The Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association filed suit against the Arlington School Board last week, alleging that changing the school’s name to “Washington-Liberty” was done unlawfully and is causing harm to the association.
The 48-page suit, filed in Alexandria federal court, can be found here in PDF form. Arlington’s current interim superintendent, former superintendent and former deputy superintendent were also named as defendants, in their official capacities.
In the suit, the Alumni Association alleges that school administrators “deceived” the public by conducting a “sham process” that was predetermined to remove Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s “prestigious” name from the school.
This is a case where politicians and their associates actively deceived their constituents, including the Alumni Association and its members, in order to deprive them of their opportunity to comment on changes that would greatly harm their educational reputations. Specifically, these politicians conspired to impose their own political values on the community by changing the prestigious, century-old name of Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty High School, without concern for the fact that the students and alumni would no longer have the prestige of the original name.
Defendants knew that the public would not support such changes, and sought to actively stymie public debate on this issue. To that end, Defendants repeatedly and falsely promised their constituents that there would be a lengthy comment period later in the year where members of the public could weigh in on whether the school’s name should be changed. Then, instead of providing the promised comment period, Defendants suddenly and without warning made the decision to change the school’s name.
Alumni were denied Constitutionally-protected due process by school officials, the suit says, detailing how dissenting voices were allegedly shut out of the name change discussion.
As a result of Defendants’ strong-arm tactics, three Committee members resigned in protest of the sham process. These resignations included two of the three non-Board-affiliated Washington-Lee alumni. As a result, the version of the Naming Committee that delivered the “recommendation” to the Board contained only one Washington-Lee alumnus other than the daughter of the former Board member who had campaigned for the name change.
Although Defendants had promised that this time period would be designed to facilitate public commentary, Defendants banned members of the public from making any comments at the Naming Committee’s meetings. Instead, public comment was limited to a suggestion box that only allowed very brief statements. Moreover, comments in that suggestion box were subject to screening by Defendants and their agents before the Naming Committee could see them. Ultimately, the Naming Committee rarely discussed any of the public suggestions, in contrast to Defendants’ earlier promises that this phase existed to obtain public feedback.
The suit claims that the Alumni Association is suffering financial and membership losses as a result of the name change.
These actions have greatly harmed the Alumni Association and its members by, among other things, causing confusion in the Alumni Association’s operations, causing the Alumni Association to suffer financial loss and a decline in membership, and causing the Alumni Association’s members to lose the prestige associated with the school’s original name.
The association might have to shut down if the name of the school is not changed back to Washington-Lee, the suit suggests.
W-L Alumni File Suit Over Name Change — “A local alumni group is filing suit in federal court over their high school’s name change. The Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association claims the public did not get the chance to weigh-in on the school board’s decision to change its name to Washington-Liberty High.” [WTOP, DCist]
Wrong-Way Driver Nearly Strikes Officer — “As officers approached the vehicle to investigate, they observed a handgun with extended magazine in plain view. The suspect disobeyed the lawful commands of the officers, placed the vehicle into drive and allegedly accelerated towards an officer. The officer quickly moved out of the way to avoid being struck and the vehicle fled the scene at a high rate of speed.” [Arlington County]
NPR Highlights W-L Esports Team — NPR’s All Things Considered profiled the Washington-Liberty High School esports club this week. Colleges are offering millions in scholarships for esports players, the segment noted. The W-L team was also profiled by the Washington Post this fall. [NPR]
New Credit Union Open in Ballston — “Northwest Federal Credit Union recently celebrated the grand opening of a new branch in Ballston… its ninth public branch and first in Arlington County.” [Press Release]
ART Switch Successful Thus Far — “So far, so good, as the Arlington Transit (ART) system has a new contractor settling in. ‘The transition to ART’s new service provider – First Transit – has gone well during the initial weeks,’ County Manager Mark Schwartz told the Sun Gazette.” [InsideNova]
APS Launches Superintendent Survey — “The Arlington School Board is seeking community input through an online survey to help shape search criteria for the next superintendent. The survey is now open.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by GM and MB
Arlington Woman Sues Moby Dick House of Kabob — “An Arlington woman is suing Moby Dick House of Kabob after a salmonella outbreak related to hummus made at least 17 people sick in Maryland and Virginia since September 10.” [WTOP, Bethesda Magazine]
Driver Cited for Striking Cars at McKinley Elementary — Per an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “At approximately 4:28 p.m. on October 3, police were dispatched to the 1000 block of McKinley Road for the report of a hit and run just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver of the striking vehicle hit three unoccupied parked vehicles in the parking lot. The driver of the vehicle was identified, the incident was determined to be a medical emergency and the driver of the striking vehicle was issued a summons for violation of Arlington County code § 14.2-17 Vehicle to be Kept Under Control.”
Arlington: Too Crowded for Some — Arlington has “grown crowded enough to prompt even deep-rooted residents to escape ever farther out to nature. Take my friends Tim and Beth Reese… They’re now ensconced on a 77-acre grow-your-own-organic-food farm a 90-minute drive out in Capon Bridge, West Virginia (pop. 371).” [Falls Church News-Press]
Fire Prevention Week Reminders — “It’s Fire Prevention Week, and this year the Arlington County Fire Department and fire departments across the country are working to educate their communities about the small but important actions everyone can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Amazon Opening Store in D.C. — “Amazon.com Inc. is preparing to grow its brick-and-mortar retail presence along one of D.C.’s growing retail corridors: 14th Street NW.” [Washington Business Journal, PoPville]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Local DJ Competing for World Championship — “Arlington resident Ross Volpe, known professionally as DJ Throdown, won the DMC U.S. Finals DJ Battle and will represent the U.S. on Sept. 28 in London at the DMC World DJ Championships.” [InsideNova]
Friday Fire Call at Ballston Harris Teeter — “ACFD on scene of the Ballston Harris Teeter for reports of flames coming from a seafood display. Firefighters on scene say it’s a malfunctioning refrigerator, per scanner. Expect emergency activity on N. Glebe Road.” [Twitter]
Broadband Provider Opens Office in Clarendon — “Boston-based Starry Internet, a new internet service provider deploying fixed wireless broadband, announced that it has expanded to Arlington, Virginia, with a new office space. The company’s 8,300-square-foot Virginia office is owned by Rooney Properties, and is located in the Clarendon neighborhood… Starry offers an internet-only product costing $50 a month with a 200Mbps download speed.” [Technically DC]
Employees Win Suit Against Fmr. Arlington Startup — “A group of former Trustify Inc. employees have been awarded $259,425.49 in back pay, lost wages and damages against the former Arlington private investigator company and its founder and former CEO, Danny Boice, according to a Sept. 4 order in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Tech Company Raises $2.5 Million — “Shift5, Inc. a cybersecurity company that builds hardware and software products to defend weapon systems, air platforms, and commercial transportation systems raised an additional $2.5 million in venture funding.” [PRNewswire via Potomac Tech Wire]
Memorial Bridge Construction Update — “Arlington Memorial Bridge is getting a makeover and some much needed structural support during its repairs… Adam Tuss got an exclusive look at the construction project on the Potomac.” [NBC 4]
ACFD Welcomes Retired Firefighter on 1,000 Mile Run — “On Saturday, September 14th, retired firefighter Justin Rowe will completed his 1,000 mile run from Maine to the Iwo Jima site (USMC Memorial) in Arlington. Tower 104 flew a flag to help welcome and congratulate him on this amazing achievement.” [Twitter]
Pence Visits Arlington, Again — Vice President Mike Pence again visited Arlington, this time the southern half of the county. The one-time Arlington resident gave a speech at an event for the “Alliance Defending Freedom” at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City hotel. As with his visit to Clarendon last week, the veep arrived via motorcade, accompanied by a sizable security detail. [White House, Twitter]
Arlington Company Facing Lawsuit — Employees of Arlington-based Evolent Health “have asserted in class-action lawsuits that the health care consulting company… has failed to pay them overtime for periods in which they worked more than 40 hours a week.” The company denied the allegations in court filings. [Insider Louisville]
Trans Events Coming to Crystal City — “An opening reception for people planning to participate in the [National Transgender Visibility March] will be held Thursday, Sept. 26, to be followed by a Friday, Sept. 27, Torch Award Ceremony in which prominent transgender and gender non-conforming leaders and activists will be honored. Both events will take place at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Blade]
Nearby: Serious Crash on Route 50 — Westbound Arlington Blvd was closed near the Arlington border Tuesday afternoon for a serious motorcycle crash and a subsequent Fairfax County Police investigation. The crash happened near the intersection of Arlington Blvd and Olin Drive in Falls Church. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
‘Lee’ Supporters Seek W-L Name Delay — “It may be a last-ditch attempt, but supporters of retaining the name of Washington-Lee High School are seeking a delay of a year to implement the change to Washington-Liberty. ‘There are multiple active legal actions working their way through various courts,’ said Dean Fleming, vice president of the Washington-Lee High School Alumni Association, in an e-mail to school leaders. ‘This is a very serious matter. It should not be taken lightly.'” [InsideNova]
Moran Donates Leftover Campaign Cash — “In the summer of 2018, congressman-turned-lobbyist Jim Moran was trying to recruit his former colleagues to put pressure on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Moran was doing so on behalf of one of his clients, the government of Qatar. And he had a pot of money, left over from years of donations to his reelection campaigns, that he could steer to his lobbying targets.” [The Daily Beast]
Makeshift Memorial for Career Center Employee — “Candles, flowers, balloons, and thoughts shared in the Penrose Giant parking garage lower level for Haley Garcia, the Career Center employee.” [Twitter]
Fast-Growing Amazon Divisions Coming to HQ2 — “The divisions heading to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters in Arlington are some of the fastest-growing in the company, according to Amazon’s latest quarterly earnings report. The company said Thursday its headcount is up 13% to 653,300 full-time and part-time employees… Amazon Web Services and Alexa — two of the three Amazon businesses that are HQ2-bound — are growing at a much faster pace.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Family Sues Metro for Va. Square Death — “A family has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), claiming negligence in the death of a man who lay down on the tracks at the Virginia Square rail station in July 2017.” [NBC Washington]
Jury Duty Process Starting Soon — “The Arlington Circuit Court… will soon begin its annual juror qualification process. Juror questionnaires will be mailed in early August to randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City.” [Arlington County]
Tech Company Relocating to Arlington — “Still fresh off of raising millions in venture capital funding, Amify Inc. is leaving Alexandria for a larger space in Arlington just a few blocks from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. The company, which markets, sells and ships products for other companies on Amazon, has signed a three-year lease with JBG Smith Properties to take over the Crystal City space that was last rented by Trustify Inc., an embattled tech company that’s now in bankruptcy.” [Washington Business Journal]
Plaque Proposed for Wilson School — “Gone but not forgotten. That’s the hope of historic-preservation advocates when it comes to the Wilson School in Rosslyn… Plans for an historic marker noting the school’s provenance are wending their way through the county government’s approval process.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Exec Tapped as Accenture CEO — “Accenture Inc.’s board of directors has promoted Julie Sweet, a Greater Washington executive who now serves as the company’s North American CEO, to the top job of global chief executive effective Sept. 1. Her ascension makes Sweet, based in Arlington County, the 34th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” [Washington Business Journal]
Nearby: Update on Flooded Commuter Routes — “After time-consuming repairs, the District Department of Transportation reopened Canal Road between Reservoir and Foxhall roads late Monday morning…. In McLean, a rain-swollen [Pimmit] Run undermined a large section of Kirby Road. VDOT said the work to repair the road and embankment will take weeks.” [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by John Sullivan
Arlington County Suing Opioid Makers — “The Arlington County Board has emulated nearly two dozen other Virginia localities in taking to court a large number of opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers, including some of the biggest names in the health-care industry.” [InsideNova]
HQ2 Affordable Housing Funds Going to Loudoun? — “When Virginia officials promised $75 million over five years for affordable housing in the wake of Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters announcement, Arlington officials assumed that those dollars would be split between the county and neighboring Alexandria. They were not thrilled to find out other localities might get a piece.” [Washington Business Journal]
Pedestrian Struck in CVS Parking Lot — “Police and medics are on scene of an elderly pedestrian struck by a car in the CVS parking lot on the 6400 block of Williamsburg Blvd. The victim reportedly suffered a broken bone and is being transported to the hospital.” [Twitter]
Discussing Nightlife Safety — “‘A Conversation about Nightlife Safety’ will take place on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m… The event will feature panelists from various Arlington County departments speaking about how they collaborated to build trusting relationships with restaurant staff and improve safety.” [Arlington County]
What’s in a Name? — At the Pentagon City mall, Panda Tea House is now bustling where Kokee Tea struggled last year. Was it the name change, or the addition of Thai rolled ice cream to the menu? [Twitter]
Photo courtesy @eugeneksoh
Amazon Talking to Unions — “Amazon.com Inc., JBG Smith Properties Inc. and union representatives in the D.C. region have met a few times in the last six weeks to discuss benefits and wages for the workers who will build HQ2 in Pentagon City.” [Washington Business Journal]
Changes Coming to Arlandria? — “For decades, developers have eyed Arlandria, the working-class neighborhood near Reagan National Airport where a transplanted Hispanic culture flourishes amid Northern Virginia’s upscale condominiums… Now, crime is down, the economy is humming, and Amazon is moving in virtually next door, with plans to hire thousands of well-paid workers, who’ll be in search of easy commutes.” [Washington Post]
Local Strategist Sued by U.S. Rep Raising Funds — Political strategist and Arlington resident Liz Mair is being sued by Rep. Devin Nunes, in a bizarre defamation suit that also names Twitter and two parody Twitter accounts as defendants. Mair is raising money for her legal defense. [Donorbox, Twitter]
Op-Ed: Nix Arlington Arts Cuts — “If the 2020 budget that Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz submitted to the County Board is implemented, it will prove to be devastating to the Arlington arts community.” [Washington Post]
Arlingtonians Help Save Bird — A pair of Arlington residents, including former Arlington Outdoor Lab executive director Neil Heinekamp, “came to the rescue of a distressed bird” found on a nature trail in The Villages, Florida. [InsideNova]
Kitchen Fire in N. Arlington High Rise — “Units called to 4300 blk of Lorcom Lane for oven fire on 6th floor of a residential high rise. Fire is out with minor extension to surrounding cabinets. Crews working to ventilate smoke and scaling back response.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Halal Butchery Controversy Continues — “Letter-writer compares proposed halal butchery in Alexandria to *slave auctions*: this is the same brutality…’ Even by the standards of Alexandria micro-controversies, the rhetoric around this thing is remarkable.” [Alexandria Times, Twitter]
The backers of a lawsuit seeking to preserve the name of Washington-Lee High School are working to keep their legal challenge alive, appealing the matter to a higher court after a judge previously struck down the suit on procedural grounds.
Three current W-L students are hoping to block the Arlington School Board’s decision to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from the building, arguing that the Board didn’t follow its own stated policies for renaming the building and ignored the community’s opposition to the switch. The Board first kicked off a process to consider a name change in August 2017, in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville and a nationwide reconsideration of the meaning of Confederate symbols.
Arlington County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman ruled in December that the students were barking up the wrong tree, noting that the Board broadly followed the community engagement process it laid out for the name change, and that state law doesn’t even bind school officials to follow that process to the letter, in the first place.
But the students, who are backed by a group of the school’s alumni working feverishly to preserve W-L’s name, were undeterred. Their attorney, Jonathon Moseley, told ARLnow that he’ll be appealing Newman’s ruling, even though the Board already voted last month to rename the school as “Washington-Liberty HS.”
“The judge took into account that [the School Board] didn’t follow all of their own procedures for the renaming, but he said it didn’t matter that they didn’t,” Moseley said. “I don’t like that idea, and I think it’s a pretty important issue that the courts need to address.”
Moseley expects that the appeal will head to Virginia’s Court of Appeals, rather than the state’s Supreme Court, though he’s still waiting on judges to sort out the details. He filed his notice of appeal in circuit court on Jan. 30.
Initially, Moseley had planned to simply amend his original complaint. Even though Newman struck down the students’ initial legal arguments, he gave Moseley until Jan. 9 to file revised arguments instead.
Court documents show that he missed that deadline, asking instead for Newman to issue a written explanation for why he blocked Moseley’s previous efforts and more time to consider next steps.
“I wanted more information about the judge was thinking,” Moseley said. “If there were no set of facts we could allege that showed the Board violated the rules, there’s nothing I could’ve added that would’ve been any different.”
But attorneys for the School Board pointed out in a motion that that request came “on the eve of the School Board’s vote on a new name for Washington-Lee High School” on Jan. 10, arguing it was “nothing more than a delay tactic.”
Similarly, Board attorney John Cafferky argued that Moseley “failed to articulate any legal authority” for a delay, urging Newman to toss out the case.
The judge proved to be sympathetic to those arguments. He ruled against Moseley’s motion in a Jan. 25 hearing, reasoning that the students missed their chance to file any revised claims and that the court no longer has jurisdiction over the matter.
That’s forced Moseley to appeal the dispute to a higher court instead, which could drag out the proceedings for months yet. He plans to have a brief ready supporting his appeal within the next 90 days, then the court will need to decide whether to take the case.
“It could be a year to a year-and-a half project if the appeals court decides it’s even going to look into that at all,” Moseley said. “They can do what they want.”
In the meantime, the school system is moving ahead with putting the building’s new name in place. Officials hope to have everything from signage to sports uniforms changed to reflect the new “Washington-Liberty” name in time for the 2019-2020 school year to start up in September.
Arlington officials could soon be headed to court to claw back $200,000 the county handed over as part of a since-canceled agreement to buy a two-acre property in Fairfax County.
The County Board agreed back in 2016 to buy several parcels of land along the 6700 block of Electronic Drive in Springfield, with plans to use the property as space for a new maintenance facility for its Arlington Transit buses.
But the Board decided to back away from the $4.65-million land deal late last year, after discovering that the county would have enough space for bus maintenance at another property officials bought in Nauck last summer. Not only did the Board hope to avoid operating a facility outside Arlington, but members expected the move would save the county as much as $10.5 million initially and roughly $900,000 in maintenance costs each year.
Yet the process could come with its own expenses. The Board voted unanimously last week to authorize county attorneys to pursue legal action against the property’s owner, Shirley Investors, LLC, to recover a $200,000 deposit the county sent to the company before the sale was finalized.
Deputy county attorney MinhChau Corr told ARLnow that she couldn’t discuss the details of the case, but that action by the Board does not mean a lawsuit pitting the county against the property owner is a certainty. But Corr did say it’s a sign that negotiations have become acrimonious enough that the county could pursue such a step in the near future.
“There’s some level of conflict that we anticipate could go to litigation,” Corr said. “But that doesn’t mean we’re 100 percent committed. The two sides could work something out before next month’s Board meeting, this just avoids us having to wait until then to ask for permission to file something.”
County court records don’t show any case involving Shirley Investors and the county as currently pending. Neither of the two men listed as contacts for Shirley Investors in the county’s preliminary sale agreement responded to requests for comment on the matter.
It’s unclear what sort of legal argument the county might mount to recover the deposit.
The terms of the land deal say that the county would’ve been eligible to win back its $200,000 if it called off the sale within 90 days of signing the agreement with Shirley Investors — that deadline is long past, however, as the agreement was signed on Dec. 7, 2016.
Furthermore, the agreement describes that deposit as “the sole and exclusive remedy available to the seller” if the deal fell through.
Photo via Google Maps