.

It has come to our attention that there is a list of social media challenges on TikTok similar to the most recent “Devious Licks” TikTok Challenge that encouraged kids to vandalize and steal random objects from their schools and post them in videos.

September’s challenge to vandalize bathrooms affected several APS schools, so we are sharing the list of upcoming challenges for your awareness and support. We ask that parents and guardians speak to your students about the serious nature of these challenges and help educate them that these are not appropriate for school or in the community.

These challenges could be disruptive and harmful to our school community and present a safety concern. Additionally, any involvement including filming, assisting, and sharing videos could lead to school consequences. Students are encouraged to contact their administrator if they are aware or witness any wrongdoing or harm against students, staff or property. Depending on the severity, engaging in the behaviors listed above could lead to law enforcement involvement.

The safety and security of our students, both physical and emotional, is our priority as we continue to create a learning environment that cultivates a culture of kindness, mutual respect, inclusivity and affirmation for our students and staff.

Thank you for your help as we all work together to be vigilant about our students’ online presence.

Sincerely,
Dr. Francisco Durán
Superintendent

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