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A Fairfax County police car with lights flashing (file photo)

An assistant at Reston’s Dogwood Elementary School has been arrested in connection with assaulting a special needs student earlier this month, according to police.

Fairfax County police charged Mark MacDicken, 60, of Centreville, with the assault of the juvenile student on Sept. 16. McDicken has worked at the school for roughly 10 years, police said.

Two teachers reportedly witnessed McDicken assaulting the student when they walked into their classroom.

He was charged with assault.

McDicken has been put on administrative leave while the case is underway, Dogwood Elementary School Principal Kate Beckner said in a message to families.

“I understand this will come as a shock to our community,” she wrote. “The primary responsibility for anyone who works in education is the safety and wellbeing of children. When that trust appears to be broken, it affects us all.”

Beckner’s full letter to the community, shared with FFXnow by Fairfax County Public Schools, is below.

Dear Dogwood Families,

I am deeply saddened this morning to share the news of a situation at Dogwood ES involving an instructional assistant.

Fairfax County Police will be sharing with the community today that an instructional assistant has been arrested and charged with assaulting a student in our school. Two staff members who allegedly witnessed the incident immediately contacted administration and we took swift action to contact the authorities. The staff member is currently on administrative leave while this case is resolved.

I understand this will come as a shock to our community. The primary responsibility for anyone who works in education is the safety and wellbeing of children. When that trust appears to be broken, it affects us all.

These situations can be upsetting and prompt a variety of emotions. When engaging in conversations with your child, listen calmly and reassuringly, and share a message that you are someone your child can talk to, even in challenging situations. If you have counseling questions or concerns, please reach out to our counselors, Angel Evins and Jen Franconeri at 703-262-3100. Please also contact Fairfax County Police Major Crimes Bureau if you have any information you would like to share at 703-246-7800, option 4.

I am here to answer your questions or concerns, and to support students in any way they need.

Sincerely,

Kate Beckner

Principal

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Artist Hamilton Glass created the mural at Dogwood Elementary School in late May (via Reston Association/YouTube)

Richmond-based artist Hamilton Glass has brought a lively display of his mission for community change and social justice to the external walls of Dogwood Elementary School.

The bright outdoor mural depicts the school’s motto — Peace, Equity, Access and Connection (PEACE) — in colorful letters and designs next to the school’s kiss and ride lane.

The project was born out of an activity during the pandemic two years ago when students worked on a collaborative artwork designed by Glass during distance learning.

“Students each received a small section of the design by snail mail at home and after it was colored in, it was pieced together into a cohesive image,” Andy Siegel, the school’s family and community liaison, wrote in a statement to FFXnow. “The students so connected with the project that in 2022, we commissioned the artist to re-work the design to fit an exterior brick wall so the entire Reston community could enjoy the artwork — and the message.”

Glass, a mural artist, worked in the architecture field for seven years, after which he moved into a career as an artist. His work is inspired by messages related to the community in which the artwork lives. It’s characterized by bright vivid colors and sharp lines. He graduated from Hampton University  in 2005.

He created the mural at the school’s first multicultural festival on May 25. Reston Association recently featured his work in a Reston Today video.

The project was developed with support from Reston Community Center and Public Art Reston.

Photo via Reston Association/YouTube

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Virtual learning may have kept kids physically apart earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, but at Dogwood Elementary School (12300 Glade Drive), it also provided an opportunity for students to come together through art.

Inspired by its motto of PEACE (Peace, Equity, Access, Connection, Excellence) for all, the Reston school of 600-plus students collaborated with Richmond-based artist Hamilton Glass on a colorful wall mural that was designed and pieced together over the course of a year.

The result now graces the building’s hallways and will soon expand to an exterior wall, making its social justice-oriented message visible to the outside world.

“The Dogwood ES mural project is a great addition to public art in our community,” Public Art Reston Board Chair Maggie Parker said in an emailed statement. “…It not only brings a positive message to the school, but is there for all to enjoy and find inspiration.”

The community mural project began in 2020, when Dogwood resource teacher Rachel Albert learned about the “All in Together” initiative that Glass and fellow artist Matt Lively launched to give people an artistic outlet amid the isolation of the pandemic.

All in Together provides coloring sheets that participants fill in before bringing them together to form a full artwork. While Glass’s original mural design was specific to Richmond, the project can be replicated anywhere, letting people “be creative together, making something while being far apart,” he explained to Public Art Reston in a recent interview.

When contacted by Albert, All in Together agreed to partner with Dogwood Elementary School on a custom mural that Glass worked with students to design.

“Students each received a small section of the design by snail mail at home and after it was colored in, it was pieced together into a cohesive image,” said Andy Sigle, a Fairfax County Public Schools family and community liaison for Dogwood Elementary.

The mural was completed last fall as in-person classes resumed and students could unite their individual squares.

Sigle says students “so connected with the project” that Dogwood commissioned Glass to do an outdoor version of the mural “so the entire Reston community could enjoy the artwork.” The design will be adapted to fit a wall on the western side of the school, right next to the kiss-and-ride lane.

Glass will visit Dogwood Elementary to paint the mural during the week of May 23, including at the school’s first-ever International Night on May 25.

For the outdoor mural, Dogwood reached out to Public Art Reston and Reston Community Center for their assistance. RCC provided funding for Glass’s commission fee and related expenses, while Public Art Reston helped organize talks with Glass at the school and the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate on Tuesday (May 3).

“We were delighted to work with Dogwood Elementary School, Public Art Reston and the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate to assure that the artwork that began with students and Mr. Glass would expand to a location visible for all to enjoy,” RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon said in a statement. “These are our favorite ingredients for successful community building: young people, artists, imagination and partners who embrace the opportunity to bring them all together.”

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