A community meeting is being held tomorrow night to discuss a proposed development that would bring The Children’s School to the former Alpine Restaurant site on Lee Highway.
The Children’s School, a subsidized daycare center for Arlington County teachers, is planning to relocate as its long-time home — the Reed School building in Westover — is renovated and turned into a new elementary school.
A flyer for the meeting — to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lee Highway Alliance (4620 Lee Highway) — says a three-story building has been proposed for the Alpine site, which has sat largely unused for the past eight years.
“Two-hundred thirty-five children, aged 0-5, would be housed in a three story building that tapers at the rear towards the Glebewood townhouses, with rooftop play areas,” says the flyer. “Integration Station, which is a pre-school for kids with special needs, would also be part of the application (about 30% of 235 children).”
“Daycare would open at 6:45 a.m. and close by 5 p.m — not open on weekends,” the flyer continues. “The site is approximately 19,400 square feet. This is a by-right application under a use permit. The preliminary drawings illustrate an attractive, glass-paneled contemporary and playful design for the school.”
The site is owned by Arlington businessman Brian Normile, of BCN Homes and Liberty Tavern, and would be leased to The Children’s School, according to the flyer. The Children’s School would temporarily move to Ballston during the approval and construction process, it says.
The flyer lists “impacts to Glebewood Historic District,” green space and tree coverage, and parking — the plan calls for 40 mostly underground parking spaces plus drop-off spaces — as some of the issues for further community discussion.
Photo via Google Maps
Arlington County officials are seeking the public’s input on how to improve the accessibility and quality of childcare at a community meeting on Thursday.
The meeting is part of the county’s Child Care Initiative, which aims to promote the development of an inclusive, integrated child care system that serves Arlington County families, especially vulnerable populations.
A draft action plan created in December outlined ways to make childcare more accessible for all income levels. Recommendations included creating a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs and updating the county’s zoning ordinance to create more facilities.
At the meeting, officials will hear feedback before the draft plan heads to a county workgroup. Attendees will circulate through different stations to provide written and oral feedback. At one station, attendees can also give first-hand, personal accounts of their experiences with childcare.
The meeting will take place at the Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Registration is requested online.
Caitlin Hutchinson, an assistant director with the county’s Dept. of Human Services said Arlington County has a unique opportunity to enact policy changes that drive meaningful progress.
“We’re one of the few jurisdictions in the state in that we can enact our own child care code. We really have an opportunity to think about what we want to look like as a community,” she said.
In March, a 22-member Leadership Roundtable will review the revised action plan. A final plan is expected to come before the county manager and board in April. Implementation of recommendations will begin in late spring, county staff said.
The plan highlighted “significant gaps between supply and demand” for childcare. There are only 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but more than double the number of children under the age of five in the county.
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said the child care initiative is one of her top priorities this year. In a Jan. 2 speech, Cristol said policy changes are necessary to make childcare more accessible and affordable for Arlington County residents.
“I anticipate that some long-awaited steps will be before the Board soon, such as a potential re-examination of our local codes for alignment with the Commonwealth’s; potential zoning changes to increase the availability of affordable places for, and decrease barriers to entry of, childcare centers; and new partnerships to increase the supply of trained childcare workers,” she said.
In addition to attending the meeting, community members can share feedback by Feb. 2 in the following ways:
A long-vacant storefront on the first floor of a Clarendon apartment building will be used as a child care center.
The Arlington County Board on Tuesday (December 19) unanimously approved a proposal to use space at the Garfield Park building (925 N. Garfield Street) for a daycare facility called A+ Kids.
County staff said the space, Suite D, has never had a retail tenant since the building opened. It is around the corner and in the same building as the recently-opened Board Room.
The center will have space for up to 60 children, and comes after the official kick-off of the county’s Child Care Initiative to try and expand choices for daycare. A final number of children will be subject to review by the county’s Child Care Office and Inspection Services Division.
It would be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and use the building’s on-site parking garage to provide the required one parking space per employee.
The center will use some on-street parking spaces on N. Fillmore Street as a drop-off and pick-up zone, and make use of several existing parks as outdoor play space.
Board vice chair Katie Cristol praised the partnership between the various county departments to make the new child care center a reality in a previously unused space.
“It’s nice to see an otherwise unoccupied retail space going for this use,” she said.
A draft action plan on child care in Arlington County has found that it must be more accessible to all income levels, have more spaces available and have better quality and safety for all.
Among other things, it suggested developing a financial assistance program to help families defray childcare costs, updating the county’s zoning ordinance to encourage more facilities and supporting more professional development for child care providers.
The plan found that there are 6,984 licensed spaces available for children in daycare facilities, but 13,435 children under the age of 5 in the county. Of those, approximately 1,400 live at or below the federal poverty level.
It also found that some areas of the county — particularly in some southern neighborhoods — are underserved right now. In the last few months, the Arlington County Board has approved a slew of new daycare facilities, with one on Lee Highway the subject of a lawsuit brought by neighbors opposed to the new facility.
“There are indications from the community that there is a significant gap between supply and demand,” the plan reads. “Challenges to starting new child care businesses and expanding existing ones have also been reported.”
The draft action plan follows a study begun this fall by county staff. Under the fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee joined the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.
Yesterday (Tuesday), the county announced the launch of its Child Care Initiative, as well as a CCI Leadership Roundtable and a CCI Work Group. The Roundtable, a collection of 22 people with knowledge of local and state regulations, will meet each quarter, while the Work Group will meet each month. Both will look to refine the plan ahead of County Board approval in the future.
County staff will host a kick-off meeting for the initiative on January 25 at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
“We’re looking forward to opening the doors for a community conversation about how to achieve our goal of a childcare system that effectively serves and supports all Arlington County families. This draft action plan offers specific ideas and concrete steps to meet that goal,” County Board vice chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “We’re inviting everyone in to give feedback and help fine-tune this action plan, and to be part of the solution to the childcare challenge facing our families and local economy.”
Community members can share feedback in the following ways:
Wakefield Student Sang National Anthem — Wakefield High School junior Samantha Rios sang the national anthem before Sunday night’s Redskins-Raiders game. Rios, who previously competed on a Spanish language version of The Voice, was seen by a national TV audience as controversy swirled over players kneeling in protest during the anthem. [WUSA 9]
Officials to Compete in Trivia Battle — County Board Chair Jay Fisette, state Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope and former County Board members Mary Hynes and Joe Wholey will compete in a “housing trivia battle” next month, testing their knowledge of Arlington history, particularly as it relates to housing issues. [Arlington County]
Clement Blasts Daycare Approval — Independent Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement said in a new email to supporters that the current Board places the interests of developers ahead of that of residents. As an example, she cited the recent approval of a new daycare center on Lee Highway, despite concerns about traffic among some local residents. The approval “will likely engender cut through traffic on an adjacent one lane street off Lee Highway that has already experienced major traffic accidents,” Clement wrote. The daycare had the general support of the local civic association. [Audrey Clement]
Gun Control Group to Host Fmr. ATF Agent — The local chapter of the pro-gun-control group Moms Demand Action is hosting a special event on Wednesday, featuring a former ATF special agent. The event will include discussion of the “the challenges facing gun violence prevention.” It is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Shirlington Branch Library. Moms Demand Action had a booth at Clarendon Day this past weekend and signed up nearly 100 new volunteers. [Facebook, Medium]
Nearby: One Guy is Holding Up Development in D.C. — One persistent activist is holding up hundreds of millions of dollars worth of development in the District. Chris Otten has succeeded in delaying numerous developments by rallying a group of neighbors and filing court challenges. [Bisnow]
After hearing from residents and prospective providers, Arlington will formally explore ways to add child care options in the county.
Under the recently-approved fiscal year 2018 budget, a full-time employee will join the Dept. of Community, Planning, Housing and Development to suggest changes to Arlington’s zoning ordinance that would help child care centers open.
The County Board also directed $50,000 be spent on an independent study to determine gaps in child care offerings by age and location.
County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, an advocate for more child care options in Arlington, said zoning ordinance tweaks could be key in adding more centers.
“I am strongly of the opinion, having formed it from talking to a lot of providers or would-be providers, 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,” Cristol said. “It makes it very hard to find a space for rent in Arlington County that will actually meet the requirements.”
Cristol said the independent study, done in parallel to any work tweaking the zoning ordinance, should give more data on where the gaps in the market lie. WTOP reported in February that children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
“There are some things we know and there are some things that we don’t know, so we want to get a little bit more specific about where the geographic areas are where childcare is most lacking,” Cristol said. “We have some hypotheses about that but not as much data.”
The county’s child care ordinance could also be in for another examination, especially in light of Virginia’s statewide regulations not being revised upwards. Cristol said she had been hopeful of the Virginia Department of Social Services revamping its regulations around child care centers, and improving standards that she said could be “almost criminally low.”
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its own child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions, which were seen as overly-prescriptive. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
State officials decided at the end of last year to leave Virginia’s regulations alone, and while Cristol said Arlington’s continue to be tougher, a fresh look led by the county’s Child Care Licensing Office could help.
“I think after the version you saw in early 2016, which was roundly understood and emphasized by myself and other Board members to be a huge overreach, there are opportunities to look afresh at what are the high expectations that we have and want to communicate, and what do we actually require as a condition of opening a childcare center,” Cristol said.
The study will begin sometime after the start of the fiscal year, on July 1, while Cristol said she anticipated any zoning ordinances changes will come before the community and County Board in around 18 months.
Park Upgrades Approved — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Board approved contracts that will “upgrade the playgrounds and picnic shelter at Oakgrove Park and add a restroom/picnic pavilion and futsal court at Tyrol Hills Park.” The contracts total around $1.7 million. [Arlington County]
TJ Construction to Take Away Theater Parking — Construction of a new elementary school next to the Thomas Jefferson community center and middle school will mean a loss of parking for the community theater used by a number of local performing arts troupes. Those troupes, including The Arlington Players and Ballet Nova, will now have to decide whether to relocate to another community theater or stay and deal with the lack of parking. [InsideNova]
New Location for Children’s School Approved — Last night the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a site plan amendment allowing the Children’s School, a co-op child care center for Arlington Public School employees, to occupy two floors of a Ballston office building. The center is moving from an APS-owned building in Westover to make way for what’s expected to be a new elementary school. Some Ballston condominium residents expressed concerns about the child care center, primarily related to traffic; County Board member Christian Dorsey pointed out that the space it’s moving into was formerly used by a for-profit college. [Arlington County]
Ballston Profiled by WaPo — “With an array of amenities, it’s easy to see why Ballston is one of the area’s hottest markets,” says a real estate-focused profile of the neighborhood. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Parents were left frustrated on Saturday after registration for Arlington Public Schools’ Extended Day Program was beset by server issues for the second time in as many months.
Originally, the program’s registration portal had opened at midnight on March 1, but suffered technical issues and was closed indefinitely to be fixed.
APS reopened online registration at 3 p.m. April 1 for Summer School and the 2017-18 school year, but within minutes the system struggled with technical issues.
Several parents vented their frustrations on the APS Facebook page at the repeated technical issues.
“This was the issue a month ago and it is still not fixed,” wrote one. “Please provide additional guidance to parents (many of whom signed up the first time at midnight) on if we should continue to wait for the site to be fixed (now at 36 mins of trying) or try again later. It is the weekend and expectations should be managed.”
“Thanks for wrecking a Saturday afternoon,” wrote another. “It would be much appreciated if you would either offer a time frame or advise whether or not we should keep trying. You have a lot of parents feeling stuck and afraid not to keep hitting ‘refresh.'”
At 4 p.m., APS posted the following on its Facebook page:
UPDATE from Extended Day:
We greatly apologize for the inconvenience as the registration website is again experiencing issues. The developers are working to correct any issues and make the process faster.
Please send an email [email protected] with your student(s)’s name, school and requested sessions and we will process your registration. You will be contacted in the next few weeks with additional information.
But less than an hour later, APS posted to say the website “appears to be working now,” then again the following morning to “apologize for the inconvenience as the registration website experienced issues.”
There do not appear to have been any further issues with the website since.
Extended Day registration opens at midnight on March 1, meaning that those fighting for a spot in the popular program stayed up late trying to register — until APS finally notified parents that it was closing the registration indefinitely until the problems can be fixed.
The issues occurred less than 12 hours after the Arlington County website went down due to technical issues that affected numerous sites around the web on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the Extended Day glitch was related.
From a post on the APS Facebook page, published after 1 a.m.:
At this time we are aware of the server issues preventing families from registering for Extended Day services.
We are working to have the issues resolved as quickly as possible.
In order to allow all families the opportunity to register successfully, we temporarily suspended registration for Summer 2017 and School Year 2017-2018 until further notice.
We will provide an update tomorrow via APS School Talk and our website.
We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.
Here’s what one self-described “angry parent” said about the snafu, in an email to ARLnow.com:
If you haven’t heard, APS’ early registration system broke down last night. Registration began at midnight. If you don’t get in, you don’t get a slot for your child/children in the fall.
Every year, at midnight on March 1, working parents are forced to take part in this cruel system that requires them to stay up til midnight and beyond.
I was up until 2 trying to get on before giving up. So I’m at work today with only 4 hours of sleep. (APS expects me to deliver my daughter to school on time the next day.)
APS sent out a notice at 1:30 a.m. saying they will have to do it all over again.
I hope this incident sheds light on an unnecessarily cruel system that forces parents, who obviously have jobs to go to or they wouldn’t need aftercare, to stay up half the night hitting refresh buttons to make sure they have affordable aftercare.
“Please open registration at a reasonable hour,” another parent said in response to the APS Facebook post.
Locals who want to put their kids in preschool or daycare programs might have to wait for months before an opening appears. At Early Steps Bilingual Preschool in Lyon Village, the wait list for the upcoming 2017-18 school year is between 20 and 30 names long. And that’s fairly average, according to the preschool’s director, Michelle Clark.
“I have many parents who come to me before they have given birth who put their children on the wait list,” she said. “When parents ask me what the probability is of getting in, I tell them it’s kind of a strange science.”
What’s the problem? For one, says Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, there’s just too many kids and not enough daycare facilities. Cristol, who won her seat in 2015 after running on a policy platform that included child care, has long spoken out about the lack of affordable options in the county.
“Arlington has a child care supply problem, resulting, at least in part, from high commercial rents and growth in demand,” Cristol said.
The number of kids in Arlington vastly exceeds local availability. As WTOP reported this month, children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
But the supply problem isn’t only frustrating parents. In Cristol’s view, not having enough child care options can hurt the county’s prospects attracting and retaining young workers who either have a family or want to start one soon.
“Limited childcare supply creates not only personal strain on individual families, but also a problem for Arlington’s long-term economic competitiveness,” she said. “Our highly-educated young workforce is a key selling point for new businesses and organizations to locate, or existing organizations to expand, here.
Another issue is the lack of space for providers. Tatjana Vichnevsky, who heads the Full Circle Montessori School, said she’d like the county to rework the regulations that surround opening a new child care center. Specifically, Vichnevsky said rules regarding parking and green space at a daycare need updating.
“If you’re in Arlington and you want to open a school, not only do you have the state standards, but there’s also another layer of regulations and bureaucracy,” she said. “Just finding the space is an absolute nightmare.”
Arlington’s child care ordinance, Chapter 52 of county code, was last updated in 1981 and was primarily written in the 60s. In 2013, then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget-cutting proposal to adopt Virginia’s child care regulations and eliminate three county regulators was met with widespread parent outrage. The proposal was eventually scrapped, but attempts to update Arlington’s child care regulations have also been problematic.
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
Moving forward, Cristol said her goal will be to look for ways to “clear obstacles to, and support, the provision of more high-quality childcare in Arlington.”
She added that the county’s upcoming 2018 budget could be an opportunity to advance that priority.
“Strategies include more technical assistance to new providers as they locate and develop their small businesses, exploration of land use and zoning strategies to increase the number of commercial spaces available for rent by childcare providers and reduced regulatory burden while still protecting quality,” Cristol said.
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) A co-op child care center for Arlington Public School employees has plans to move to a new space in Ballston, possibly splitting it up from a special needs program it has long integrated with.
The Children’s School’s board of directors this week signed a letter of intent to relocate its program to 4420 N. Fairfax Drive for the 2017-2018 school year.
The relocation could separate the center from the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together at the Reed School building in Westover for more than 20 years.
The move comes months after a plan from APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building. Under the proposal, both The Children’s School and the Integration Station would likely have been displaced from their current home.
“APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit,” TCS board member Alec Strong said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS and Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help.”
The prospect of separating the daycare and integration program has worried many parents whose kids are enrolled in them. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting earlier this month.
“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent at that meeting. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”
In a statement given to ARLnow.com on Feb. 3, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.
“While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options,” the statement reads. “APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”
Read a release from TCS about the move below:
The Children’s School Board of Directors signed a letter of intent yesterday to relocate its program to a new location in Arlington for the 2017-2018 school year. This follows confirmation at a School Board meeting two weeks ago that Arlington Public Schools does not have any space during planned renovations of the Reed School for the non-profit program, which has served pre-school aged children of APS teachers since 1987, and special needs students in the Integration Station program for more than 20 years.
In a statement to ARLnow.com, APS said: “While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”
The TCS Board of Directors maintains that APS has never offered any space or location to TCS. “APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit. Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS & Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help,” said TCS Board Member Alec Strong.
In a January 30, 2017 letter to concerned Integration Station parents, many of who spoke at the School Board meeting in support of the two programs remaining together, TCS Director Naseera Maqsood said:
“As of Friday, January 27, 2017, we were informed (by Assistant Superintendent Leslie Peterson) in very clear terms that we need to find a new location. We were informed that there is no space at the Madison Community Center (technically an Arlington County property) and that no Arlington Public School grounds have enough space for us to put relocatables (trailers). Arlington County has also indicated that there is no space for us to use relocatables.”
“We want desperately to keep all of our children together,” Maqsood added. “As educators, we are committed to having our students in integrated classrooms. We will ensure that any space we seek to lease or buy will have room for the Integration Station students. Ultimately though, the decision to keep our programs together is in the hands of Arlington Public Schools, not The Children’s School.”
“We continue to hope and work towards some miracle that will allow us to remain on APS or Arlington County grounds, and to continue providing more than 150 affordable childcare positions to Arlington teachers and parents,” Maqsood added. “We believe this aligns with our shared values, legacy and the desires of the Arlington County electorate.”
Fairfax Drive photo via Google Maps
A plan to build a new educational facility at the Reed School in Westover has some parents worried for the future of a daycare and special needs program there.
Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced a renovation project to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building in Westover.
The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School , a co-op child care center for APS employees, and the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together for more than 20 years.
But the longtime collaboration may soon come to an end. Under the proposal, The Children’s Center and the Integration Station could be moved out of the building and separated from one another. Arlington Public Schools hasn’t yet announced a home for either one.
The possibility of separating the daycare and integration program has worried some parents whose kids are enrolled in both. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting Thursday evening.
“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”
One parent fought back tears as she urged School Board to keep the two programs under the same roof. She described how her son, who is autistic, benefitted from the Integration Station.
“Had he not received the level of special integration care from the staff, I’m sure he would not be where he is right now, which is attending a typical school surrounded by typical kids,” the parent said.
She continued: “Without TCS, the Integration Station is no longer possible and much of its value is lost… We ask that the board take concrete steps toward ensuring that the children’s school can continue to serve both the staff and the students of the Integration Station.”
— Sara Shaw (@SaraShaw7) February 3, 2017
In a statement given to ARLnow.com, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.
Everyone in Arlington knows that APS is facing a period of unprecedented enrollment growth that is creating significant demands on school capacity. Providing seats for the growing number of students in APS has stretched the capacity of our schools and our school sites. APS is working closely with the County and The Children’s School to explore viable options for relocation. To date, TCS wants to continue to pursue additional options beyond those that have been identified.
While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.
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.
She 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.
Although 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).
Crabb 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.
The incident was reported around 4 p.m. on Wednesday.
From an ACPD crime report:
PEEPING, 2016-11090200, 600 block of S. Carlin Springs Road. At approximately 3:57 p.m. on November 9, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. The investigation revealed that two unknown male subjects were seen photographing a child care center. A canvass of the area by responding officers returned with negative results. Subject one is described as a light skinned Hispanic male, approximately 30 years old, 5’8″ with a thin build. He was wearing a light gray hoodie with the hood pulled up. Subject two is described as a light skinned Hispanic male, approximately 30 years old, 5’8″ with a thin build and dark hair. He was wearing a royal blue shirt.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington County has taken a proposed update to its child care regulations off its website after County Board members called the inclusion of certain controversial provisions “troubling.”
As ARLnow.com first reported Monday, the most recent draft of the child care regulations would have required child care centers to encourage mothers to breastfeed and would have dictated what type of milk, juice and birthday treats could be fed to children, among other provisions.
That’s in addition to new staffing and employee education requirements that panicked the operators of small and part-time child care centers, who said such rules would put them out of business or at least drive up the cost of daycare and preschool programs.
“This situation, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s really the most troubled roll-out of a county initiative since the ill-conceived and ill-fated Public Land for Public Good,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “I really think that this is close to an unmitigated disaster. If our goal is to increase the supply and the affordability of child care throughout Arlington County, this in my view seems to do exactly the opposite.”
Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, said the creation of the new regulations is an “iterative” process that has been underway since 2014, with input from directors of child care centers and consultation from a Kentucky-based nonprofit association.
Despite what she described as a positive public outreach process, Friedman acknowledged that there has been “a lot” of negative feedback, particularly from owners of smaller child care centers and the parents who use them.
“There are some issues with the current version,” she told the Board. “In some places, I think, because some of the enthusiasm of the child care centers and our Arlington Way of striving for the best, we may have probably overreached in terms of the best practices that we want to incorporate in there, that don’t belong in the code.”
That didn’t satisfy new County Board member Katie Cristol, who included affordable child care as part of her policy platform. She called the inclusion of some of the provisions “silly season business.”
“At a time when we have young families leaving this county because it costs as much if not more to have your child in daycare as it does to pay rent… I think we have broader concerns than making sure kids have the absolute best environment,” Cristol said.
“This is really troubling to see this level of best practice conflated with code and with regulation,” she continued. “I am not comfortable inserting unbidden county government in encouraging anybody to tell a mother how to feed her child, whether that’s best practice or regulation.”
“Distraction is not a strong enough word for the real issue at play here. We have been hearing loud and clear from members of our community that this undermines trust in government. It exacerbates a sentiment that Arlington is hostile to child care centers and small businesses.”