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Morning Notes

A leafy entrance to D.C. on I-66 near Rosslyn

Halloween Bar Crawl Begins Discounting — Tickets for the Nov. 1 Halloween bar crawl in Clarendon are being discounted from $15 to $9 on LivingSocial. So far, 63 tickets have been purchased on the site. A police source tells ARLnow.com that ACPD is planning on having “a number of officers specifically detailed to Clarendon for the crawl and throughout the night until a little after closing time.” [LivingSocial]

APS Finds Ways to Make Kids Want Veggies — The Arlington School Board was flabbergasted to learn that the school system’s food services division has apparently found a way to make kids want to eat their veggies. The secret: creatively pairing veggies with other foods. For instance, while spinach alone had an anemic 8 percent selection rate, a spinach and strawberry salad was selected by 78 percent of elementary students. [InsideNova]

What Foreign Students Like About Arlington — A group of exchange students from Germany and Ukraine recently talked about their experience staying in Arlington. They said they liked Arlington’s Metro access and bike paths, and were impressed by how proud Americans are of their country. However, our food got mixed reviews: “The food, they said, tastes good but is ‘a bit unhealthy.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Open House for TJ Site Evaluation — The Thomas Jefferson Working Group, which is charged with evaluating the feasibility of a new elementary school near Thomas Jefferson Middle School, will hold an open house Saturday, inviting the community to “learn about the process, review site materials, provide feedback and ask questions.” A vocal group of residents has spoken out against the potential loss of parkland at the site.

Kudos for Crystal City’s Startup Scene — Southern Alpha, a website that writes about startups in the southeastern U.S., is impressed with Crystal City’s recent entrepreneurial push. [Southern Alpha]

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Exchange Student Host Dad Not Yet Facing Charges

The exchange student who accused her host father of taking nude pictures of her isn’t pressing charges, at least for now.

According to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, the girl was simply focused on getting back to her home in Germany, and has not wanted police involvement thus far. However, the possibility of her pressing charges remains, we’re told, and police continue to be in contact with her.

Police say the girl had been staying with a family in the Donaldson Run neighborhood before discovering nude photos of herself on her host father’s USB drive last month. ACPD declined to release extensive details about the case due to the girl being a juvenile and the police investigation continuing.

ARLnow.com has learned that the girl came to Arlington through the Program of Academic Exchange (PAX), which is a State Department-designated agency. PAX did not return our calls, but State Department Director of Media Relations Susan Pittman confirmed the agency’s involvement. She declined to provide any more information due to the ongoing investigation.

The State Department oversees the issuing of J-1 visas, which cover exchange students and workers. It vets certain organizations and designates them as sponsors for exchange programs. Participants in exchange programs must be sponsored in order to enter the country.

Should an exchange program participant come forward with something “untoward” happening during their stay in the U.S., the sponsor agency is required to immediately report the incident to the State Department. Because the State Department itself is not an enforcement agency, cases are often turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for investigation.

“We look over to make sure these people are actually enforcing the regulations that are there. If they’re not, it will be sent to the proper law enforcement authorities,” Pittman said. “We then make sure the participant is put into a safer environment. Safety is our overriding concern in all of this.”

While the State Department does not rate sponsors, designation indicates that the agency is compliant with all regulations and is in good standing. Pittman said should action need to be taken against offending organizations, there are different levels of sanctioning. However, investigations often indicate unfortunate situations can occur even when an agency closely follows all regulations and properly screens host families.

“While certainly there are some reports of some acts that may impinge upon the safety of the participant, it may not be the fault of anybody at the agency, it may have just happened,” Pittman said. “The number of incidents is really low compared to the number of people who come through.”

Last year, there were two State Department-designated agencies that brought 541 secondary school exchange students to Virginia. Pittman did not have information on how many incidents occurred last year, if any, requiring an investigation. She did say the number is consistently low and the State Department works to prevent and eradicate threats to safety.

“We are committed to identifying and eliminating potential threats and dangerous situations for students, and any participants, visiting the United States,” said Pittman. “Although the vast majority of the participants have positive experiences, even one negative experience is one too many. We work diligently and continuously to address all concerns and to ensure every participant in our exchange program has a safe and positive experience.”

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Dad Accused of Taking Nude Photos of Exchange Student

Police are investigating an Arlington man accused of surreptitiously taking nude photos and video of the female foreign exchange student his family was hosting.

According to a police report, the exchange student discovered the images of herself while she was trying to print out photos from her host father’s USB drive at a CVS store. The photos had apparently been taken through a window. The girl became upset and confronted the man, who then broke out crying, according to police.

The girl had been hosted at a house on the 2800 block of N. Beechwood Circle in the Donaldson Run area. After the incident she gathered her belongings, left the home and stayed at a friend’s house, before returning to her native Germany, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

Sternbeck declined to release the girl’s exact age or the school she was attending because she is a juvenile. The girl has not yet pressed charges and no arrests have been made, but police are continuing to investigate the incident.

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