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The Italian Store in Westover discontinues meal deal for Swanson students after alleged egging of customers, employees

Running in rainy Westover, in front of The Italian Store (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After some Swanson Middle School students reportedly egged customers and employees at The Italian Store, management at the popular Westover grocer discontinued a student special.

Italian Store Director of Operations Mike Tramonte tells ARLnow he is also trying to identify the students who lobbed the eggs, who also allegedly stole the eggs from Walgreens. He says store employees and patrons were struck three days in a row last week and that when he went onto the patio to deter the egging, he was targeted, too.

“The reason we took away the ‘Swanson special’ was because they’re not mutually respecting the area,” he said. “We’re still working to identify everyone involved and we’ll ban them.”

Last week, families were informed that students without an adult chaperone were banned and the store had discontinued a pizza special for students.

In an email, Principal Bridget Loft chalked the decision up to “a few students’ disrespectful behavior (including, littering, vandalizing, stealing and not following the directions of employees),” though she did not specifically mention egging.

After the email announcing the ban went out, Tramonte said he went back to the principal to clarify what he considers a miscommunication. He reiterated that the entire student body is not banned but the student meal deal is off the menu.

“The manager of the Italian Store asked me to convey to you that they have opted to allow students to enter the store without requiring an adult chaperone,” Loft told families in a follow-up email shared with ARLnow this week, noting the removal of the special meal was still in effect “until further notice.”

Tramonte weighed an entire-school ban but determined that would not be an effective way to hold accountable the students instigating the problems.

In a closed Facebook group for Swanson parents, some backed up the reports of patrons and staff getting egged, according to comments shared with ARLnow.

“Absolutely so disrespectful and disappointing to ruin a great relationship,” one said.

Others said this is not the first instance of middle schoolers stealing from Walgreens.

“Both my sons confirm there is a faction of 8th graders who regularly steal from shops or harass people in Westover,” one said.

A few said they support the Italian Store’s decision.

“Totally support the store in this and hope the kids eventually figure out they’re just hurting themselves in the end,” one parent said.

Until now, says Loft, many students had the chance to “practice some relative independence and autonomy” by visiting the Italian Store, as well as other Westover shops, after school hours. She said in her email that she had previously warned students that their behavior could result in their options being limited.

Tramonte says he had raised concerns with Swanson at the end of last school year, when he began noticing worsening behavior. That has continued this fall, with some patrons telling him they avoid the store if students are there.

“The store was getting overwhelmed,” he said. “We didn’t have a good relationship with the kids this year.”

He mused he may bring the special back next year if these relationships and student behavior improve.

In her emails, Loft stressed the importance of practicing social-emotional skills during school and at home. On Monday, she thanked caregivers in advance for talking with their children about “the importance of practicing responsibility, empathy and self-control while visiting Westover.”

In response to mounting behavioral issues, from fights and other safety concerns to drug use, this year APS invested $14.5 million in deans of students at high schools, middle and high school intervention counselors, and designated Social-Emotional Learning staff at every school.

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