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Morning Notes

The overlord of N. Longfellow St. in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Socialists Hold Abortion Rally — From the Northern Virginia Branch of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America last night: “Fight, fight, fight! Abortion is a human right! DSA, La Colectiva, PSL demonstrate for abortion rights in Courthouse, Arlington.” [Twitter, Twitter]

‘Missing Middle’ Too Late? — “The former president of the John M. Langston Civic Association supports Missing Middle housing policies, but contends Arlington leaders are about a quarter-century too late for them to have a tangible impact. Speaking at a Juneteenth program June 23 at Central Library, Wilma Jones said any changes to housing policies, to allow a diversity of housing types in single-family neighborhoods, will have only limited impacts in communities such as hers, which already have seen major gentrification.” [Sun Gazette]

Parent: Daughter Bullied for Not Wearing Mask — “Over the last year, our child has been repeatedly bullied by multiple children because of her speech impairment. What was a minor speech deficit 2 years ago is now a significant problem. And a recent incident that started with bullying over her speech escalated into a physical attack because she was not wearing a mask and false assumptions about her vaccination status.” [Arlington Parents for Education]

Derecho 10th AnniversaryUpdated at 9:50 a.m. — From the National Weather Service: “It’s been 10 years since the June 29th, 2012, derecho impacted the Mid-Atlantic region. Widespread damage was observed across nearly the entire area. This included observed wind gusts up to 80-85 mph.” [Twitter, ARLnow]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Pastel colors in the skies over the National Mall during peak bloom weekend, as seen from Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Traffic Restricted on Deteriorating Bridge — “As a result of a bridge inspection today, Friday, March 25, engineers closed the existing southbound lane of the West Glebe Bridge between Arlington and Alexandria due to further degradation of structural beams.  The northbound lane of the bridge over South Four Mile Run will remain open, making the bridge one-way to traffic and requiring a detour for southbound automobiles. The bridge’s maximum load rating of 5 tons will remain in place with a critical need for heavier vehicles – primarily buses and dump trucks — to comply for public safety.” [Arlington County]

Graupel Covers Fields, Prompts Tweets — An ice pellet downpour covered the ground in parts of Arlington on Saturday afternoon: “Well that was wild… heavy downpour rain and graupel swept through near Clarendon.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The Story Behind the Pentagon Chicken — “The Pentagon Building Operations Command Center initially considered using on-staff pest control to capture the chicken. But the pest control staff wasn’t scheduled to come on duty for another hour. The Building Operations Command Center, or BOCC, then came up with the idea to contact the emergency number at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.” [Patch]

Bullying Incident at Middle School — “After a bullying incident involving her 6th grade son with autism, an Arlington mother asked the school board Thursday night to do more to create an environment where such incidents don’t happen to any child. On Friday both mother Kathleen Clark and her son Colton described what happened to 7 News, and Kathleen talked about changes she hopes Arlington Public Schools makes to help children better know how to relate to others who are different from them in some way.” [WJLA]

Seventh Grade Hoops Team Goes Undefeated — “An Arlington Travel Basketball girls teams capped an undefeated 16-0 season in the Fairfax County Youth Basketball League with victories in postseason tournament-championship games. The seventh-grade girls squad, coached by John Lomas, won the Division I championship game, 51-42, over Lee-Mount Vernon.” [Sun Gazette]

Lease Above Courthouse Metro Extended — “Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc. (CNI) extends federal services division office lease in Arlington, VA. Represented by Edward Saa and Timothy Jacobs, CNI Federal experienced explosive growth in the 2020-2021 government fiscal year in awarded contracts necessitating a 10,000-SF office presence to service customers.” [Press Release]

More Afternoon ART Buses — “More of a good thing: Midday frequency gets a boost for ART 52 and 75 bus weekday routes starting Monday.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Stabbing in Seven Corners — “Fairfax County police officers arrested and charged a 21-year-old Falls Church man after two men were stabbed just before 2 p.m. yesterday (Thursday). Police were called to Seven Corners at Arlington Boulevard and Patrick Henry Drive for an assault and determined a man was involved in two separate assaults that escalated when he stabbed both men, police said.” [FFXnow]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 37 and low of 28. Sunrise at 7:00 am and sunset at 7:29 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Wearing a clock as a necklace for turning papers in late. Carrying a hose stuffed with sand and rocks for losing a flag.

These were two “alternative learning opportunities” or ALOs that one instructor in Arlington County Fire Department’s Training Academy allegedly prescribed to former firefighter EMT recruit Brett Ahern in one week for mistakes that he made.

Two months ago, Ahern cited these ALOs as examples of how he was unfairly targeted by the instructor and set up to fail, according to an exclusive report by Hagerstown TV station WDVM. He told the news outlet that the way he was treated during the academy last year made him anxious and unfocused. Even after an investigation, he said the hazing continued until he failed two tests and was dismissed.

A 54-page Human Resources report, shared with ARLnow, indicates that the fire department investigated Ahern’s claims last summer. The heavily redacted report identified firefighters and recruits who observed that Ahern specifically was yelled at, taunted and tasked with ALOs that no other recruit was given. It also found that five other recruits were occasional targets of the same instructor.

ACFD told WDVM and repeated to ARLnow that it is committed to making changes to each subsequent class recruit class. At least one change has been made since Ahern — part of the 78th class — failed out of the academy. Recruit Class 79, which graduated in May, did not have alternative learning opportunities, according to Lt. Nate Hiner, the spokesman for the department.

“The Arlington County Fire Department makes improvements each Recruit Class, building off lessons learned from previous classes,” Hiner said. “The ACFD has discontinued the use of ALO’s, ensuring that any supplemental training focuses solely on refinement and reinforcement of proper skills, techniques, and procedures that recruits will utilize as firefighter/EMT’s protecting the community.”

Previously, Fire Chief David Povlitz told WDVM that if a recruit made a mistake during training, an instructor would make time for these so-called ALOs, which are “meant to reinforce learning and they have to be approved by high-ranking officers.”

But according to the newly-shared HR report, multiple witnesses who were interviewed during the investigation said that the two ALOs that Ahern was given during his “Hell Week” — wearing the clock and carrying the heavy hose — were beyond the pale.

One recruit said the hose in particular — punishment for losing a flag, or guidon — was “straight up bullying.”

“When [recruits] lost the guidon before, they were given the ‘ghetto guidon,'” one interviewee said, “but when Recruit Ahern lost the guidon, he was given” this heavy hose, which the speaker called “an impossible guidon.”

The report said other interviewees “opined that this ALO, although warranted, was orchestrated by [the instructor] to ‘break’ Recruit Ahern.” They added that “the ALO would have been handled differently had it been assigned to another recruit.”

Aside from these ALOs, multiple independent witnesses said the instructor was vocal about his belief that Ahern did not deserve to be in the academy, and that he would yell — or at least would raise his voice — at Ahern in front of his peers.

Five witnesses confirmed that the instructor had Ahern accompany another recruit who asked to retrieve his sunglasses. On their return, the instructor said the recruits were two minutes late and the class had covered “a lot of material.” He told the recruits that he hoped their next test would cover this missed information, adding, “I hope you f— fail it!”

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Morning Notes

Fall in Arlington National Cemetery

Wreath-Laying Ceremony — Among other observances of today’s Veterans Day holiday in Arlington is a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Air Force Memorial. The event will take place at 11 a.m., with a group of World War II and Korean War veterans on hand. [Twitter]

School Board Considers Gun Safety Measures — The Arlington School Board is considering asking the Virginia General Assembly for new legislation that would restrict guns around schools, although no one seriously believes that the Republican-controlled legislature would actually pass such a measure. [InsideNova]

Lee Highway Residents Debate Development — Arlington County’s planning process for the Lee Highway corridor has prompted many residents to come out against “overdevelopment” and taller building heights. The corridor is currently car-oriented, though neighborhoods like Cherrydale developed thanks to a former streetcar line. [WAMU]

Middle School Tourette Campaign — Williamsburg Middle School staff have created a Public Service Announcement ad as part of Bullying Prevention Month. The campaign, called “Accept Tourette,” is based around a seventh grade student at Williamsburg with Tourette Syndrome. [Arlington Public Schools]

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State Senator Barbara Favola (file photo)State Senator Barbara Favola (D) has introduced a bill in the Virginia General Assembly aimed at eliminating instances of bullying in schools.

The legislation defines the term “bullying” and requires school boards to prohibit students and school employees from engaging in any actions that fall under the definition. The bill also requires local school boards to implement policies and procedures for reporting, investigating and addressing acts of bullying.

The part of the bill defining bullying reads:

“Bullying” means any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma. “Bullying” includes behavior motivated by a real or perceived differentiating characteristic of the victim and cyber bullying. “Bullying” does not include ordinary teasing, horseplay, argument, or peer conflict.

The legislation requires each of the school boards around the state to add a portion to its code of student conduct addressing bullying by July 1, 2014. This would prohibit bullying in classrooms, on a school bus, on school property and at school-sponsored activities.

Each code of conduct must also be updated with provisions to protect students and school employees who come forward to report instances of bullying, and must allow the reporting individuals to remain anonymous. School administrators or their designees would be required to promptly investigate every credible report of bullying.

“Sen. Favola patroned this bill because she believes it is an important message to put language in the law to protect our children and create safe learning environments,” said Legislative Assistant Arlene Spinelli. “Studies demonstrate that when bullying takes place in the school environment, academic performance is impacted and suffers. This issue is a priority of the Virginia Education Association.”

The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the state Senate Education and Health Committee.

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Morning Notes

County Offering Grants for Runoff Projects — Arlington County is seeking local residents, businesses and homeowners associations interested in reducing stormwater runoff and pollution from their property. Using $80,000 received from the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, the county will offer cost-sharing grants to those who want to embark on runoff-reducing projects, like green roofs, rain gardens, conservation landscaping, infiltration trenches, cisterns, and pervious walkways and driveways. [Washington Post]

Arlington Teen Named ‘National Student Poet’ — Washington-Lee senior Luisa Banchoff, 17, has been named one of five 2012 National Student Poets, the “country’s highest honor for youth poets presenting original work.” [Patch,  Art & Writing Awards]

Library Recommends Books for Bullying — If your child is getting bullied, Arlington Public Library has some recommendations for books that can help him or her cope. [Arlington Public Library]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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How can students and teachers help reduce the bullying of LGBT youth in our schools? That’s the subject of a public forum to be held in Arlington next weekend.

The Northern Virginia chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is inviting all interested parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, residents and youth to discuss “what can be done to make schools safer for all students.” The forum is being held from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10, at the Unitarian Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd).

David Aponte, chair of the GLSEN chapter that’s organizing the forum, says that even in Arlington, bullying of LGBT students is a problem.

“We hear about it all the time,” Aponte said. “Luckily, here we haven’t had any cases… of school violence or anything like that, but we do definitely know there’s verbal bullying of LGBT students on a regular basis.”

Aponte says his organization tries to “give students the leadership abilities they need and the tools and resources they need so they can go back to their schools and make them safer.” The forum will also seek to engage teachers and figure out things they can do “to work with students to make things better.”

GLSEN is asking interested attendees to pre-register for the event.

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Morning Notes

Bullet Hit White House — Two bullets have been discovered on the White House grounds after Friday night’s shooting incident. Oscar Ramiro Ortega is wanted in connection with the shooting. The 21-year-old was stopped by Arlington County Police on the morning of the shooting for suspicious behavior, but ultimately he was photographed and released. Ortega might have been squatting in a vacant home in North Arlington. [NBC Washington]

County Board to Vote on Massage Regulation — The Arlington County Board is expected to vote over the weekend on whether to effectively deregulate the massage industry in Arlington. The industry was first regulated in the mid-20th century due to the use of massage parlors as a front for prostitution.

Police to Teach Teachers About Bullying — An Arlington County Police Department School Resource Officer will be educating teachers and staff at Yorktown High School about bullying today. Cpl. Jim Tuomey has developed a presentation on bullying and cyber-bullying that he hopes to eventually give at other schools around the county. [Arlington County Police]

Guas’ Favorite Cheap Eats — For its November issue, Southern Living magazine asked Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) owner and chef David Guas what some of his favorite “cheap eats” are in and around Arlington. Guas picked Lebanese Taverna (4400 Old Dominion Drive), Uncle Julios’s (4301 N. Fairfax Drive), Lost Dog Cafe (5876 N. Washington Blvd), and Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (6249 Seven Corners Center, Falls Church). [Southern Living]

Flickr pool photo by Mennyj

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Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) just released a new video for the It Gets Better Project, an initiative that seeks to give hope to bullied lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

In the video, Moran talks about his own experience with bullying.

“I’ve known an awful lot of bullies through my life,” he said. “It’s interesting that they all grew up to be insecure jerks who only seem to feel good about themselves when they were making other people feel bad about themselves.”

The congressman also talked about being shy as a kid. He recounted that he fainted several times during his first two public speeches.

“I told myself things have got to get better because they can’t get any worse, and they did, eventually,” he said.

Moran joins a long list of celebrities, athletes, public officials and everyday people who have recorded videos for the It Gets Better Project.

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Students are reporting more incidents of bullying at Arlington’s public schools, according to the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is expected to be officially released later this month.

According to the survey, which was summarized at a school board meeting last week, 22 percent of students surveyed said they have been a victim of bullying, compared to 19 percent in 2007 and 22 percent in 2004.

Twenty-seven percent of 6th graders say they’ve been bullied, compared to 22 percent in 2007 and 33 percent in 2004. Twelve percent of 6th graders said they were the victim of cyberbullying in the past year.

Bullying is most prevalent in 8th grade, with 28 percent of students saying they’ve been bullied.

Bullying becomes less common past middle school, the survey found. Twenty-one percent of 10th graders and 14 percent of 12th graders reported being bullied.

Among 6th graders, 27 percent reported having possessions stolen or damaged at school, 7 percent reported missing school because it “felt unsafe,” and 35 percent reported being involved in a fight. The results were all above 2007 levels, but below 2004 levels.

The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, which conducts the survey, concluded that more intervention is necessary to fight bullying, especially in 6th and 8th grade.

Among all grade levels surveyed, more students than ever said they believed that adults would help with their bullying problem. Seventy-six percent of 6th graders, 67 percent of 8th graders, 65 percent of 10th graders and 72 percent of 12th graders agreed with the statement “if I tell an adult about bullying, they will try to help.”

Last week two state legislators who represent parts of Arlington introduced bills to make bullying a crime in Virginia and to better equip public schools to protect bullying victims.

The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families declined a request from ARLnow.com to release the full results of the survey before the group briefs the Arlington County Board on Jan. 26.

Flickr pool photo (top) by Chris Rief

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Two local state legislators introduced twin bills today that would make bullying a crime and better equip public schools to protect bullying victims.

“Every child deserves to feel safe at school,” said Del. David Englin, a bill sponsor who represents parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County. “A child who doesn’t feel safe can’t learn well and live up to his or her potential.”

Another bill sponsor, Del. Adam Ebbin, cited the suicide of a bullied York County, Va. teenager as evidence of why the legislation is necessary. According to Ebbin, who also represents parts of Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax, the York County sheriff’s office refused to investigate the teen’s bullies because there’s no law on the books outlawing bullying.

“This is outrageous, it must be changed,” Ebbin said. “No student in Virginia should be afraid to attend school.”

Del. Ebbin’s bill, HB 1576, deals with criminal and civil penalties for bullying. According to a press release, it would:

  • Make bullying a Class 1 misdemeanor
  • Give victims the right to sue bullies who are sanctioned or found guilty
  • Provide for expulsions
  • Require that bullying causing injury be reported to the Commonwealth’s Attorney

Del. Englin’s bill, HB 1575, is called the Anti-Bullying Responsibility Act. According to a press release, it would:

  • Add more specificity regarding bullying, harassment, and intimidation to the codes of student conduct required of local school divisions
  • Require schools to have appropriate procedures in place to separate victims from bullies
  • Change teacher training in bullying intervention from an optional to a required part of in-service training
  • Require that incidents of bullying, harassment, and intimidation be reported to division superintendents
  • Hold school administrators responsible for implementing anti-bullying procedures outlined in local policies
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