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Morning Notes

Hot Day Ahead — Anyone spending time outdoors today should hydrate frequently and take proper precautions. The heat index is expected to climb into the 90s or even the low 100s. An air quality alert is also in effect. [Twitter, Twitter, National Weather Service]

Energy Rebate Program Ending — Arlington’s energy rebate program, which provides rebates to homeowners who add high-efficiency HVAC or water heaters, or who perform other energy-saving work, is ending due to county budget cuts. The last day to apply is today, June 18. [Twitter, EcoAction Arlington]

Rosslyn Bus Tunnel to Open — “A long-delayed bus tunnel in Rosslyn that is expected to help ease traffic in the area and significantly speed up bus trips has now been turned over to Metro, and should formally open within weeks. Metrobus and Arlington’s ART routes are expected to begin using the street-level tunnel June 24 through a glitzy new building between N. Moore Street and N. Lynn Street.” [WTOP]

GOP Beyer Challenger Courts LGBT Voters — “Thomas Oh, the Republican candidate embarked on an uphill quest to unseat U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), is reaching out to a constituency often left untapped by local Republican candidate. ‘I proudly support the LGBT community. I firmly believe in providing equality for every American,’ Oh said as he marched with the Capital Area Young Republicans in the recent Capital Pride Parade in the District of Columbia.” [InsideNova]

County Board Approves DARPA Changes — “Citing its desire to retain DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency headquartered in Ballston, the Arlington County Board today unanimously approved adding 1,265 square feet to its building for a secure screening and visitor check-in facility.” [Arlington County]

Graduations at Arlington High Schools — Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools help their respective graduation ceremonies last week. Said Wakefield’s class president: “Just because this chapter of our lives is closing, we will prevail and go on to do great. The thing is, don’t think of this as a ‘goodbye,’ but a ‘see you later.'” [InsideNova, InsideNova, InsideNova]

Photo courtesy @TheLastFC

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Arlington Schools See Racial Disparity in Suspension Rates, Police Referrals

(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Following a national trend, data shows that Arlington Public Schools are disproportionately suspending black and Hispanic students compared to their white classmates.

The recently released stats from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that among the total 25,149 APS students, 10.6 percent were black, 28.4 percent were Hispanic and 46.1 percent were white. Meanwhile, the makeup of students serving in-school suspensions in APS was 29.1 percent black, 40.6 percent Hispanic and 19.4 percent white students. For students serving out-of-school suspensions, 29.5 percent were black, 33.3 percent were Hispanic and 27.6 percent were white.

APS administrators also referred disciplinary incidents to county police on 160 occasions, the stats show. In those cases, 25 percent of the students involved were black, 40.8 percent were Hispanic students and 25.8 percent were white students. There were only two expulsions at APS in 2015, and both students represented two or more racial backgrounds.

The racial disparity reflects a national trend revealed in the DOE’s report that found black students were suspended, expelled and referred to law enforcement more frequently than their white peers.

Nationally, in 2015, black students made up 31 percent of children referred to police or arrested, but only 15 percent of the total U.S. school population. White students comprised 49 percent of all students, but only made up 36 percent of student police referrals.

The disparity within APS also includes students with disabilities. Although students with disabilities only made up 13.3 percent of the school population, they comprised 34.6 percent of in-school suspensions, 42.5 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 46.7 percent of referrals to law enforcement.

In a statement emailed to ARLnow.com, Jeannette Allen, the school system’s director of administrative services, said that the APS is aware of the disproportionally large number of suspensions of both minority students and students with disabilities, and is committed to eliminating those disparities.

Allen highlighted the national problem as well, adding that the school system has seen these disparities persist, even as APS has recorded a decline in its total number of suspensions.

The top three offenses that lead to disciplinary action at APS are categorized as “disruptive behavior,” “altercation” and “fighting,” Allen said. Over the past few years, APS has begun to address the disparity by providing funds to schools to find alternatives to suspension, including training for administrators.

“Since most of our suspensions fall in the category of disruptive behavior, our primary focus is providing professional development,” Allen wrote. “Providing professional development and alternatives to suspension will help address the subjectivity that sometimes influences decisions to suspend a student. We are also providing targeted support for students to address their disruptive behaviors in a way that encourages behavioral improvements and helps students to self-regulate their actions and reactions.”

The rest of the suspension data for APS — including specific totals for Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown High Schools — is after the jump.

Arlington Public Schools
Total Students – 25,149
Black – 10.6%
White – 46.1%
Asian – 9%
Hispanic – 28.4%
Students with disabilities – 13.3%
In-School Suspensions – 635
Black – 29.1%
White – 19.4%
Asian – 5.7%
Hispanic – 40.6%
Students with disabilities – 34.6%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 315
Black – 29.5%
White – 27.6%
Asian – 6.3%
Hispanic – 33.3%
Students with disabilities – 42.5%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 120
Black – 25%
White – 25.8%
Asian – 3.3%
Hispanic – 40.8%
Students with disabilities – 46.7%
Expulsions – 2
Black – 25%
White – 37.5%
Asian – 12.5%
Hispanic – 25%
Students with disabilities – 0%

Washington-Lee High School
Total Students – 2,189
Black – 9.5%
White – 42.8%
Asian – 10.3%
Hispanic – 31.6%
Students with disabilities – 11.7%
In-School Suspensions – 138
Black – 23.2%
White – 25.4%
Asian – 4.3%
Hispanic – 42.8%
Students with disabilities – 39.9%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 62
Black – 30.6%
White – 21%
Asian – 3.2%
Hispanic – 41.9%
Students with disabilities – 53.2%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 16
Black – 25%
White – 37.5%
Asian – 12.5%
Hispanic – 25%
Students with disabilities – 50%
Expulsion – 0

Yorktown High School 
Total Students – 1,733
Black – 5.6%
White – 65.5%
Asian – 9.2%
Hispanic – 14.4%
Students with disabilities – 12.6%
In-School Suspensions – 25
Black – 24%
White – 28%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 32%
Students with disabilities – 40%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 14
Black – 29.5%
White – 27.6%
Asian – 6.3%
Hispanic – 33.3%
Students with disabilities – 71.4%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 8
Black – 0%
White – 50%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 25%
Students with disabilities – 50%
Expulsions – 2
Black – 0%
White – 0%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 0%
Two or More – 100%
Students with disabilities – 0%

Wakefield High School
Total Students – 1,708
Black – 22.2%
White – 20.1%
Asian – 9.5%
Hispanic – 42.9%
Students with disabilities – 17.7%
In-School Suspensions – 198
Black – 32.8%
White – 10.1%
Asian – 6.1%
Hispanic – 48%
Students with disabilities – 29.3%
Out-of-School Suspensions – 47
Black – 48.9%
White – 8.5%
Asian – 4.3%
Hispanic – 29.8%
Students with disabilities – 34%
Referrals to Law Enforcement – 15
Black – 46.7%
White – 0%
Asian – 0%
Hispanic – 40%
Two or More – 13.3%
Students with disabilities – 40%
Expulsions – 0

Editor’s note: a previous version of this story misidentified Jeanette Allen, APS’ director of administrative services. File photo 

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Morning Notes

Petition in Support of Affordable Housing Project — The website Greater Greater Washington is helping to promote a petition that intends to counter resident complaints about a proposed affordable housing project on the former Red Cross site along Route 50. Neighbors are concerned that the project might “defile” the Buckingham neighborhood, with increased traffic and school overcrowding and a loss of green space. [GGW, GGW]

‘A Friend’ Writes Thank You Note to ACPD — From the Arlington County Police Department Twitter account: “To the citizen who left this unexpected note on one of our cruisers, thank you. ACPD is grateful for the support we receive from the community and small gestures like this mean a lot to our officers.” [Twitter]

Arlingtonian Places 23rd at Boston — Among other impressive finishes by Arlington residents at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Graham Tribble finished 23rd with a time of 2:30:06, the fastest among the D.C. area contingent at the prestigious race. [RunWashington, Patch]

High Schools Students Learning How to Spot Fake News — “At Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, outside Washington, some high school seniors are bent over their laptops, engaged in a digital course called Checkology that helps them figure out what makes news and information real, misleading or just plain false.” [Voice of America]

Elementary Girls Heading to Int’l Problem Solving Competition — “An all-girls engineering team from Glebe Elementary School is heading to the 2018 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals where they will compete with students from nearly 25 countries… The team of fourth graders from Glebe, who are all ages 9 or 10, became state champions last weekend at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind competition, which was held April 14 in Newport News.” [Arlington Public Schools]

ACPD Forms ‘Restaurant Liaison Unit’ — The Arlington County Police Department has formed a “Restaurant Liaison Unit” to work with local bars to tamp down on drunken and sometimes violent incidents. One Clarendon bar in particular had police responding to it for a call almost every other day in 2017. [Washington City Paper, Twitter]

Glebe Lane Closure Causes Backups — Commuters heading northbound on Glebe Road today faced major backups due to a lane closure near Ballston. Washington Gas has been performing emergency repairs in the roadway since Wednesday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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At Least 500 Wakefield High School Students To Learn Hands-On CPR

At least 500 Wakefield High School students are scheduled learn how to give hands-on CPR on Thursday.

The event is part of the “Hands2Hearts” initiative which seeks to help every adult working or living in Arlington to learn hands-only CPR.

The initiative is sponsored by the Arlington County Fire Department and Virginia Hospital Center. Organizers will spend 30 minutes teaching students how to recognize a cardiac arrest victim while teaching them how to potentially save their lives through hands-only CPR.

Students will also be taught how to treat a choking victim and use an automated external defibrillator. Students reached out to ACFD and VHC to bring the event to school.

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Podcast: Virginia’s 2018 Teacher of the Year, Michelle Cottrell-Williams

Michelle Cottrell-Williams, an Arlington Public Schools high school teacher, was named Virginia’s Teacher of the Year for 2018.

Join her and ARLnow assistant managing editor, Bridget Reed Morawski, as the two talk APS world language reductions proposed for next year’s budget, the one-to-one device program, and guns in schools.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Sen. Kaine Talks Gun Control With Wakefield Students

Sen. Tim Kaine joined Wakefield High School students this morning (March 16) to discuss gun violence and school safety.

Students offered their own perspectives and asked Kaine questions ranging from what he would do regarding the Dickey Amendment to school security measures to mental health treatment.

Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Sociology students were invited to the hour-and-a-half long event, which was also attended by Wakefield’s Michelle Cottrell-Williams, Virginia’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.

Over 40 students sat in the classroom, surrounded by members of the local press, most raptly attentive and occasionally emotional as they asked detailed questions of their senator.

“You’re shaking us out of our complacency and challenging us,” Tim Kaine said while introducing himself and his legislative background.

One student asked the senator whether or not he agreed that protection is emphasized over prevention, or that there is more concern with adding security than preventative gun control measures, which the senator affirmed he did.

He mentioned several times a desire to allow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct public health research on gun violence, as well as expanded mental health services and funding. He also said he supports cutting down on the power that interest groups have over Congress.

Kaine focused many of his responses not over assault weapons but on high capacity magazines, at one point saying that it is easier to write a bill outright banning high capacity magazines with over ten rounds than it would be to describe every permutation of what is broadly called an “assault weapon.”

He added that “every constitutional amendment has reasonable limits within it,” emphasizing the “well-regulated” aspect of the second amendment.

“You won’t eliminate violence, you won’t eliminate gun violence,” he began.”But that’s not the goal, the goal is to reduce it.”

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Morning Notes

ATS Parents Peeved About Overcrowding — Arlington Traditional School parents are protesting the addition of classes and relocatable classrooms to the already-overcrowded school. [Arlington Connection]

Alliterative Pothole Patching Update — Via Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Punctilious, present pothole people have plugged 500-plus problems post-2017 but prefer a plethora for practice. Please provide. http://topics.arlingtonva.us/reportproblem or call 703-228-6570.” [Twitter]

AIM Petition Nearing 1,000 Signatures — More than 900 people have signed a petition calling on the County Board to nix the proposed 20 percent cut in funding for Arlington Independent Media. “The proposed Arlington County FY ’19 budget would be catastrophic for AIM,” the petition says. [Change.org]

Arlington Ranks No. 2 in Virginia ‘Healthiest’ List — Arlington is second only to Loudoun on a list of the healthiest counties in Virginia, compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. [WTOP]

Capitol City Files for Bankruptcy — Shortly after closing its Shirlington brewpub, Capitol City Brewing Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Owner David von Storch says he intends to keep Cap City’s downtown D.C. location open, serving its four core in-house beers, which will now be brewed by a contract brewery, as well as local craft brews. [Washington Business Journal]

Kaine to Talk Guns at Wakefield HS — Via press release: “On Friday, March 16, Senator Tim Kaine will hold a classroom conversation on gun violence and school safety with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington. Kaine will hear students’ perspectives on how policymakers should address this issue and which solutions they would like to see implemented to keep schools safer.”

Photo courtesy @thelastfc

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Students Walk Out of School to Protest Gun Violence

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at Arlington’s high schools walked out of class Wednesday morning to protest gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting.

The 10 a.m. walkout was planned nationally, on the one month anniversary of the shooting, and in Arlington it was the second such protest in as many months. Washington-Lee, Yorktown, Wakefield, Langston and H-B Woodlawn were among the schools participating. Students at Kenmore Middle School also walked out, according to the school’s Twitter account.

At Washington-Lee, hundreds — if not thousands — of students gathered on the football field amid cold, blustery weather for a solemn remembrance of the slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and teachers.

A group of students sat in the bleachers, holding signs with the names and photos of the victims, while another group of students read each of their names and a bit of biographical information, one by one, about one per minute. The gathered students stood still, in silence only broken by a brief applause at the end, before returning to the school.

A couple dozen administrators and teachers watched over the event, along with a pair of Arlington County police officers, there to provide security. A few W-L graduates, parents and local residents also attended, some holding signs.

During Yorktown’s walkout, meanwhile, students wrote letters about school safety to members of Congress

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy said late last month that today’s walkout would be the last walkout in which participating students would be granted a blanket excused absence.

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Morning Notes

DHS Official Charged With Beating Wife in Arlington — A “senior career official with the Department of Homeland Security who… handles a ‘high volume’ of classified information in his role as an intelligence briefer,” served jail time after a 2016 incident in Arlington in which he was charged with assaulting his wife, breaking two ribs and causing bruising around her neck. [Washington Post]

Anti-DUI Event at Shamrock Crawl Tomorrow — The Arlington County Police Department will hold a St. Patrick’s Day-themed anti-DUI event dubbed “Don’t Press Your Luck” in Clarendon tomorrow (Saturday). The event will coincide with the planned Shamrock Crawl bar crawl. [Arlington County]

More on Wakefield’s Championship Run — But for a great defensive play by Varina, the Wakefield High School boys basketball team might have emerged victorious from yesterday’s state championship game in Richmond. [Washington Post]

Arlington to Co-Star in Travel Video — Arlington County has received grant funding that will help pay for its share of a new Virginia tourism video that will also feature Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Loudoun County, Richmond and Staunton. [Arlington County]

Long Branch Creek Profiled — “A mostly residential section of south Arlington, Long Branch Creek is a diverse community where almost 75 percent of residents are renters. In addition, there are condominium buildings, townhouses, duplexes and one single-family home.” [Washington Post]

Fire Station History to Be Recognized — Last month Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz established a “Fire Station No. 8 History and Legacy (FS8HL) Working Group,” to record and celebrate the history of the first Arlington fire station staffed by African Americans. [Arlington County]

Kanninen Gets Democratic School Board Nod — “An Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus? Fuggedaboutit. Incumbent School Board Chairman Barbara Kanninen was the lone candidate to file to run in the caucus, which had been slated for several days in May. With no opposition bubbling up, the caucus was nixed.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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UPDATE: Wakefield Falls Just Short in Basketball State Championship

Update at 5:55 p.m. — Despite leading for much of the game, Wakefield ended up falling just short to Varina, 64-60.

Earlier: The Wakefield High School boys basketball team is currently fighting for a state championship.

If the Warriors prevail over the Varina Blue Devils, it would be the team’s first championship in 57 years, according to the Sun Gazette.

The game, which started at 4 p.m., is being played at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. At halftime, Wakefield was winning 31-23.

En route the Richmond, the team’s buses received a police escort. For fans who could not make the trip to Richmond, the game is being streamed live online (for a fee) and is being shown at the Crystal City Sports Pub (523 23rd Street S.)

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Morning Notes

Wakefield Advances to Championship — The Wakefield High School boys basketball team has advanced to the Virginia Class 5 championship after defeating Edison last night 82-66. The team will face Varina tomorrow at VCU. Meanwhile, Wakefield senior forward A’Mari Cooper has been named Northern Region Class 5 Player of the Year. [Washington Post, InsideNova]

Metro Starts Selling Merch — Despite its reliability issues and subsequent image problem, Metro has launched a new line of clothing and gifts, sold online and at a new gift store at Metro Center. The reaction to the merchandise has been mixed. [WMATA, NBC Washington]

General Assembly Passes Car Seat Bill — “Today, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 708… which would change the commonwealth’s law to require that child safety seats remain rear facing until the age of two, or the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The bill is now on its way to Governor Northam’s office for his signature. If signed, the new law would become effective July 1, 2019.” [AAA Mid-Atlantic]

More Restaurants Considering Ballston Quarter — Fresh off the announcement that Ted’s Bulletin was coming to Ballston Quarter, the owners of trendy D.C. spots Himitsu and Gravitas are said to be considering opening up eateries at the mall. Also in the works: a donut shop, an arepas stand, an oyster bar, and a barbecue joint. [Washington Business Journal]

Nicecream Expanding to D.C. — Liquid nitrogen-powered ice cream shop Nicecream Factory, which first opened in Clarendon, has since expanded to Alexandria and is now planning to open two D.C. locations, in Adams Morgan and Shaw. [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Gun Reform Discussion — Fred Guttenberg, father of one of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting victims, will speak at an event called “A Conversation About Gun Safety And The Safety Of American Schools” at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria tonight. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is hosting the event, which will discuss “actions we can take to ensure no other parent has to experience this kind of trauma.” [Eventbrite]

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Bike Boulevard Contract — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a half-million dollar contract for safety improvements to the intersection of S. Walter Reed Drive and 12th Street S. Per a county press release: “The project, one of several designed to make the Columbia Pike bike boulevards safer and more comfortable, will provide traffic calming and pedestrian improvements at the intersection.” [Arlington County]

Wakefield Boys Win Basketball Tourney — “The Wakefield Warriors won the 2018 boys Northern Region 5C Tournament basketball championship on their home court Feb. 23. The region crown was the 10th in program history for the high school team and second since 2014.” [InsideNova]

Hearing on Historic District Fee — The County Board will hold a public hearing in April to discuss an application fee for those seeking a local historic district. The fee, between $250-1,000 per request, would only partially reimburse the county for staff time spent researching each request, but could serve as a deterrent against frivolous requests. [InsideNova]

ICYMI: Weekend Articles — ARLnow published two articles of note over the weekend: first, a recap of the County Board’s decision to not raise the property tax rate this budget season, and second, a developing story about state legislation that could cost the county’s coffers around $2 million while slashing the tax bills of Arlington’s two country clubs.

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Students Stage Walkouts At Arlington High Schools

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Arlington high school students walked out of class Wednesday at about noon, joining nationwide protesters responding to a recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Wakefield High School students made their way to the athletic stadium for a rally in favor of stricter gun control laws during a 30 minute class walkout. Administrators agreed to consider the walkout an excused absence, according to several Wakefield students.

Students spoke to the crowd with a public address system, calling themselves “moving targets” and shouting that gun violence won’t be resolved until everyone helps them “rise together and create that change.”

(Other Arlington students, including those at H-B Woodlawn and Yorktown High School, also staged walkouts today, as did students in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the region.)

Hannah Jones, a 17-year-old junior at Wakefield and an Arlington Young Democrats member, referenced tweets from an account called National School Walkout as her and her peers’ inspiration for the walkout.

Another student, 16-year-old sophomore Natasa Volk, only recently has become involved in politics.

“I think my mom wanted me to swivel in my own ideas and figure out what my values are,” said Volk. “But definitely this year I have engaged a lot more in political conversations, whether its with teachers or with my mother and other students.”

“I guess I started to care, which is kind of disappointing that I didn’t care as much.”

Volk and other students drew protest posters in their morning classes, with slogans like “317 Last Year — How Many This Year?” The walkout crowd was a few hundred teenagers and adults, a portion of the school’s 2016 enrollment rate of around 2,000 students.

Student protests are being staged as widespread as Chicago and Florida in response to the Parkland shooting, but Volk says that it wasn’t just the most recent shooting that inspired action, but that she learned last year that mass shootings happen much more frequently than one might see reported in the national media.

Some students were pessimistic about the protest, reportedly believing that it would just be an excuse for the apathetic to skip class. But, Jones believes, even those students will benefit from the walkout.

“Even if that’s their motive, being around this many people and to see this many people caring” about gun control legislation, said Jones. “I feel that if the news that they’re hearing hasn’t affected them, then this will get them to change their minds and get them to be a bit more directly involved.”

Reporters from ARLnow and WJLA (ABC 7) were not permitted to follow students to the rally at Wakefield High School.

Students, parents, and administrators alike took to Twitter in support of the march — including Virginia’s 2018 teacher of the year, Michelle Cottrell-Williams.

Further protests have been called for by student and adult activists nationwide, and a nationwide “March For Our Lives” protest has been scheduled for March 24.

Tweets from the Wakefield walkout, along with emails sent to H-B Woodlawn and Yorktown parents, after the jump.

From H-B Woodlawn Principal Casey Robinson:

Dear H-B Woodlawn Parent or Guardian:

Today at noon many H-B Woodlawn students participated in a student walkout to protest gun violence following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  This walkout occurred during lunch; students congregated in the front circle for about 20 minutes. These students were supervised by school staff and the School Resource Officer. It was a peaceful and safe gathering. During this student initiated protest some students suggested that the group should walk to the White House. We told students that they must have parent permission and sign out in the office since this was not a school-sponsored activity, and school staff would not be with them.

Most students walked a short distance and then returned to school. Other students participated in the longer protest. We were not aware of plans for this protest, but we know that other walkouts and protests are being planned for March and April.  We will continue to support students by providing them a safe space to exercise their constitutional rights, while also respecting the right of all students to continue with their education during these activities.

From Yorktown Principal Bridget Loft.

Dear Yorktown Parent or Guardian,

Today at noon many Yorktown students engaged in a student walkout to raise awareness of gun violence following the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.   During this walkout, many students left their fifth period classes or lunch to congregate primarily in the amphitheater at the front the building for approximately 20 minutes.   These students were supervised by school staff and all gathered peacefully, respectfully, and safely before returning to class.  Students who were out of class during this time and returned to class with their classmates will be marked as ‘excused absent’.

Like all of us, many students at Yorktown have been trying to make sense of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas last week and have been concerned about their safety in our school.  As a school staff, we are committed to ensuring that our students know that their safety is our top priority and to giving them a space to talk about and process the events of last week.

Today’s walkout at Yorktown was planned and organized by several students here.  When we learned that it was being planned, school staff made arrangements for the students to congregate in the amphitheater as they had direct access to it as they left through the front doors and it made it easier for Yorktown staff to provide supervision and to monitor who was entering and exiting the building.

I was exceptionally proud of our students today.  Those who participated did so respectfully and peacefully.  Those who chose to participate respected the feelings of those who opted not to, and those who opted to not participate supported their classmates who did.  With the walkouts and protests that are being planned for March and April, we will continue to support students by providing them a safe space to exercise their constitutional rights.

Via Twitter:

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Morning Notes

W-L Name Decision May Be Delayed — “A new staff proposal detailed on Feb. 1 would delay until December or January any School Board decision on the [Washington-Lee High School] name, which has divided the school community, alumni and some activists.” [InsideNova]

Wakefield HS in Super Bowl Ad — The Wakefield High School girls basketball team was featured in a promo for NBC 4 that aired locally during the Super Bowl. [Facebook, Twitter]

Crews Treat Slick Roads — There were some icy patches on local roads this morning, but Arlington County crews were out treating potential slick spots. Unlike other school systems that delayed the opening of school, however, Arlington Public Schools started on time. [Twitter, Washington Post]

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Blind Triplets Make History With Eagle Scout Recognitions

(Updated 12 p.m.) As elementary school students, blind triplets Leo, Nick and Steven Cantos were bullied, had few friends and no role models.

But that changed when, at the age of 10, blind attorney and Crystal City resident Ollie Cantos became their mentor after learning about them through a friend at church. He legally adopted them two years ago, and turned their lives around.

“I didn’t have friends, my brothers were the only people, that was it,” Nick Cantos said. “I was essentially shut in for seven years, and I was a violent kid. I got into fights with people, because I was being bullied in school. It ended up getting so bad that I wanted to end [my life]. Dad really saved my life.”

A ceremony on Wednesday night marked how far they have come, having also graduated from Wakefield High School earlier this year. At The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alexandria, the brothers became the first ever blind triplets to be honored as Eagle Scouts in the history of Boy Scouts of America.

To become Eagle Scouts, the highest honor in scouting, candidates must complete a slew of assignments, including tasks like first aid, knot-tying, leadership and orientation. It also requires community service, and six months or more spent in leadership positions at their troop.

Each also had to lead a community service project. Steven Cantos collected school supplies for low-income schoolchildren for nonprofit Aspire! Afterschool. He already volunteered with the organization, which helps children improve their reading, and had intended to collect enough supplies for 90 students.

When the supply drive was over, he had collected enough for 130 students.

“They go in and help kids read in a more advanced way, since they feel that reading is the first thing that kids need to learn, and then they learn other things if they can read better,” Steven Cantos said. “The project stemmed from the fact that I’d already volunteered a bit of time to them, so I wanted to give some more time… I decided that education is important, so let’s give them school supplies.”

Leo Cantos collected blood and blankets for INOVA Fairfax Hospital, a children’s hospital where he spent a month re-learning how to walk. He finished with 88 units of blood and 77 blankets, all donated by local people he had recruited.

“I wanted to give back to the kids, because I saw the kids there and I saw how they were not doing too well,” Leo Cantos said. “I wanted to give them a better experience, kind of like the one I had in the hospital but extended to them as well.”

And Nick Cantos collected donations of hygiene supplies for nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families, which helps people out of homelessness and away from domestic violence and sexual assault. He collected about $2,000 worth of supplies to donate to the organization.

“It took a lot of planning, it took a lot of work and papers,” Nick Cantos said. “The craziest part was seeing all my scout friends and leaders and brothers helping me to do this, and me managing this thing.”

And while they could have gotten extended time to complete their requirements to be Eagle Scouts due to their blindness, they chose not to. Ollie Cantos said that decision was made to show that being blind does not need to be a hindrance.

“We were absolutely intent on not asking for any extensions,” he said. “It wasn’t what we wanted to do. I wanted the boys to learn a lesson, a positive lesson, that we keep saying blindness is just a disability and it’s not really a big deal, so if it’s not a big deal, why do we need to make an exception? That’s just us.”

One of the biggest challenges for the brothers was the swimming requirement, as none of them had spent much time in the water before.

But in the summer of 2014, they were all able to dive in, swim to a target with the aid of voice assistance and then swim back. All the while, they were cheered on by their fellow scouts and leaders at poolside.

“As I observed this moment, I thought to myself, ‘There’s no stopping them,'” said Scott Blakeslee, a former leader at the church and scout troop, in a speech. “More than that, I knew that you were going to continue to grow into wonderful, capable men of God. I hope you can take that experience as you go forward.”

With the brothers now graduated from high school, they will go to Boston in about six months to learn further life skills so they can become more independent.

All three have ambitions to go to college. Steven wants to study political science, go to law school and study copyright law and intellectual property rights; Nick wants to study marketing and go into the real estate industry; and Leo wants to study political science also before specializing in cyber law and working to make technology accessible to all.

With all they have achieved already, U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, who worked with Ollie Cantos at the U.S. Department of Justice, said their futures look bright.

“There is no stopping you, and a large part of that is you, but a greater part of that is your family,” said Acosta, who was among the crowd of around 100 family members, Scouts and well-wishers at the ceremony.

“It’s you and your brothers and your dad together that show each other what courage is and what hard work is, and I have to say there is no stopping you, because you have done everything and you continue to do everything.”

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