The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

The Online Edition of the Annandale High School Newspaper.

The A-Blast

‘Incidents’ at AHS pose concerns

But they might not be the ones you would think. Does violence result in the promotion of stereotypes and normalization?

On March 15, in a fight between multiple students during the morning transition period known as second chance breakfast, a gun fell out of a backpack, clattering onto the hallway floor, and raising concerns from both students and staff alike.

Later, emails sent by the school revealed that it was a BB gun, but in the moment, and for the near hour until the emails were sent, the gun was as real in everyone’s mind, as it looked laying on the hallway floor.

It is difficult to forget sitting in class after second chance breakfast that day and hearing people talk about what had happened.

Talk of the incident had quickly surfaced on Snapchat and other social media platforms, and students could see pictures and videos of the gun lying on the floor of the hallway, with a crowd of students surrounding it.

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Many students found themselves asking: does the admin know about this? Shouldn’t we be on lockdown? Is there an active shooter? What is really going on?

Parents were notified of the incident at around 10:47 a.m. – second breakfast is from 9:35-9:50 a.m. – through an email stating that a BB gun fell out of a students backpack and was confiscated by a nearby teacher.

The email stated that the BB gun “[looked] real, [and] can cause minor injuries”- was not used to intimidate or harm students or staff, that the proper authorities were working on it, and a phone number was provided for tips or further concerns.

An updated email to parents was sent at around 12:34 p.m. and mentioned the fight, and that the previous lack of mention was because “our first priority was to communicate information about the BB gun and allay any immediate concerns about student safety.”

Students were eventually notified at 1:25 p.m. by an email with slightly tweaked wording. It still included the phrase “BB guns look real, can cause injuries,” but omitted the word “minor,” perhaps to discourage students from downplaying the gun, especially considering a BB pellet shot at, say, 50 meters per second, to, say, an eye, may not exactly be described as minor…

It is important to clarify that the BB gun happened to fall out of the students backpack during the scuffle. Additionally, AHS Principal Shawn DeRose wrote that all students involved had been identified and were being questioned by the proper authorities, including the Fairfax County Police and the Office of Safety and Security

The staff was praised in the emails for their speedy and proper handling of the situation, and indeed, it was absolutely remarkable seeing teachers help stop the fight and control the crowd in the many videos that have circulated since.

Despite the situation being handled, it would have been more efficient to notify the student body immediately following the incident, especially since many students had seen the gun fall onto the floor firsthand.

It is understandable this was avoided to prevent panic, however, students being expected to go straight to class after witnessing the events raises questions of whether or not violence has become something of social norm in schools.

Regardless of stereotypes about AHS, many of which are directed at the student body by students from predominantly white and high income schools, violent incidents are not the norm in the Annandale hallways. There will always be trouble wherever you go, regardless of how people view communities. However, it is still important to identify when incidents may be rooted in deeper issues, including the generalization of violence at AHS being considered “normal,” even when that is truly not the case.

The BB gun was treated as if it were real, but regardless, a lockdown or announcement of events directly following the incident would have calmed anxieties and prevented the eruption of gossip during W4.

Such precautions should have been taken, at least until every student involved in the incident was searched and it was absolutely clear that no other student was carrying something similar.

Communication is not only essential for parents, but for students and staff as well. In fact, those who are inside the school building during the event should have had the priority in notification.

Identifying whether or not stereotypes play a role in how issues are handled becomes increasingly difficult to define in the face of contradiction.

On one hand, teachers went above and beyond to de-escalate the fight, and showed tremendous support to the AHS community and commitment to the safety of students. However, through an administrative lens, students/staff were expected to continue the day as if it were any normal day, despite the out of the ordinary events of the morning. It is certain to say that the issue was far from swept under the rug, but how can issues be better handled to be more conscious of avoiding normalcy?

It is not a secret to students across FCPS that AHS has often received the short end of the stick when it comes to stereotypes, despite the majority being exaggerated and overlooking the diverse, open-minded, and equitable community at AHS.

“As principal, my focus is on the students currently enrolled at Annandale or in the Annandale pyramid and other feeder schools,” DeRose said.

This is entirely valid considering the level of attention that is given to the AHS community on a daily basis. However, this extends the question to the school board, and FCPS leaders. How can it be ensured that AHS is receiving the same resources, especially those designed to assist in handling issues of violence?

The Annandale pyramid consists of 5 elementary schools that identify as Title 1, with 55% or more in poverty. How can we ensure that issues are not starting in elementary/middle schools? How can we destigmatize AHS in our pyramid communities?

Last year, during a football game, there was a shooting in a neighborhood nearby the school which resulted in the game being canceled and everyone sprinting out of the stadium. Students and fans ran from the field in panic, not knowing what to expect next, and certainly not feeling safe.

There was also a stabbing in a park nearby the school while sports teams were practicing.

It is easy to think that such events are common in Annandale or AHS, but they are not. They overlook the big picture, and such overexaggerations fuel misbeliefs about the school from outsiders who have likely never taken a step inside.

Violence is never justified, but should never be used as the defining point of an entire school community, especially one like Annandale.

“I hope not, Annandale is an amazing school. If anything, I would hope that individuals would be able to see what Annandale students are able to overcome to perform at a high level,” DeRose said when asked about violence creating possible stereotypes about AHS.

Surely, AHS is an incredible community that has proven time and time again to rise over stereotypes, overcome inequity, and celebrate uniqueness.

Annandale is a community that has been constantly stigmatized, and it is time to break from stereotypes, hopefully spreading the understanding that violence should never be thought of as the norm, including at AHS.

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About the Contributors
Shane Gomez
Shane Gomez, Co-Editor in Chief

Senior Shane Gomez is the Co-Editor in Chief of the A-Blast. He was Editorials Editor as a sophomore and junior and a Staff Writer as a freshman. He is pursuing the IB Diploma and he can be found frequenting clubs and organizations such as AWC, AYSO, ABC, AA, CFAC, HSC, SHF, MUN, NHS, NEHS, NSSHS, SNHS, VWA, and YMG. He likes to thrift, hangout, and watch movies. He looks forward to graduating.

Christina Abouzeki
Christina Abouzeki, Co-International Editor
Senior Christina Abouzeki is in her second year of journalism as a Co-International Editor. She loves reading, listening to music, and traveling. She plays on the varsity volleyball team and the violin in the philharmonic orchestra. Outside of school, she also likes to spend time with her friends and family.

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