D.C. in Brief

Toxin found in Senate office
The discovery of small amounts of the poison ricin in a Senate mailroom last week has prompted an investigation into how the chemical got into the building.

The toxin was found Feb. 2 in the Dirsken Senate building office of Majority Leader Bill Frist. Officials are unsure how the chemical got into the building and said it could have been there for several weeks, The Washington Post reported.

The toxin’s discovery led to the closing of the Dirsken building and two other Senate office complexes for two days.

District and federal officials will be forced to broaden their search if evidence is found that the chemical was delivered in a letter. The possibility that the toxin was planted in the Dirksen mailroom by some other method still exists, according to The Post.

Traces of ricin were detected in the mailroom of the Dirsken building and an automatic letter opener in Frist’s office.

UVA announces aid plan
The University of Virginia announced Friday that it will replace $16 million worth of school loans with scholarships to lessen the burden of student debt.

UVA’s new program, “Access UVA,” is the most progressive financial assistance program ever instituted by a public university, according to The Washington Post. The university created the program to combat rising tuition costs that have prevented many low-income students from attending college.

Incoming freshmen who qualify for financial aid loans next year will have them replaced by academic scholarships.

The following year, students who qualify for financial aid will receive an award that will allow them to graduate with a maximum loan of $14,520, the same amount as a year of in-state tuition, The Post reported.

University President John T. Casteen III said he was beginning to notice a declining number of low-income students in attendance at the school and that he hopes the new program will foster economic diversity, The Post reported.

Principal denies victim was set to transfer
A D.C. principal disputed claims that he was asked to transfer a student before the youth was killed in school last week.

James Richardson, a 17-year-old football star, was shot to death last Monday by another student.

Ballou High School Principal Art Bridges told The Washington Post that plans were never made to move the victim to another school.

William Richardson, the victim’s father, said that Bridges told him in October that he was going to move his son to another school to ensure his safety.

Bridges said that even though he wanted James to transfer, the student refused to do so. James, a star football player at the school, was unhappy and getting in fights when Bridges made the suggestion of switching schools.

Bridget T. Miller, head of the Youth Gang Task Force in D.C., said members of her organization had asked the principal to transfer James because of problems he was causing at the school, The Post reported. Bridges said he was unaware of the task force’s suggestion. n

-Bryn Lansdowne

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