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New Daycare Center in Courthouse Set to Win Permit

A new daycare center could soon be open for business for Courthouse.

The Merit School nearly has the final approval it needs to open up a new facility in an office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd.

The County Board is reviewing a use permit to allow the daycare company, an offshoot of a similar school in Woodbridge, to start operating in the space, and has approved several other child care facilities in the area in recent months. The Board has made the availability of child care in the county a particular focus over the last few years, and is still working on an overhaul of Arlington’s policies governing the facilities.

The 7,600-square-foot space could someday serve as many as 103 children, and includes a nearly 3,000-square-foot playground around the rear of the building.

According to a letter to county staff from the company’s managers, the facility “will be designed with separate areas designated for children by age,” serving kids from toddlers up to 12-year-olds.

The daycare center will have eight parking spaces reserved for its employees in a nearby underground garage, with another six saved for pick-up and drop-offs by parents along N. Adams Street.

The Lyon Village Civic Association raised a few “concerns about potential increased traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood,” according to a county staff report. But county staff ultimately decided to simply require the daycare center to make its parking rules clear to parents in advance, rather than forcing the company to make any significant changes.

The County Board is set to vote on the permit for the new facility at its meeting Saturday (July 14). Board members are planning to unveil their childcare changes in a July 24 work session.

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The Children’s School Advances Plans for Former Alpine Restaurant Site

The Children’s School is moving closer to finding a permanent new home, as it pushes forward plans to build a three-story daycare facility along Lee Highway.

The child care program for Arlington Public Schools employees is looking for a county permit to redevelop the space once occupied by the Alpine Restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway, marking the first formal proposal that the school would seek to build a a 27,500-square-foot facility on the property.

The Children’s School got its start in 1987 at the Reed School building in Westover as a childcare program owned and operated by school system employees, but APS’ plans to build a new elementary school at the site pushed the program elsewhere.

The co-op is currently operating out of a Ballston office building, and would look to use the Alpine site to expand its operations and serve about 235 children in total. Anywhere from 60 to 70 of those students would likely be part of the “Integration Station” program, which is reserved for kids with developmental or other disabilities, allaying initial worries that The Children’s School wouldn’t be able to maintain its relationship with the program.

The school is hoping to demolish the current restaurant on the property, then build a three-story facility complete with two outdoor play spaces and a one-level underground parking garage.

In all, there would be 42 parking spaces located on site, as well as nine extra spaces on an adjacent lot to serve the roughly 40 employees at the program. The building would also include a “covered drive aisle” to facilitate easy pick-up and drop-offs by parents, with hours running from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday.

The play areas, designed to serve kids from 2 months old to 5 years old, would be located on the second- and third-floor roofs of the property, and both will be enclosed by a 7-foot-tall mesh fence. Those will face away from the road and toward the residential neighborhoods behind the building.

County staff are recommending that the County Board approve the project, writing in a report that the program has managed to work up the right sort of plans to mitigate any potential traffic impacts along Lee Highway. The Lee Highway Alliance also endorsed the project in a letter to the Board.

Board members will consider the permit request Saturday (July 14) as part of the Board’s “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for non-controversial matters that are passed without debate.

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County Board Will Unveil Long-Debated Childcare Policy Overhaul Next Month

Arlington officials plan to unveil their long-awaited overhaul of the county’s childcare policies next month.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced those plans her first “State of the County” address today (Thursday) while speaking to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Crystal City. The overhaul is a substantial step forward in the debate over how to improve the availability and affordability of daycare in the county.

While Cristol said she was broadly “optimistic” about the county’s future, she stressed that the Board needs to take action to bring down the cost of childcare and ease the financial burden on working families. County leaders have been examining a “draft action plan” to tackle the issue since December, and Cristol says the Board plans to unveil a final product and debate it in full at a July 24 work session.

“For many families, child care can cost more than rent,” Cristol said. “In just a few weeks time, the Board will consider a detailed plan to address this… including a new set of land-use strategies, public-private partnerships and more.”

She noted that county staff and a host of community partners have been studying the issue since early last year, and will finally be able to present a path forward in some “granularity” next month.

Some items will be able to put into motion immediately, while others will require more Board debate, particularly if they involve zoning changes.

Cristol also stressed the childcare plan would be just one of the Board’s priorities as it moves into the back half of 2018. Following the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county convened to spark conversations among county residents, Cristol said she’s newly hopeful that the Board will be able to revisit its zoning policies to increase Arlington’s supply of market rate affordable housing.

Specifically, she’s interested in tackling the problem of the county’s “missing middle,” or homes available for county residents who might make too much money to qualify for dedicated affordable housing but still can’t afford detached single-family homes or high-priced luxury condos.

Cristol is hoping to find new ways to encourage the development of duplexes, moderately-priced townhouses or even “accessory” homes small enough to fit on another single-family home’s property. The county has already loosened its rules for such construction, known as “accessory dwelling units,” but she believes there’s more work still to do.

“We cannot lose sight of affordability as the fundamental challenge of Arlington’s future,” Cristol said.

She expects that the “overdue” kickoff of planning along the Lee Highway corridor, which the Board found new funding for this year and will start in earnest in the coming months, will have some role to play in that conversation.

Cristol would acknowledge, however, that the specter of Amazon’s arrival in Arlington hovers over any discussion of affordable housing or any other pressing issue in the county.

She declined to “break any news” on that front, but would say that she felt the county’s pursuit of the tech giant’s HQ2 “will make the county stronger.”

“Whatever choice Amazon makes on HQ2, it means the national spotlight has found our county,” Cristol said.

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Morning Notes

Action Coming on Child Care Initiative — “When it comes to addressing issues related to child care, “this is a year we’re looking to see some concrete action,” [Arlington County Board Chair Katie] Cristol said during a May 30 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Ridge Closures Continue — Daytime work will continue today on a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe, necessitating the daily closure of Arlington Ridge Road between Glebe Road and 23rd Street S. Rain and a leaking water main break slowed crews down last week. [Twitter]

County Board Primary Update — “The two candidates competing in the June 12 primary for the Arlington County Board are what voters might expect of a Democrat in the affluent, educated, rapidly urbanizing enclave — highly prepared, willing to get into the details of local issues and claiming fealty to the county’s tradition of careful, long-term planning.” [Washington Post]

GW Parkway Bridge Work Next Week — Work to repair a bridge carrying the GW Parkway over Windy Run in Arlington is scheduled to begin next week. The work will result in lane closures that could snarl traffic, especially when more impactful repairs start — likely in late July. [WTOP, InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Cherrydale Day Care Dispute Exposes Deeper County Board Rift

A neighborhood dispute over a Cherrydale daycare facility laid bare some deeper disagreements about the proper role of the Arlington County Board at the body’s Tuesday (May 22) meeting.

The Dalbir family day care, located at a home on the 3900 block of 17th Street N., was asking the Board for a permit to make what might seem like a minor change — instead of supervising five children at the home, its owners wanted to care for up to nine.

Yet that request touched off fierce debate on the Board, which only approved the permit on a 3-2 vote. Board members Erik Gutshall and John Vihstadt cast the dissenting votes.

The dispute largely centered around the day care facility’s impact on parking and traffic on narrow 17th Street N., just off N. Quincy Street. Some neighbors complained to the Board that the day care’s customers and employees have already caused real problems in the area, even before adding capacity for more kids.

The Cherrydale Citizens Association opposed the permit, though the day care — which has been in business for more than two decades, according to the county staff report — is not technically located within the civic association’s boundaries.

Gutshall and Vihstadt argued that those complaints demonstrated that the day care’s owners hadn’t done enough to work with their neighbors, and they supported deferring a vote on the permit. But the other Board members strongly disagreed that it was up to the Board to step into a dispute among just a handful of households.

“This is an issue for the neighbors to resolve among themselves,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Even very reasonable people can find themselves in disputes between neighbors. It happens across the county on a manner of issues, often related to parking and traffic. But that’s not the role of this Board.”

Vihstadt did acknowledge that it’s “difficult and awkward for us up here to be referees” on such parochial issues, particularly as the county looks to expand access to childcare. Cristol, in particular, has focused on the issue, though the Board has faced pushback from neighbors of other day care centers in recent months.

Gutshall and Vihstadt both urged their colleagues to take the complaints of people in the neighborhood seriously, noting that the Board previously deferred a vote on the permit in April to urge the owners to work with the community more closely to resolve these problems. (Between April and May the day care center made concessions that placated the first neighbor to contact the Board, but other households have since weighed in with their own complaints.)

“To add more density will only cause more trouble on an already troubled street,” Kathy Lash, who rents out a house next to the day care, told the Board.

Vihstadt also pointed to a letter from the Cherrydale Citizens Association echoing those concerns and lamenting that the day care’s owners have “a history of unpleasant interactions with affected residents concerning the operation of their day care.”

“Many different residents have reported that the provider’s family members have repeatedly yelled at, and occasionally cursed at, neighbors in response to their concerns about the operation of the business,” wrote Jim Todd, the civic association’s president.

Manbir Nahal, the son of the day care’s owners, told the Board that he had never heard such concerns from the civic association, and offered to meet with the group. Board member Christian Dorsey even argued that county officials shouldn’t be making decisions based on secondhand accounts of neighborhood arguments.

“They were just reporting what they heard,” Dorsey said. “We are not equipped to use that as a finding of fact with which to judge who has, or has not, been a good neighbor. It’s really beyond the point of what our job is.”

Gutshall pushed back forcefully on that point, arguing that it is “absolutely within the purview of this Board to examine whether the proposed use is consistent with good land use practices in a residential zoning district.” He added that he felt it was “incumbent on the applicant” to reach out to the civic association and assuage their concerns before earning the permit.

(Nahal said he exchanged emails with the civic association president but was unaware of the importance of meeting with the group in person.)

A majority of the Board disagreed that there were grounds to again delay approval of the day care’s request and a motion to defer for another month was voted down 3-2. Cristol, however, did urge the day care’s owners to meet with neighbors about their complaints.

As the county continues to grow in population, Board members acknowledged that this is likely far from the last time they’ll hear about such problems.

“This is just part of Arlington being really crowded,” said Board member Libby Garvey.

Photo and map via Google Maps

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Nearby Residents Voice Concerns About Proposed Courthouse Child Care Center

A proposed child care center in Courthouse is likely to be approved by the County Board at this weekend’s meeting, but it is not without some controversy.

Residents of the Woodbury Heights Condominiums have raised concerns about the proximity of the proposed Bright Horizons child care center to Arlington’s Homeless Services Center, according to the county staff report.

Several tenants of the Courthouse condominium building publicly opposed the homeless shelter prior to its construction due to safety and property value concerns.

The 24-hour homeless shelter is at 2020 14th Street N., and the child care facility would be at 2000 14th Street N. That’s a distance of less than 330 feet, according to a Google Maps estimate.

Pending approval, the child care center would also be near Ragtime restaurant, as well as Arlington County Police headquarters, the county jail and the county courthouse.

The center is slated to have a maximum permitted enrollment of 136 children, but the number could be set lower by Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services if deemed necessary.

County staff concluded that “the proposed location of the Bright Horizons child care center is not anticipated to cause an undue adverse impact on the surrounding community and will provide a valuable service at the proposed location.”

The report added that the site has adequate parking spaces and public transportation access. The child care center would convert 10,868 square feet of office space into child care use. An outdoor plaza would be converted into a 4,645 square foot outdoor play space enclosed by a five foot fence.

The Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association did not object to the child care center and several nearby apartment buildings did not respond to county staff’s notification, according to county documents.

The child care center would help with the county’s lack of available child care services. The shortage of child care options — particularly affordable options — relative to demand prompted the launch of the county’s Child Care Initiative in December.

Bright Horizons has agreed to operate from Monday-Friday from 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. The child care chain has three locations in Arlington already — in Rosslyn, Ballston, and Crystal City — and has dozens across the country.

Attempts to reach a current representative of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association were unsuccessful.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

County Focused on Child Care — “Demand for child care in Arlington is high and the County is working with business owners and families to meet the increasing needs. Preliminary steps also are underway to map out a comprehensive Child Care Initiative that establishes an action plan to advance the availability, accessibility, and quality of childcare in Arlington.” [Arlington County]

GGW Urges Support for Accessory Apartments — The website Greater Greater Washington is urging its readers to write to the Arlington County Board in support of two proposals: lowering parking minimums for buildings near Metro stations, and “reforming overly burdensome regulations on accessory apartments.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Yankee Stadium Operator to Run Rosslyn Observation Deck — JBG Smith has hired New York City-based Legends to run the public observation deck at the top of its Central Place tower in Rosslyn. Legends also operates Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, AT&T Stadium in Dallas and the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center. The 12,000 square foot Central Place observation deck will feature “an outdoor cantilevered terrace and full food and beverage program,” plus panoramic views. [Washington Business Journal]

Ballston Building Sells for $72 Million — New York-based property investment group Westbrook Partners has acquired the Two Liberty Center office building, at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, for $72 million. [Commercial Property Executive]

Ballston BID CEO on Redevelopment — Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone says changes along the Ballston corridor, including extensive renovations to the former Ballston Common Mall (now Ballston Quarter), are having a ripple effect. “This redevelopment has spurred on like 10 other projects here,” she said. “The face of Ballston is going to change again in the next three to five years, it’s going to look so different. I know it’s just going to be better.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reminder: No Parking Meter Enforcement Today — Parking meters in Arlington will not be enforced today, due to the Veterans Day observation, but meters will be enforced tomorrow. [ARLnow]

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D.C. Startup Compiles Hard-to-Find List of Local Daycare Options

A D.C.-based startup is helping parents find daycare options in Arlington County, even those not usually easy to find online.

Maternie, founded by Meghan McCarthy, describes itself as a service to “empower pregnant women and new parents with the best information on life’s most important decisions.”

And its Daycare Directory lists licensed child care providers in Arlington, Alexandria and D.C., including commercial and in-home daycare, some of which it says are “not easily found online.” The directory can be sorted by zip code, and will soon include information that used to require a phone call to determine, including pricing, operating hours, waiting lists and registration costs.

It lists 101 commercial and in-home child care providers in Arlington, sourced from state data obtained in September.

(On its child care website, Arlington County has its own lists of child care centers and in-home child care. The county’s lists appear to have more child care options than Maternie’s, but do not have the same level of detail Maternie is planning.)

In addition to its child care directory, Maternie offers quick guides on picking a health care provider, and will soon offer another on maternity leave. It provides expectant mothers struggling with “morning” sickness, disturbed sleep and heartburn guidance on symptoms, why they might be feeling that way and how to deal with it.

And there is also a section for women to anonymously share their stories of being in labor, with another to follow in the future about postpartum depression.

“This is a collection of stories from women in their own words,” the section on labor reads. “It includes the good, the bad and everything in between about labor and delivery. Nothing can quite capture the experience of giving birth, but hopefully these stories can demystify as much as possible.”

Images via Maternie

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Neighbors File Lawsuit After Board Approves Lee Highway Child Care Center

Two neighbors of a planned child care center on Lee Highway filed a lawsuit in Arlington Circuit Court this month to try and stop it opening.

The suit, filed by N. McKinley Street residents Francisca Ferro and Cornelius James Coakley who live right behind the property, is against the proposed Little Ambassadors Academy, which is planning to open at 5801 and 5901 Lee Highway. The Arlington County Board approved the plan at its September meeting.

Little Ambassadors, which already operates two child care centers on Lee Highway, is planning to open another facility that would have space for up to 155 children aged 20 months to 5 years old.

The center would be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and have its rear parking lot converted into an outdoor playground, while the loading area next to N. McKinley Street would be modified to have 20 parking spaces.

But in a complaint filed on October 18, the pair allege that the child care facility will negatively affect parking, traffic congestion and noise in the neighborhood, especially for local residents.

“The Special Use Permit materially impacts Petitioners in a way that is different from the impact on to the general public, by greatly increasing traffic and safety concerns in the vicinity of their residences as a result of the expanding the number of cars permitted to traverse and park in the area,” the complaint reads.

The complaint against the County Board and Little Ambassadors rests on four claims.

First, they allege that the Board did not give neighbors sufficient notice that a hearing on the planned child care facility would be taking place.

By law, those nearby must be given at least five days’ written notice, but Ferro and Coakley said they only heard about the hearing on September 14, two days before it was scheduled to be heard by the County Board.

Second, the pair argue that the County Board broke the Dillon Rule, which limits the power of local government by leaving it up to the state government to delegate powers to localities.

Third, the complaintants say that in having the county Department of Human Services decide on the maximum number of children that can attend, and by having the county Zoning Administrator approve the center’s parking plan, the County Board did not have the power to delegate those tasks and should have done it themselves.

Fourth, the pair also dinged the Board for an “unreasonable exercise of legislative function” in approving the center, meaning it should not have been approved, and said the center’s parking plan violates the county’s Zoning Ordinance.

Arlington zoning calls for one parking space on site for each staff member at a child care center, with one parking space also provided for every 10 children that attend. The complaint says the 20 on-site spaces and four off-site spaces do not add up to enough parking.

In May, the Board added a staff member to the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance to help child care centers open.

At the time, Board vice chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow that “our biggest obstacles are within the zoning ordinance in terms of the number of parking spaces required by childcare centers or the amount of indoor vs. outdoor space.”

No hearing date has yet been set for the case.

Photos No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 via Google Maps

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County Board to Weigh Buying Building For Head Start Program

Arlington’s Head Start program for low-income families could be getting a new home under a plan before the Arlington County Board this weekend.

Head Start, which provides early childhood education, health and nutrition services to low-income families, could be forced from its current building at 1800 N. George Mason Drive as early as next August. It currently leases space at the Edison Complex that previously housed behavioral health care offices in the county’s Department of Human Services.

The move is part of the terms of the county’s planned exchange of the Edison property for the Virginia Hospital Center site at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road, a plan endorsed by the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission.

County staff proposed the program move to a 15,649-square-foot space at 2920 S. Glebe Road, which would be bought by the county for just over $3.8 million and leased to Northern Virginia Family Service, which was selected by the federal government to run the Head Start program in Arlington.

County staff noted in its report on the plan that the price tag is higher than the $2.4 million that the property is appraised at, but the owner, GCP South Glebe LLC, is “unwilling to accept less than the $3.885 million purchase price.”

Staff projected it would then cost another $6.6 million to build out the property for use by Head Start, and construction would take a year and a half.

In recommending buying the building, staff said it is big enough for Head Start, is located close enough to the majority of families who participate in Head Start and has enough parking, among other positives.

In their report, staff noted the problems the county faces in finding facilities for daycare use, including the need for parking, an outdoor play area and a pick-up/drop-off zone for cars and other vehicles. They added that office buildings are expensive to lease and are “typically not good fits” for daycares.

The county is set to explore ways to add new child care options under the FY 2018 budget, including a full-time employee being charged with suggesting changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Wind meter (animated)

Traffic Lights Dark in Rosslyn — Due to power outages, several traffic signals at busy intersections in Rosslyn were dark during the morning rush hour. Police were stretched for resources as they tried to direct traffic and deal with wind-related issues elsewhere in the county. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington’s Child Care Shortage — “In Arlington, Virginia, Erika Gibson, child care supervisor for the Arlington County Department of Human Services, said most of the county’s 50 licensed care centers have waiting lists for children under 2.” [WTOP]

Grocery Association Coming to Rosslyn — On the heels of food and beverage giant Nestle’s announcement that it is moving to Rosslyn, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has announced it is going to move from D.C. to Rosslyn, leasing 34,000 square feet at 1001 19th Street N. [Washington Business Journal]

New 2017 Commission Chairs — The Arlington County Board has approved the new 2017 chairs of more than a dozen county commissions and boards. [InsideNova]

Obit: Bill Hurd, Jr. — Arlington resident Bill Hurd, Jr. died Jan. 27 at the age of 66 after “aggressive battle with prostate cancer.” The last decade of Hurd’s life was eventful: his first wife died in 2010, shortly after they moved to her hometown in Minnesota. He became active in the community there and was elected mayor. A native of Northern Virginia and a fan of politics, sports, cigars, dogs and Texas Hold’em poker, Hurd later remarried and in 2015 moved back to Arlington. [Legacy]

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UPDATED: Parents Say Son Kicked Out of Daycare for Wearing Dress

Crabb and Johnson's son wearing dress while cycling

Updated at 12:45 p.m. — The Arlington County Human Rights Commission contacted Crabb and Johnson minutes ago about their appeal, informing them that reasonable grounds do exist to support allegations of discrimination based on gender. The written decision notes that the “no long dresses” policy is not specific and there are “at least twenty-seven images” on the daycare’s website of girls wearing dresses, including some of similar lengths to the boy’s dress. The commission notes that the boy is the only child who has been disciplined over the policy and that Crabb and Johnson received no warnings or reminders about their son’s dress length. The commission says evidence indicates the boy was expelled as retaliation for his parents speaking up about their child’s dress being removed. The Arlington County Human Rights Commission’s Executive Director has been authorized to initiate “conciliation efforts” between the parties.

Earlier: An Arlington couple is accusing a local daycare of discrimination, saying their young son was kicked out for wearing a dress.

Kristen Johnson and Robin Crabb say their son had been wearing a dress to his daycare, the Arlington Children’s Center near Rosslyn, for several weeks when trouble suddenly broke out in November 2015. Arlington Children’s Center has not responded to ARLnow’s multiple requests for comment, but Johnson and Crabb shared their recollection of the events.

Johnson says last year she went to pick up her then-three-year-old son from daycare when she noticed he was not wearing his dress — which was in the style of Elsa’s dress in the animated movie “Frozen” — over his pants and shirt, as he had been when he was dropped off that morning. When her son said the dress had been taken off of him, Johnson questioned daycare employees about why that had happened.

At first she thought perhaps her son had gotten the dress dirty and staff therefore had to remove it. But staff told Johnson that the daycare center’s owner saw the boy wearing the dress and instructed staff to take it off.

“A teacher said [the owner] was irate when she saw my son wearing a dress,” Johnson says. “My son was essentially kicked out because he was wearing dress.”

She points out that although the boy had been wearing a shirt and pants under the dress because it was cold outside, the dress reportedly was taken off of him in front of the other children at the daycare.

“I said no one should take my son’s clothes off until they talk to my husband or myself first,” Johnson says.

An employee reportedly returned the dress to Johnson in a plastic bag but did not provide any additional information. Johnson requested to speak with the owner and staff said the owner would call her. Johnson says although she became angry at the lack of answers to her repeated questions about why the dress had been removed, she realized she wasn’t making progress and left the daycare without becoming disruptive.

Johnson says once she got home she called the daycare and spoke with the director. She recalls that the director also did not answer questions about the dress removal and told Johnson she would have to speak with the daycare’s owner. Johnson admits becoming frustrated at that point and hanging up on the director. “It was not my best moment, but I did it,” she says.

Boy wearing dressShe received a call from the owner shortly thereafter. The conversation quickly became “animated,” according to Johnson and her husband, Crabb, who joined the call when Johnson grew agitated. The couple repeatedly asked the owner if she instructed staff to remove the dress just because it was on a boy. The owner repeatedly stated that the center had a policy against long dresses for safety reasons. But Crabb believes the owner’s animated response to the questions indicates otherwise.

“If somebody violates a policy against long dresses, you don’t have an emotional reaction like that. You just say they’re not allowed to,” he says.

After more discussion about the long dress policy, the owner reportedly told the couple not to bring their son to the daycare again or employees would call police. The owner told the couple that the boy was expelled because of Johnson’s interactions with staff after discovering the dress had been removed.

Johnson says the expulsion is unjustified on those grounds because she was not inappropriate or aggressive with anyone, other than hanging up on the one employee. She says parents and staff who witnessed her at the daycare center on the day of the dress removal have attested to her appropriate behavior during the incident.

Children at Arlington Children's CareAlthough the daycare does indeed have a “no long dresses” rule, Crabb and Johnson say, they had never been warned that their son was violating the policy prior to this incident. Additionally, they say that the vague rule does not even state exactly where on a child’s body dresses are allowed to reach or what constitutes a violation.

The boy received the dress as a hand-me-down gift from one of the girls at the daycare. She reportedly had worn the dress at the center on more than one occasion without any repercussions. In fact, the girl was wearing the dress in a photo featured on the daycare’s website (above left).

Crabb and Johnson point out that the dress was longer on the girl than it was on their son; it reached nearly to the girl’s ankles but only mid-calf on the boy (above right). They say other girls also wore dresses longer than their son’s without reprimand, as seen in another photo from the center’s website (below right).

Children at Arlington Children's CenterCrabb and Johnson are certain their son was discriminated against for wearing non-gender conforming clothing and took their case to the Arlington County Human Rights Commission earlier this year. The commission investigated the case but did not rule in Crabb and Johnson’s favor.

A spokesperson for the Arlington County Office of Human Rights told ARLnow that all matters it investigates are confidential and it will not discuss them with anyone except the parties directly involved.

The commission’s ruling in the discrimination case was based on a number of factors, according to its final written report. One factor is that the parents did not inform the daycare that their son might have a “gender identity issue.” The commission also decided the dress in question was not related to his gender identity because it is a “costume dress,” and it cited insufficient evidence that the boy wore dresses outside of daycare.

Crabb and Johnson's son playing with childrenJohnson says she was never asked to provide such evidence or she would have submitted previously-taken photos of the boy wearing this and other dresses while at home and in public. The parents also do not believe they should have had to provide advance notification that their son may or may not identify with a gender other than what he was biologically assigned. Those are two of the points that prompted the couple to recently appeal the commission’s decision.

Because their son is so young — now four — Crabb and Johnson aren’t sure if he is yet expressing gender identity, but they want to support him regardless of whether he identifies as a male or female. Currently their son sometimes refers to himself as a boy and sometimes as a girl, Johnson explains.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, he’s four. But after this he had shame about wearing a dress, he would talk about it,” she says. “I think that’s insane that in this progressive area a daycare could do that to a child.”

She notes that part of the reason she chose to send her son to Arlington Children’s Center is its reputation and affiliation with the county; county workers receive subsidized child care at the center as an employee benefit. Johnson said that makes it even more surprising to her that the daycare handled the incident as it did.

Johnson says her son asked questions about why he couldn’t return to his daycare and felt such shame at being expelled that he didn’t wear a dress when he started attending a new daycare last year. That changed after about a month when the new daycare’s director told him he could wear a dress if he wishes.

“That’s all he needed, to know that it was okay,” Johnson says. “He had been empowered to wear it. And other kids in the class said they liked the dress.”

The couple is currently awaiting the Human Rights Commission’s decision regarding their appeal. They were told that if the commission reverses its original decision, then both sides will take part in a mediation to reach an amenable course of action. Crabb says he’s not quite sure if that would involve requiring the daycare to provide better staff training about gender identity or some other resolution.

“I don’t know what would satisfy us to make sure that other kids — and there will be other kids — aren’t subjected to the same thing,” he says.

Kristen Johnson and her son“Kids at that age don’t understand [gender expression],” Johnson adds. “But they will be more accepting if the adults around them are accepting of kids who are expressing themselves differently.”

Meanwhile, the couple wants to get the word out to other parents about the issue while continuing to support their son no matter what he chooses to wear.

“It makes me so happy that he doesn’t care what other people think,” Crabb says. “Occasionally we hear someone ask why he is wearing a dress and he doesn’t care.”

“There’s such a high rate of suicide for transgender kids,” Johnson says. “I know the possible harms [the daycare’s] actions could have done to our son. That’s why we are so passionate about having more education and having other members of the community know this happened. They need to know they have recourse to fight it because it’s not okay. These children don’t have anyone standing up for them except their parents.”

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Crime Report: Burglary from Child Care Center

Police car (file photo)An unscrupulous burglar was not thinking of the children when he stole items from a Rosslyn child care center early Monday morning.

The incident happened around 2:45 a.m. Monday. Police say a man wearing a brown coat and a backpack broke into the Rosslyn Children’s Center (RCC), at 1401 Wilson Blvd, and stole two laptops and a hard drive.

From this week’s Arlington County crime report:

BURGLARY, 151026013, 1400 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 2:45 a.m. on October 26, an unknown subject(s) entered the Rosslyn Children’s Center and stole two laptops and an external drive. The suspect is described as a male wearing a brown coat and backpack at the time of the incident.

RCC was in the news two weeks ago for its plan to move to a new location in Rosslyn.

The rest of the crime report, after the jump.

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 151027006, 4900 block of N. 28th Street. At approximately 2:44 a.m. on October 27, a verbal argument led to a 50 year-old male victim being assaulted by a known subject. The victim was transported to the Virginia Hospital Center with non-life threatening injuries. Matthew Kevin Mclaughlin, 39, of Arlington Va, was arrested and charged with malicious wounding and failure to ID. He is being held without bond.

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 151025065, 2900 block of S. Glebe Road. At approximately 6:40 p.m. on October 25, a 48 year-old male victim was struck in the head with an unknown object by two black male subjects. Both subjects were dressed in all black and one wore a black mask.

ARMED ROBBERY, 151022022, 4600 block of N. Washington Boulevard. At approximately 12:51 p.m. on October 22, an unknown male subject robbed a Sunoco gas station at gunpoint. The suspect is described as a black male with dreads, approximately 6’0″ tall and weighed 160-170 lbs. He was wearing a black long-sleeved sweater, blue jeans, and black shiny boots at the time of the incident.

ROBBERY, 151027068, 2800 block of S. Wakefield Street. At approximately 10:16 p.m. on October 27, two unknown subjects robbed a 7-11 and assaulted a 55 year-old male employee. The first suspect is described as a black male in his thirties, approximately 6’2″ and weighed 225 lbs. He was wearing a black zip-up hoodie, black sweatpants, black hat, black/red sneakers, and gloves. The second suspect is described as a black female in her late twenties, approximately 5’5″ and weighed 130 lbs. She was wearing a black puma sweatshirt, black leggings, and black sneakers.

ATTEMPTED BREAKING & ENTERING, 151022048, 2300 block of N. 9th Street. At approximately 10:00 p.m. on October 22, a male subject was seen attempting to enter a bathroom window of an apartment. Misael Montes Flores Zecena, 29, of Arlington Va, was arrested and charged with attempted breaking and entering and peeping. He is being held without bond.

ATTEMPTED BREAKING & ENTERING, 151023040, 1900 block of N. Fort Myer Drive. At approximately 3:00 a.m. on October 23, an unknown male subject was seen attempting to enter a pool lounge. The suspect is described as a white male in his early forties. He was wearing a white hooded sweatshirt with symbols, jeans, and white shoes at the time of the incident.

PUBLIC MASTURBATION, 151027049, 1100 block of S. Quincy Street. Between 2:45 and 3:30 p.m. on October 27, a 62 year-old male subject was seen masturbating in a window while allegedly watching children at a playground. Michael Howard, 62, of Arlington Va, was arrested and charged with public masturbation. He is being held without bond. It was learned during the investigation that Howard is a registered sex offender.

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 151024023, 2000 block of N. Washington & Old Dominion Trail. At approximately 11:32 a.m. on October 24, an unknown male subject was seen standing naked in the bushes on the Washington and Old Dominion trail. The subject is described as a Hispanic or Middle-Eastern male, with dark hair and a slim-build.

STOLEN VEHICLES
10/24/15, VA TX122105, 2007 Ford, Dark Blue
5500 block of S. Columbia Pike
10/26/15, VA 1303P, 2009 Genuine Moped, Mint Green
1600 block of N. 21st Street
10/26/15, VA 14052M, 2010 Taizhou Chaunl Moped, Blue
1200 block of S. Hayes Street

10/21/15
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, 151021020, 1800 block of S. Arlington Ridge Road
THREATS, 151021022, 1600 block of George Mason Drive
CREDIT CARD FRAUD, 151021024, 3800 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151021025, 2900 block of S. Glebe Road
VANDALISM, 151021026, 1300 block of S. Dinwiddie Street
FRAUD, 151021032, 1400 block of N. Scott Street
EMBEZZLEMENT, 151021033, 4000 block of Campbell Avenue
IDENTITY THEFT, 151021034, 4100 block of N. Henderson Road
PETIT LARCENY, 151021037, 2600 block of S. Columbia Pike
CREDIT CARD FRAUD, 151021049, 1400 block of N. Scott Street

10/22/15
GRAND LARCENY, 151022023, 1000 block of S. Hayes Street
FRAUD, 151022040, 1200 block of N. Lincoln Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151022042, 1000 block of N. Quincy Street

10/23/15
ASSAULT ON POLICE, 151023008, 2800 block of S. Edison Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151023039, 2700 block of S. Lang Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151023044, 2500 block of N. 20th Road
PETIT LARCENY, 151023052, 1000 block of S. Hayes Street
GRAND LARCENY, 151023053, 4200 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive
GRAND LARCENY, 151023056, 2800 block of N. Clarendon Boulevard
GRAND LARCENY, 151023063, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street
LARCENY BY FALSE PRETENSES, 151023064, 2200 block of N. Fairfax Drive
ASSAULT, 151023075, 5500 block of S. Columbia Pike

10/24/15
ASSAULT, 151024001, 2000 block of N. 14th Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151024002, 1100 block of S. Army Navy Drive
ASSAULT, 151024009, 3000 block of N. Wilson Boulevard
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151024013, 3800 block of N. 7th Street
ASSAULT BY MOB, 151024014, 2100 block of S. Randolph Street
GRAND LARCENY, 151024026, 900 block of S. Utah Street
GRAND LARCENY, 151024027, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street
GRAND LARCENY, 151024035, 2700 block of S. 19th Street
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, 151024039, 900 block of S. Veitch Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151024043, 5500 block of S. Columbia Pike
GRAND LARCENY, 151024044, 1200 block of S. Hayes Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151024057, 4100 block of N. 21st Road

10/25/15
ASSAULT, 151025005, 3100 block of N. Wilson Boulevard
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151025006, 3100 block of N. Clarendon Boulevard
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, 151025007, 3100 block of N. Clarendon Boulevard
LARCENY FROM AUTO, 151025034, 1500 block of N. Garfield Street
LARCENY FROM AUTO, 151025035, 300 block of S. Irving Street
TAMPERING WITH AUTO, 151025036, 200 block of S. Irving Street
LARCENY FROM AUTO, 151025037, 200 block of S. Irving Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151025050, 5800 block of N. Little Falls Road
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151025054, 900 block of S. Dinwiddie Street
ASSAULT & BATTERY, 151025062, 3100 block of S. Jefferson Davis Highway
LARCENY FROM AUTO, 151025063, 2100 block of N. Quebec Street
TRESPASSING, 151025064, block of Columbia Pike

10/26/15
ASSAULT ON POLICE, 151026007, 1700 block of S. Jefferson Davis Highway
PETIT LARCENY, 151026016, 2900 block of S. Glebe Road
LARCENY FROM AUTO, 151026017, 400 block of N. Nelson Street
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, 151026021, 4100 block of N. Vacation Lane
TRESPASSING, 151026026, 700 block of S. 18th Street
GRAND LARCENY, 151026028, 5200 block of N. Yorktown Boulevard
IDENTITY THEFT, 151026029, 5600 block of S. Columbia Pike
GRAND LARCENY, 151026030, 4000 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive
EMBEZZLEMENT, 151026049, 1000 block of S. Hayes Street
PETIT LARCENY, 151026055, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street

10/27/15
STOLEN PASSPORT, 151027008, 5600 block of N. Lee Highway
HARASSMENT, 151027012, 800 block of S. Greenbrier Street
IDENTITY THEFT, 151027018, unit block of N. Irving Street
EMBEZZLEMENT, 151027030, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street
GRAND LARCENY, 151027032, 2800 block of N. Glebe Road
PETIT LARCENY, 151027053, 1100 block of S. Hayes Street
PETIT LARCENY, 151027060, 700 block of N. Glebe Road
GRAND LARCENY, 151027062, 1000 block of S. Hayes Street
ELUDING, 151027064, 900 block of S. 1-395
LARCENY, 151027067, 3900 block of N. Vacation Lane

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Arlington Approves STEM Preschool in Fairlington

The site of the future STEM Preschool in Fairlington (photo via Google Maps)A new, 55-seat preschool with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math education appears on its way a stone’s throw from Shirlington.

STEM Preschool was approved by the Arlington County Board last night for a use permit at 3120 S. Abingdon Street, in the 74-year-old building once occupied by Frosty’s Heating and Cooling, next to Fire Station 7.

“We have a need in our community for daycare, for childcare,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said before the Board unanimously approved the application. “As we get more families, day care is a really important service to provide. I think this is going to be a great addition to the Fairlington community.”

The preschool is owned by Portia Moore, who owns P&E Babysitting, a service that caters largely to North Arlington families and has a five-star rating on Yelp. Moore started the babysitting business while she was a teacher for Arlington Public Schools. She taught for three yeas at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, one at Swanson Middle School and one at Patrick Henry Elementary School, in the preschool program.

Moore said she wanted to start a preschool focused on STEM education ever since she was getting her master’s degree from Marymount University and visited the elementary school programs at Ft. Belvoir.

“They have an amazing program there, with interactive labs with kindergarteners,” Moore told ARLnow.com this morning. “It was hands on, not just reading off the board. The children would learn through touching things and labs. It was interesting to me, and I thought younger kids could learn just like that.”

Moore said that there will be about 11 staff members trained in early STEM education, including a director with a master’s degree in early childhood education. She won’t be closing the babysitting business — “I think my clients would kill me,” she said — and she had hoped to be closer to her clientele, but said she fell in love with the space.

“There’s an outdoor play area in the back, and a lot of places in Arlington don’t have any land for that,” she said. As a requirement of her use permit, county staff mandated that the playground Moore plans to build is fenced in for the children’s safety.

Inside the school, there will be hands on activities to get the children to engage in STEM education, like plants, a butterfly garden to observe an insect’s life cycle and a “water table” to observe the phases of water. “Everything will be integrated,” Moore said, “the kids won’t just be doing science during science time, there will be math components, too.”

Now that the permit is approved, Moore said only building permits are left before construction can begin. She estimates the school will open on Jan. 20, the day after Martin Luther King Day. The center plans to operate 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. There are 15 parking spaces in the lot, but staff approved the site, pointing out nearby street parking is readily available for staff to use.

Photo via Google Maps

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Another Ft. Myer Childcare Worker Charged With Abuse

Yet another caregiver at a daycare center on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall has been charged with abusing children.

Va Nessa Taylor, 47, or Temple Hills, Md. has been charged with misdemeanor assault after military investigators found that she allegedly hit, pushed and withheld food from children between the ages of 18 months and two years. From a Department of Justice press release:

On Jan. 29, 2014, a CDC employee reported to a supervisor that Taylor had been observed withholding food from a two-year-old child during the facility’s lunch period. After this conduct was reported, officials investigated the allegations and conducted a thorough review of surveillance footage within the CDC. That investigation ultimately revealed four instances in which Taylor allegedly assaulted four children within her care by hitting and pushing the children. The children ranged in ages from 18 months to two years, and the observed conduct occurred from Nov. 26, 2013 to Jan. 29, 2014.

Based on the investigation, Taylor’s conduct did not appear to result in sustained physical injury to the children. Taylor was removed from her duties of supervising children on Jan. 30, 2014, immediately after her conduct was reported to the relevant authorities at JBM-HH.

The alleged assault happened at the Cody Child Development Center, the military’s largest daycare center, which serves the children of military and civilian families that work at the Pentagon, Myer-Henderson Hall and Ft. McNair.

It’s the third such incident of alleged abuse at the base in two years.

In October 2012 three childcare workers were charged with multiple counts of assault. In December 2012, nearly three dozen workers childcare workers were suspended after background checks revealed past criminal charges. In February 2013 the Cody CDC lost its accreditation after another childcare worker was accused of abuse after allegedly being observed hitting a child with a cushion.

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