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BY MATTHEW BARAKAT
McLEAN--An over-the-top invitation to a high school dance that used a government helicopter as a prop has prompted a review by officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection and led to the reassignment of an agency pilot.
It happened last week at Patriot High School in Nokesville in Prince William County. As part of an invitation to a fall dance, a student there arranged for a Customs pilot to fly over the school and drop a stuffed teddy bear onto the football field.
On Tuesday, the agency said it is reviewing the incident and the pilot involved has been reassigned to administrative duties for now.
A CBP official who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the review remains active said it happened during a training flight. The official said such training flights in the Manassas and Nokesville area are routine and said the pilot was not ordered to participate by a superior.
School officials say they approved the stunt after ensuring it would not pose a safety threat.
Phil Kavits, a spokesman for Prince William County schools, said requests like these are reviewed on a case-by-case basis with an emphasis on safety. He noted that the helicopter in this case was flying at a relatively high altitude and said that students could not gain access to the football field at the time the teddy bear was dropped.
Neither school administrators nor officials at the federal agency would say how the student and pilot were connected.
The recipient of the bear and the dance invitation, senior Victoria Burress, said she has been asked to dances in creative ways before--including a prom invitation over the public-address system at halftime of a game--as high school students engage in an escalating trend of one-upsmanship on outlandish invitations.
"Everyone's pretty mad," she told The Washington Post, referring to reaction among other boys who now feel their invitations will appear lame by comparison.
It was not clear whether Burress accepted the invitation. She could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.