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As the Sun Gazette reported last week, Arlington school officials decided that its athletes that had qualified for state track competition would not be able to participate.

The reasoning, as laid out by assistant superintendent Bridget Loft (and we thank her for the extensiveness of her comments, as they were helpful), is that Virginia Beach, where the competition is being held, is a little too much of a COVID hotbed for Arlington officials to be comfortable with, and because the competition will be held indoors. Many previous track events, including most of the region competition, were held outdoors.

Fair enough, except for the fact that Arlington school officials previously had banned county gymnasts from attending the state championships (also held in Virginia Beach, in an indoor venue much smaller than the one the track tournament was conducted in). But then parents of the female gymnasts banded together to bring pressure on school officials; a little birdie whispered in our ear that lawyers were getting involved.

The school system capitulated: Arlington gymnasts got to compete on the balance beam, uneven bars, etc., at the state level, in yet another victory for the “when you’ve got ’em by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow” approach getting your way with the Arlington school leadership. Works virtually every single time.

It appears that parents of the track competitors weren’t so unified or forceful in putting the screws to officials to change their minds, and without that pressure, the ban was not rescinded.

Recall that Arlington Superintendent Francisco Durán initially decided against having any winter sports season at all. But when the public got wind of that (credit the Sun Gazette), the poo-poo hit the fan-fan, and with the exception of wrestling, the winter season went on, albeit in truncated format.

If you’re getting the inkling that there’s nobody really in charge of this decision-making, we’d wager that is not far off the mark. The watchword seems to be inconsistency; school leaders lob a decision at the public and wait to see how muck flak they get.

But apparently that’s always been true here in what is affectionately named the People’s Republic of A-town.

In October 1978, a Northern Virginia Sun sports columnist (Lois Thomas) opined on the pages of the paper that any parent who wants his or her child to succeed in high-school athletics “would be a fool” to move to Arlington, because of the lack of commitment.

Has anything really changed?

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