by Anna Merod February 16, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) A bill prohibiting school officials from stigmatizing students who can’t afford school meals or pay off their debts is likely to pass the Virginia General Assembly, said bill sponsor state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31).

The SB 840 bill, which has already passed through the Virginia Senate, will ban school board employees from identifying students who owe a meal debt by, for example, requiring students to wear bracelets or hand stamps.

The bill also prohibits school board members from making students do chores or work to pay for meal debts. It also states that any communication about a meal debt must be written in a letter to the student’s parents to bring home.

“We want students to have as positive an experience as possible while they’re in school,” Favola said. “It doesn’t send the right message to children if they’re at all identified for being different because of an income inequality.”

Favola represents Virginia’s 31st District, which includes Arlington and Fairfax County.

A Virginia social justice group, Social Action Linking Together (SALT), approached Favola to sponsor the bill. After other constituents voiced similar concerns about the treatment of students with meal debts, Favola introduced the bill to the Senate.

One Arlington parent told John Horejsi, a SALT coordinator, that their child’s elementary school puts orange stickers on students’ shirts when they owe a lunch debt. The parent discussed the matter with ARLnow.com but did not wish to identify the school or speak on the record.

An Arlington Public Schools spokesman said that practice is not in place at public schools in Arlington.

“To our knowledge, this hasn’t happened in APS in a number of years,” said Frank Bellavia, via email. “Currently, staff only speak with parents directly about a student’s unpaid lunch account. Our Food Services staff is working now on a formal policy for School Board approval that will permanently address this.”

The state bill is highly likely to pass, Favola said, because a companion bill unanimously passed in the House. The bill is now being reviewed by the Committee on Education.

A similar piece of legislation was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives last May, and a similar bill also passed in New Mexico last April.

File photo

by ARLnow.com February 6, 2018 at 9:05 am 0

Highway Renaming Bill Fails — A bill from state Sen. Barbara Favola that would have allowed Arlington to rename Jefferson Davis Highway in the county failed to get out of committee on a 7-6 party line vote. The county will likely have to wait until next year’s legislative session to try again to get a bill passed.  [InsideNova]

Snagajob Heading Toward IPO — “Arlington job management company Snagajob aims to raise up to $30 million, part of a strategy to reach $100 million in revenue this year to prepare the fast-growing company for a future initial public offering.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Releases Annual Report — Arlington County recently released its annual report for 2017. County Manager Mark Schwartz wrote in the report, despite an expected budget gap: “Overall, I am optimistic about our future… with the leadership of the County Board and participation of our residents, we will continue to provide the quality programs and services that our residents have come to expect.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Chris Teale January 19, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A bill by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) banning so-called “bump stocks” in Virginia has made progress in the early days of the 2018 Virginia General Assembly legislative session.

Ebbin’s bill — S.B. 1 — passed the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee on Monday, January 15 and then was referred to the Finance Committee.

The legislation was filed after investigators found that Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock had modified some of the semi-automatic rifles in his hotel room with “bump stocks,” an attachment that allows the guns to fire faster.

Companion legislation by in the House of Delegates by local Del. Mark Levine (D-45) is still awaiting a hearing at the committee level.

Ebbin was a co-patron on S.B. 252, a bill to “ban the box” that passed the state Senate on Friday by a 23-16 vote.

It would prevent state and local governments from asking about potential employees’ criminal histories during an initial application. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) signed an executive order banning the box for state government in 2015.

“This bill is important simply because it gives everyone a fair chance at employment,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Those people who have paid their debts to society should be given a second chance. Providing every Virginian the chance to work builds our workforce and puts us on a great path towards economic security. The only way to ensure that we build stronger communities is if we have a strong workforce and banning the box is a step in the right direction of achieving that goal.”

But other gun safety bills by state Sen. Barbara Favola were defeated in the state Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee earlier this week. A bill allowing local governments to prohibit the open carry of firearms in protests or demonstrations was among those killed.

Favola introduced it after the armed white supremacist protests in Charlottesville last year.

“Regarding [the bill], it was my hope that lawmakers would better understand the need for people to feel safe and be safe when they assemble,” Favola said in a statement.

And while other legislation introduced by Levine, including a bill allowing localities to set their own minimum wage and another to repeal “the crime of fornication, i.e., voluntary sexual intercourse by an unmarried person,” is still awaiting debate, he celebrated a win early in the session for his Virginia Transparency Caucus.

The caucus, co-created by Levine as a first-term Delegate alongside state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-11) in 2016, pushed for recorded votes in General Assembly committees and subcommittees and received them in the legislature’s new rules. All committee hearings will now also be live streamed and archived online for the first time.

“This is a big victory for transparency in Virginia,” Levine wrote in an email to supporters. “For four hundred years, Virginia legislators killed bills in secret behind closed doors. Not anymore. Now residents will be able to know exactly who deep-sixed a bill and who wanted to move it forward.”

But Del. Patrick Hope has run into opposition from the ACLU’s Virginia chapter for sponsoring a bill that would expand the use of “strip searches” to those under arrest for traffic crimes and suspected of carrying drugs. Currently, searches are only permitted for those carrying weapons. The bill was discussed by a subcommittee of the House of Delegates’ Courts of Justice committee on Friday.

“We really oppose any expansion of a strip search,” Charlie Schmidt, public policy counsel for ACLU Virginia, said in a video. “It’s invasive; it should only be used in situations where we’re dealing with serious crimes, not petty traffic stops.”

The ACLU of Virginia has offered support for another of Hope’s bills, which would end conversion therapy for children under 18.

by ARLnow.com January 11, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Pentagon Looking into Helicopter Noise Reduction — After pressure from residents who live near the Pentagon, along with Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), “FOX 5 has learned the Department of Defense is researching ways to reduce helicopter noise and is ready to hear concerns from… neighboring residents.” [Fox 5]

Caiazzo is New ACDC Chair — The Arlington County Democratic Committee has elected Jill Caiazzo, a lawyer and policy advocate, as its new chair. She succeeds Kip Malinosky, who was lauded at last night’s ACDC meeting for his four years of service as chair. [Blue Virginia, Facebook]

Favola Pushes Highway Name Bill — In an effort to allow Arlington to change the name of its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway, and perhaps even Lee Highway, state Sen. Barbara Favola “is patroning legislation that would allow any Virginia county, city or town to change the name of any highway in its environs, so long as the original name was put in place prior to 1965.” [InsideNova]

Homeless Shelter Busy During Cold Snap — Some 80 people a night were staying at Arlington’s homeless shelter in Courthouse during the recent extended blast of frigid temperatures. The shelter, which relocated to an office building next to Arlington police headquarters in 2015, can accommodate up to 90 people during sub-freezing weather. [Arlington Connection]

History of the Sun Gazette — In his latest column, “Our Man in Arlington” Charlie Clark recounts the history of Arlington’s Sun Gazette newspaper. [Falls Church News-Press]

Printing Business Offers Free Pizza — In a unique partnership, Ballston-area printing business ASAP Screen Printing is partnering with newly-renamed pizza restaurant Alto Fumo to offer customers who spend at least $100 a free pizza. [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Jim Harvard

by Chris Teale December 21, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

Months after the mass shootings in Las Vegas, several legislators representing Arlington County have filed bills in the Virginia General Assembly to outlaw “bump stocks.”

After the October 1 shooting, which left 58 people dead and 546 injured, investigators found that gunman Stephen Paddock had modified some of the semi-automatic rifles in his hotel room with “bump stocks,” an attachment that allows the guns to fire faster.

And after Congress failed to act to ban them, local lawmakers will try to do so at the state level.

Del. Mark Levine and state Sens. Adam Ebbin and Barbara Favola (all D) each introduced legislation to ban any device “used to increase the rate of fire of any semi-automatic firearm beyond the capability of an unaided person to operate the trigger mechanism of that firearm.”

Anyone found to own, be making or selling such a device would be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. The City of Columbia, S.C., recently passed an ordinance banning them.

At a work session with the Arlington County Board earlier this month, Levine expressed cautious optimism at getting “bump stocks” banned in Virginia.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do at the federal level, but we certainly shouldn’t have them in Virginia,” he said. “That, I would hope would be an easy lift, although of course, nothing is an easy lift when it comes to guns.”

by Chris Teale December 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

Two state Senators who represent sections of Arlington County have proposed bills that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana and reduce penalties for its distribution.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has re-introduced a bill, SB-111, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana and make it a civil offense, rather than a Class 1 misdemeanor, which it is now in Virginia.

Under Ebbin’s bill, violators would be fined no more than $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $250 for a third or subsequent violation.

It is not the first time that Ebbin has tried to decriminalize marijuana possession. Last year, his bill stalled in the state Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee ahead of a study this year into decriminalization by the Virginia State Crime Commission.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported earlier this month that the commission did not vote on a decriminalization proposal, as it was “not yet adequately drafted for consideration.” It heard testimony on a decriminalization plan in October.

“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement last year. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”

Another bill, SB-40 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D) would reduce the penalties for those who distribute marijuana or intend to distribute it. It also raises the minimum amount of marijuana subject to the offense of distribution or “possession with intent to distribute” from one-half ounce to one ounce.

Both bills have been referred to the Senate’s Committee for Courts of Justice.

by Chris Teale December 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

A bill in the Virginia State Senate would require that drivers come to a complete stop when yielding to pedestrians crossing the street.

The bill, SB 46 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D), adds language to state law telling motorists what constitutes yielding to a pedestrian: “by stopping and remaining stopped until such pedestrian has safely crossed,” per the bill text.

Favola’s bill would require drivers to stop and remain stopped at the following places:

  • Clearly marked crosswalks, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block.
  • Any regular pedestrian crossing included in the boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block.
  • Any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway where the maximum speed limit is 35 miles per hour.

Language on when drivers must yield to pedestrians is included in the Virginia Criminal and Traffic Manual, but does not include the line to have drivers stop.

“Under this bill, a car would have to stop. Right now all you have to do is yield,” Favola told ARLnow.com. “So if a pedestrian is crossing and is on one half of the crosswalk, a car can go through the other half. This would make them stop completely.”

Favola’s district includes sections of Arlington County. The new legislation comes on the heels of a recent enforcement effort by the Arlington County Police Department, during which officers cited more than 30 motorists at several intersections for failing to yield.

The bill would not change the fines for violations: $100-$500 when street signs require drivers to yield and no more than $100 at crossings with shared-use paths like trails.

by Chris Teale December 1, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Arlington’s representatives will push hard in the Virginia General Assembly on Metro funding, the authority to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and absentee voting, among other issues.

At a work session Thursday, Arlington County Board members discussed their legislative agenda — bills they would like to see passed and issues they would like to see emphasized — for the 2018 session with local Delegates and state Senators.

The General Assembly will convene in Richmond on January 10 and sit through March 10, with Gov.-Elect Ralph Northam (D) to be inaugurated on January 13.

High on Board members’ list of priorities is securing a dedicated funding source for Metro, and ensuring that state funding allows it to keep up with its rebuilding needs.

Outgoing Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has committed to adding a dedicated funding source in his budget proposal later this month, and local representatives said they must do more to show their colleagues from outside Northern Virginia how valuable Metro is to the whole Commonwealth’s economy.

“A lot of work has been done to show this is not just a Northern Virginia giveaway, that this gives a lot of money and benefits to the rest of the commonwealth,” said County Board member Christian Dorsey.

Later, Dorsey noted that a study by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission made a “conservative estimate” that Metro brings in $600 million to state coffers every year through income and sales taxes.

All agreed on a plan to bring legislators into Northern Virginia and have them take a tour of the region’s various transit options, as well as experience rush-hour traffic congestion, something that state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) said has been effective in the past.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) urged cooperation between business and governmental groups in lobbying Richmond.

“We really need a united voice on this,” Favola said. “We can’t afford to have the Northern Virginia Chamber in opposition to a strategy you may like.”

Favola said she will file a bill to give localities the power to rename their primary highways, of which Jefferson Davis Highway is one in Arlington.

The question of whether to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway has swirled for several years, and Board chair Jay Fisette said the county is “exploring all options” on renaming.

Del. Mark Levine (D-45) disagreed with Favola, and said that in his opinion localities already have the right to rename primary highways. Fisette emphasized that no stone shall be left unturned.

“At this point, we believe we have multiple options, we’re just going to work them sequentially to do that,” he said.

The question of renaming Jefferson Davis Highway remains controversial. At the Board’s public hearing on its legislative agenda on Tuesday, local resident Bernard Berne derided a name-change as a “bad idea” that will stoke racial tensions and create division.

“It divides the community, and these historical things are part of our heritage. You don’t mess with it,” he said.


by Chris Teale November 2, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

The Arlington County Republican Committee led a chorus of condemnation after state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31) suggested Republicans are “evil” at a rally Tuesday night.

Speaking to more than 200 supporters at an Arlington County Democratic Committee rally alongside Democratic nominee for governor Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring — who is running for re-election — and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), among others, Favola said that if Republican nominee Ed Gillespie becomes governor, it will be “dangerous.”

“My colleagues didn’t tell you how dangerous it will be if the other sides wins,” Favola said in a speech. “They’re evil, we’re the good guys… Every one of you is an angel. You’re not only fighting for yourselves, you’re fighting for hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia.”

(ACDC posted a video of the entire rally on its Facebook page. Favola’s remarks begin just before the 31:00 mark.)

The use of the word “evil” brought swift condemnation from Arlington GOP chair Jim Presswood, who pushed back on Favola’s statement.

Senator Barbara Favola crossed the line when she said that Virginia Republicans are “evil.”  This language goes well beyond the realm of civil debate and demeans the moral character of Republicans.

Senator Favola and other Arlington Democratic leaders often talk about “Arlington values.” There are indeed many values Arlingtonians across the political spectrum share, including cultural and ethnic diversity, good schools, a well-run public transit system, and the need for public parks. But Senator Favola apparently does not include ideological diversity in this list. The term “Arlington values” should not be code for Democratic values.

There are many Republicans who live in Arlington — about thirty-thousand people in the county voted for the Republican Congressional candidate last year. Senator Favola needs to remember, even during a heated political campaign, that we are her constituents too.

In a tweet, Gillespie also condemned the comment.

Photo via Facebook video.

by ARLnow.com August 10, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Advanced Towing Lobbied Hard for Bill — Advanced Towing spent $10,000 on lobbyists and made a $1,500 donation to state Sen. Barbara Favola while successfully pushing for a state bill to override Arlington’s second-signature towing requirement. Supporters of the bill say it passed and McAuliffe ultimately signed it because it had the support of the business community. Advanced is one of the largest towing companies in Northern Virginia and has drawn the ire of many local residents for its ruthless efficiency at trespass towing from private lots. [NBC Washington]

Russian Military Jet Flies Over Arlington — Yesterday an unarmed Russian military jet flew over the Pentagon, CIA headquarters, and the U.S. Capitol “as part of a longstanding treaty that allows the militaries of the United States and Russia to observe the other from the air.” [CNN, Axios]

Arlington Still Hiring Teachers — Arlington Public Schools is still hiring teachers for the upcoming school year. “A total of 280 full- and part-time contract positions were unfilled as of Aug. 1… as the school system continues to process applicants,” the Sun Gazette reported. [InsideNova]

Uber, Lyft Make Mark on Local Restaurant Biz — Although readers were skeptical in a poll late last year, the Washington City Paper reports that Uber and Lyft are having a significant impact on the local restaurant industry, drawing customers from a wider area geographically than would have visited before the ride hailing services existed. It’s also bringing more customers to hot non-Metro-accessible restaurants. And it’s not just hipster-y D.C. restaurants drawing customers from around the region: Lyft said Clarendon’s Don Tito was its most visited bar in the D.C. area in 2016. [Washington City Paper]

by Chris Teale March 15, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

Syrian Refugee Blanket and Coat Drive (via Arlington County)A rally Saturday will teach attendees how to advocate for the region’s growing refugee population.

The Raise Your Voice! Refugee Advocacy Workshop and Volunteer Fair will take place from 2-4 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church (910 N. Oakland Street).

It is organized by a group called NOVA Friends of Refugees.

The event will contain three components: speeches by refugee and religious leaders; panel discussions on how attendees can influence friends, family and elected officials on refugee issues; followed by a session of advocacy through postcard-writing and a refugee volunteering fair.

Speakers will include state Sen. Barbara Favola; representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-8); Anne Richard, former assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration; Imam Johari, director of outreach at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church; Nadeem Khokhar, associate pastor at Floris United Methodist Church in Herndon; Ann Beltran of nonprofit advocacy group RESULTS; and Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University.

Earlier this year, Beyer and dozens of his congressional colleagues re-introduced the Freedom of Religion Act, in response to President Trump’s executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Previously, Arlington County has said it is ready and willing to help resettle Syrian refugees.

Those interested in attending can RSVP online.

by ARLnow.com January 25, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Minor flooding along Pimmit Run in Arlington after a steady rain

Abingdon Closed Due to Asbestos Issue — Abingdon Elementary, which is undergoing an expansion and renovation project, is closed today due to an asbestos incident on Tuesday. “This afternoon an error was made by one of the subcontractors working on the Abingdon Elementary School project who did not appropriately handle the removal of asbestos,” parents were told in an email yesterday. “As a result, since it was close to dismissal time APS Facilities staff immediately contacted the school to have all students and staff shelter in place in their classrooms to limit movement throughout the school for the remainder of the day.” APS will conduct testing to determine whether the school can reopen Thursday.

Graffiti PSA From ACPD — Arlington County Police is reminding the public that graffiti on either public or private property should be reported to the police non-emergency line, at 703-558-2222. “Graffiti is not a new problem in Arlington but something ACPD needs your help with,” the department said. ACPD’s Gang Unit reviews all graffiti reports. [Arlington County]

Man Charged With Secretly Filming Sexual Encounter — A former Oregon congressional candidate has been charged in Arlington with secretly recording a video of himself having sex with a 22-year-old woman in his apartment. Jim Feldkamp, 53, most recently worked as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, and the woman was a student there, according to news reports. [Register-Guard, KVAL]

Metro Workers Meet at Arlington Church — A group of Metro workers met last night in an Arlington church to discuss planned budget cuts and service reductions. Said one former bus operator: “Virginia should be outraged. This is going to cause of catastrophe. All of these cuts in Virginia, it’s already gridlock.” [WJLA]

Favola Gets in Knife Fight in Richmond — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) is speaking out against a bill that would make it legal for family members to give several types of knives — a switchblade, Bowie knife and a dirk — to children. Currently, family members can give kids guns but not those types of knives. “This is just bad public policy,” Favola said of the bill, which narrowly passed. “Why would you want to put our children at risk?” [Washington Post]

by Katie Pyzyk December 28, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

State General Assembly (via Virginia General Assembly)Arlington County’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly will hold its annual public hearing to discuss with residents the legislative priorities for the new General Assembly session that begins on January 11.

The public hearing will be held on Thursday, January 5, in the Arlington County Board Room (2100 Clarendon Blvd., #300) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Citizens can sign up on the night of the hearing to address the legislators. Each speaker will have up to three minutes.

“The direct participation of an active citizenry helps me represent the 30th District more effectively,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin. “I encourage and welcome all residents… to attend our delegation’s hearings.”

Some of the legislation on the 2017 roster that has been proposed by Arlington representatives includes:

  • Paid family leave, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola: Under this legislation, the Commissioner of Labor and Industry would develop an implementation plan for a paid family leave program.
  • Reporting lost or stolen firearms, proposed by Sen. Barbara Favola: This bill would require a person who legally possesses a firearm to report its loss or theft to police within 24 hours of discovering that it’s missing.
  • Same-sex marriage, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin: This legislation would repeal the parts of Virginia’s constitution banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.
  • Governor’s term of office, proposed by Sen. Adam Ebbin: This legislation would allow Virginia’s governor to serve consecutive terms. Currently, governors cannot run again immediately after serving one four-year term, but they can run again in a future election.
  • Firearm locks, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell: The bill would make it illegal to sell or transfer a handgun to anyone without the person being provided with a locking device for the handgun.
  • No-excuse absentee voting, proposed by Sen. Janet Howell: This would make it acceptable for any registered voter to vote absentee in person without having to provide a reason.
  • Required immunizations, proposed by Del. Patrick Hope: The bill would require children to receive an immunization for meningococcal disease (which causes bacterial meningitis) in order to attend school.

by ARLnow.com January 4, 2016 at 9:05 am 0

Crane from JBG's Central Place development in Rosslyn

Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.

Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]

Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]

Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]

Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]

Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]

Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]

by Heather Mongilio May 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm 0

State Senate candidate Barbara Favola

Three bills dealing with sexual assault on college campuses, championed by local state Sen. Barbara Favola, were signed into law by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe yesterday (May 28).

The bills deal with reporting of sexual assault occurrences on public college campuses. State Sen. Barbara Favola, who represents part of Arlington in Virginia’s 31st District, helped write the legislation, including a bill that required campus safety officials to be part of a threat assessment team formed after a student reports sexual assault. The establishment of a threat assessment team is required by Title IX.

Under Title IX, a federal law that deals with preventing discrimination based on gender, certain college administrators must report sexual assault to law enforcement. It is also part of the Clery Act, which requires schools publicly report crimes on campuses. The new laws will make it a state requirement as well.

Under the Favola’s amendment to the bill, a threat assessment team, which will include campus safety officials, has to investigate a sexual assault claim without releasing the name of the survivor. If the team determines that there is a legitimate threat to the survivor, it will then release the name to local law enforcement or a local state attorney if necessary.

The bill was originally authored by Sen. Richard Black, who represents Viriginia’s 13th District. The original bill, sparked by the Rolling Stone article about University Virginia, had campus officials report a sexual assault to law enforcement immediately after a report was filed, Favola said.

When campus administrators heard about the bill, they came to Favola for help. The officials told her they thought the bill would discourage people from reporting sexual assaults to the school because it would go to the police, she said.

Many sexual survivors have to process the trauma of a sexual assault, and some survivors do not want to report to police, Favola said.

The signed bill now allows survivors to have time to accept the traumatic event as well as get some counseling, Favola said. A second bill, also signed by McAuliffe, includes a memorandum of understanding, which helps survivors get counseling.

“I think we ended up in the absolute right place,” Favola said.

The bill is another “hammer” to make sure colleges do not sweep sexual assault reports under the rug, according to Favola. Sexual assault reporting has garnered national attention as the Department of Education opened Title IX investigations to look at how colleges handle sexual assault reports. As of May 13, there were 111 colleges on the list, including five Virginia schools, according to the Huffington Post.

Favola is not sure if reported cases of sexual assault will go up with the new laws in place. Some believe there will be more cases reported because the state government is trying to make the bill very public in order to ensure that students and colleges know about the new process.

Arlington’s Marymount University will be among the colleges subject to the new laws. Marymount reported two cases of forcible sex offenses on campus for 2013, in its 2014 Campus Safety report.

Favola says she’s not done with sexual assault legislation. She is now turning to prevention at colleges.

“As a parent, as a woman, as someone who’s been a part-time employee of a university for 19 years, our children need to be safe,” Favola said.


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