Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Several parents with children in Arlington Public Schools have formed a group to address what they say are persistent racial disparities in the county’s school system.

The group, Black Parents of Arlington, shared a pamphlet with public data on issues like discipline they say show how APS students of color are being left behind. Together, the members plan to advocate for solutions and support other parents of color in running for PTAs and APS advisory positions.

“Yes we are happy to know that the majority of black students are taking at least one AP or IB class,” said BPA member Amina Luqman-Dawson. “However, it is really sobering to see that the pass rates are at 31%.”

Another area where disparities exist: standardized testing. The latest results from state-mandated Standards of Learning tests show disparities between white, Asian and multiracial students on one side, and black and Latino students on the other side, the Sun Gazette reported Tuesday.

Members said they were proud of APS’s high on-time graduation rates, but pointed out that APS data indicates only about 46% of black students earned advanced studies diplomas over the last three years — compared to around 82% of white students.

“We’re not looking for just passing, we’re looking for excellence,” said Luqman-Dawson, who lives in Shirlington and works with education policy and non-profits.

Another data set highlighted in the group’s pamphlet is the rate at which white youth versus black youth are entered into APS’s Gifted and Talented Program: 12% percent of black students in 2017-2018 entered the program, compared to 25% of white students.

“We are not only looking at how black students are being negatively stereotyped,” said Luqman-Dawson. “I think you’re also looking at how white students are being favorably viewed.”

In response, Arlington Public Schools acknowledged the issue and said it is continuing to work to close what it described as an “opportunity gap.”

“We agree that there is a gap that exists between student groups,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said in a statement today (Wednesday). “We have a professional commitment to close the opportunity gap, and this is a top priority for APS and the School Board.”

Bellavia said APS needed to make more improvements, but highlighted some the school system had made, including:

  • Increasing the graduation rate of black students
  • Increasing the pass rates of mathematics standardized tests for black students
  • Hiring a Diversity Officer with the fiscal year 2020 budget
  • The APS Mathematics Office holding four parent-teacher sessions for black families

The school system has previously faced scrutiny for its discipline rates, racist reactions to a diversity sign in Yorktown High School, and more recently, for backlash after a teacher unknowingly-planted cotton. In May, APS also signed a Department of Justice settlement over inadequate support for English-language-learning students and their families.

BPA member Sherrice Kerns, who lives in Penrose and works as a policy analyst, pointed out in a Tuesday interview that these findings mirrors national data about racial disparities in schools. 

“APS is certainly not immune to these sorts of disparities,” she said.

“This is not unique to Arlington,” agreed Bellavia in his statement. “School systems across the country have been addressing this challenge for a long time.”

Today, BPA’s members say they hope to work together on several problems, including:

  • Closing the achievement gap between black and white students
  • Making staff cultural competency training mandatory
  • Updating discipline policies to ensure black students are not excessively punished nor unfairly prosecuted

Members of the group all told ARLnow that they hope BPA can help advocate for other parents of color who don’t have time for nighttime meeting and advocacy. They also are seeking to boost membership in PTAs among black parents. The group is planning a cookout for parents interested in joining BPA on Sunday, September 8 at Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) from 3-5 p.m.

“One of the our goals is to bridge the gap between the parents who aren’t able to show up to meetings,” said Luqman-Dawson.

The members said overall they support APS, with several mentioning they moved to Arlington because APS was highly ranked and offered quality programs. But since then, Luqman-Dawson said it’s been “sobering” to see racial bias even at the schools as good as the ones in APS.

“It’s hard to send a child to school thinking that they are going to be victims, or going to be poorly judged,” she said.

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A county facility that serves people with developmental disabilities was spray painted with “an array of racial and gender slurs” earlier this week.

Staff members at the Woodmont Community Integration Center on the 2400 block of N. Fillmore Street discovered the hateful graffiti all over the building and a vehicle early Tuesday morning. Police were called and are still investigating the incident, an ACPD spokeswoman said.

The center shares the building, in Woodmont Park, with the YMCA’s Woodmont Gymnastics Center.

“When staff arrived for work on Tuesday morning, they found an array of derogatory words written across the outside walls and windows of the CIC,” a tipster tells ARLnow. “Similar words were also written adjacent to the main entrance of the YMCA (on the upper level), on several disabled parking signs, and a van.”

The graffiti has since been removed by county crews, but the center closed early on Tuesday due to the nature of the words, which were described by a county official as “derogatory” and “hateful.”

“We will be exploring additional measures to increase safety at the site, and the Arlington Police will continue heightened surveillance of the entire area,” wrote Arlington Dept. of Human Services Director Anita Friedman, in a letter sent to “families and friends of the Community Integration Center.”

The full letter is below.

Family and Friends of the CIC — Upon arriving for work on Tuesday morning, August 5th, staff noticed the walls and glass windows adjacent to the entrance of the CIC covered with an array of racial and gender slurs, as well as derogatory words targeting people with developmental and other disabilities. Similar words were also written on the entrance to the YMCA (upper level of the building), signs for disabled parking, and the MVLE van, which was parked in the main parking lot and used for the Arlington cleaning enclave.

The staff immediately contacted the Arlington County Police, which responded to the scene right away. This matter remains under investigation by the Arlington Police.

The Arlington Departments of Environmental Services and Parks and Recreation also responded to the CIC to begin the process of removing the hateful words from the glass windows and walls. Cleaning the glass windows was relatively easy; however, removing the words from the brick walls has been more difficult. We are hopeful to have zero physical evidence of the words by the end of the week, though it will take much longer for the hurt caused by such words to heal.

ServiceSource, in consultation with DHS staff, made the decision to close the program on August 5th to allow time for clean-up and to process the emotional impact on staff, which will be ongoing. We also wanted to minimize the exposure of such hatred to our participants of this program.

DHS staff trained in trauma and crisis management were at the CIC to support the ServiceSource staff and process this event. Lastly, the County Manager and Arlington County Board have been made aware of this matter.

I personally condemn this kind of hatred. It has no place in our community and will not be tolerated by our leadership. Our staff here at DHS are working closely with ServiceSource to ensure the continued safety of all CIC participants and staff. We will be exploring additional measures to increase safety at the site, and the Arlington Police will continue heightened surveillance of the entire area.

Thank you for continuing to entrust your son or daughter to our care along with Service Source as our partner. Please feel free to reach out to La Voyce Reid, Bureau Chief, Developmental Disability Services, with any questions or concerns you may have.

Ashley Hopko and Vernon Miles contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

Hospital Construction Starting Soon — “Around the time most local residents are firing up the grills for mid-summer barbecues, Virginia Hospital Center will be firing up the bulldozers as it moves forward with a long-awaited expansion. Hospital officials aim to have their land-swap agreement with the county government in place by the end of July, and ‘the plan is to begin construction shortly thereafter.'” [InsideNova]

Swastika in S. Arlington Park — “From a local Nextdoor group: someone drew swastikas on a sign board in Troy Park near S. Glebe Road. A parks department spokeswoman says the graffiti has been covered up and no other incidents of this kind have been reported recently.” [Twitter]

When To Report an Oily Sheen on the Water — “A rainbow sheen can result from iron-oxidizing bacteria or from petroleum. To differentiate, trail a stick through the film. It it readily breaks up, it’s most likely bacteria. If it swirls together, it’s most likely petroleum and should be reported.” [Arlington County]

When to Call 911 for a Medical Issue — “The Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) is initiating a public information campaign to help individuals, facilities and communities develop the know-how to ‘Make the Right Call.’ The effort aims to empower the community to help maintain EMS system readiness by learning appropriate utilization of the medical 911 system.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Gov. Ralph Northam continues to resist an overwhelming chorus of voices calling on him to resign his post today (Monday), including virtually all of Arlington’s Democratic leadership.

Northam, a Democrat, has experienced a dizzying reversal in his political fortunes since revelations late Friday that a photo of one man wearing a KKK uniform and another wearing blackface appeared on his medical school yearbook page.

The governor initially released a statement acknowledging he was indeed pictured in that photograph, leading to near-unanimous calls for his resignation Friday night. But in a hastily convened press conference Saturday afternoon, Northam reversed himself, claiming he is now confident he is not pictured in the racist photograph and that it was placed on his yearbook page by mistake.

However, Northam did confess to once donning blackface as part of a dance competition in 1984 while impersonating Michael Jackson. That admission, combined with his sudden reversal, only served to intensify pressure from party leaders that Northam must give way to his lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) was one of the few elected officials to stop short of demanding Northam’s resignation ahead of the press conference. But Arlington’s lone congressman released a statement immediately after the governor’s comments saying he’d expected Northam to resign Saturday, and instead wants him to go.

“Virginia has a painful past where racism was too often not called out for its evil. The only way to overcome that history is to speak and act with absolute moral clarity,” Beyer wrote in a joint statement with Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District). “It is for that reason that the governor must step aside and allow the process of healing to begin under the leadership of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.”

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey added that Northam’s explanations at the press conference “strain credulity” and urged him to step down as well.

“Even after giving him the benefit of many doubts, I was struck by his inability to accept responsibility and articulate any concrete steps to promote healing in our state,” Dorsey wrote in a statement. “Someone who has grown as Mr. Northam professes would have recognized that he has lost the confidence of so many Virginians along with his most ardent supporters… And Democrats and progressives, please don’t think that a Northam resignation cures what ails us. Our work to build systems that recognize the dignity, value and importance of all persons remains unfulfilled.”

Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) wrote in a newsletter to constituents that he doesn’t believe Northam to be a racist, but that the governor’s changing stories undermined his confidence in Northam’s leadership going forward. State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) expressed similar concerns, saying that an “important bond of trust has been broken.”

“What Northam said Saturday may well be true,” Levine wrote. “But at this point, how can he possibly lead Virginia?”

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner also issued statements pressing him to resign after the press conference, as has the rest of Virginia’s Democratic members of Congress. Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, the House of Delegates’ Democratic caucus, Senate Democrats and Virginia’s Democratic Party all issued similar demands after Northam addressed the media.

The Arlington Young Democrats wrote in a statement that they believe “Gov. Northam can no longer serve effectively and must resign immediately” after the press conference, while the county’s full Democratic Committee called for his resignation before it (and its Twitter account has since retweeted a variety of demands that he resign after he spoke to reporters).

The rest of Arlington’s state legislative delegation has yet to re-up their statements demanding Northam’s removal, but they unanimously supported their caucuses’ calls for the governor to step down in social media posts ahead of his press conference.

County Board member Katie Cristol also issued a similar statement Friday.

Beyer’s predecessor and longtime Rep. Jim Moran was one of the few voices defending the governor Sunday.

“I do disagree with their judgment because I think it is a rush to judgment before we know all of the facts and before we’ve considered all of the consequences,” Moran said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Northam said Saturday he’d consider resigning if he felt he could no longer govern effectively, but it’s unclear what would happen should he refuse to do so. The General Assembly could look to impeach Northam, though constitutional scholars are split on whether this controversy would rise to the level of misconduct required for impeachment.

Should Northam ultimately step down, Fairfax would become just the second African American governor in Virginia’s history, and its second youngest as well.

Virginia governors are generally limited to one term in office, but Fairfax, who was widely expected to run for governor in 2021, could be in the unusual position of filling out Northam’s remaining two years in office, then running for a full four-year term. Scholars are also debating the logistics of that matter, and just how Fairfax would find a new lieutenant governor should he ascend to Northam’s seat.

Photo via @GovernorVA

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Morning Notes

A Wall that Divided Arlington Still Stands — “The wall was erected in a section of Arlington County in the 1930s to separate black residents from white residents. And for decades, it did just that. It kept segregation intact by creating a physical barrier between an ‘us’ and a ‘them.'” [Washington Post]

Coming Soon: Happy Hour Advertising? — “A lawsuit filed against the state by a Northern Virginia restaurateur could be the motivation the General Assembly needs to change laws that restrict happy hour advertising.” [Virginia Mercury]

Demand for Free Pet Food Rises — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington says it has seen an increase in demand for its free pet food pantry during the government shutdown. [Twitter]

Resources for Furloughed Feds — Congressman Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) office has compiled a list of resources for those affected by the federal government shutdown. [Rep. Don Beyer]

Anti-NIMBY Legislation Proposed in Va. — “[Del. Jeff] Bourne and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, are pursuing legislation in the General Assembly this year that would explicitly prohibit local governments from denying permits for housing developments because of the expected race or income levels of the residents.” [Virginia Mercury]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) At a time when the country is still reeling from the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, ARLnow received another reminder that the kind of ideology that inspired the shooter is still very much active in the U.S. and a part of Arlington’s history.

The neo-Nazi group New Order, which formed in Arlington but is now based in Milwaukee, hand-addressed a mailing containing various flyers and Swastika-adorned propaganda to ARLnow.com’s former Clarendon office.

The mailing was sent from Florida prior to this past weekend’s mass shooting, according to the postmark. There was no explanation for why it was sent; Arlington Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey said no such mailing had been sent to the newspaper.

Among the flyers in the mailing was one advertising the “Lincoln Rockwell Centennial Anniversary.” Rockwell was born in March 1918 and assassinated at the Dominion Hills Shopping Center in Arlington on Aug. 25, 1967.

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Morning Notes

Local Investment Firm CEO Arrested — Todd Hitt, the founder of Falls Church-based Kiddar Capital, was arrested by the FBI and charged with securities fraud last week. Hitt was developing a new company headquarters in Falls Church. He made headlines as a young housing developer in the 1990s for clashing with Arlington neighbors while building what residents dubbed “McMansions.” [Tysons Reporter]

More White Nationalist Posters Spotted — A reader says he saw more white nationalists posters around Clarendon over the weekend. The reader, who wished to remain anonymous, says he removed the posters after photographing them. [Twitter]

New 1100 Wilson Blvd Rooftop — “Monday Properties hosted a VIP event for real estate brokers Wednesday evening to showcase the 6,200-square-foot indoor-outdoor space atop the 31-story building, part of the two-building The Towers. It is being unveiled as landlords in Rosslyn and across Greater Washington seek to up their communal spaces to appeal to tenants who increasingly want more than just office space to attract and hang onto employees.” [Washington Business Journal]

Bamboo Removal This Week — “Arlington County contractors will be removing bamboo in Benjamin Banneker Park during the week of Oct. 8. Depending on weather conditions, treatment is expected to conclude by Friday, Oct. 12.” [Twitter]

Maryjane Arrested for Car Theft, Weed — “Police caught a woman named Maryjane in Ballston who they say stole a car in Fairfax County — and they also hit her with a marijuana charge.” [Patch]

Windfall for Ballston Company — “Arlington-based AvalonBay Communities Inc. expects to clear north of $450 million from the sale of a majority stake in five Manhattan apartment communities.” [Washington Business Journal]

2000th Morning Notes Post — This is Morning Notes post No. 2000. ARLnow.com launched in January 2010.

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The Arlington County Fair says it will find a way to remove or cover an image that at least one fairgoer decried as “racist.”

The fairgoer tweeted an image painted on the “Monkey Maze” fun house that depicts a monkey with braids putting on lipstick.

“This is not OK at our county fair,” the man said in a tweet. “Racist caricatures don’t represent our values.”

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol agreed.

“This is awful,” Cristol tweeted in response. “We’ll connect with the Arlington Fair Board about this vendor.”

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the fair followed up with a pledge to take action.

“We appreciate you reaching out us,” the fair said via Twitter. “We are working with our ride vendor to ensure the image is no longer visible.”

Monkey Maze fun houses are used by other traveling carnival companies, though photos posted online show different illustrations on the front of the trailer. A Google search did not turn up any other references to the Monkey Maze and accusations of racism.

The fair runs through Sunday on the grounds of the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (125 S. Old Glebe Road).

Photos courtesy David Rosenblatt (photo illustration by ARLnow.com)

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(Updated Aug. 20 at 2:30 p.m.) An Arlington woman says she was weaving through the construction at the Ballston Quarter development when she saw something she could hardly believe.

Taylor, who requested that ARLnow withhold her last name due to safety concerns, was bound for the Sport and Health gym early Tuesday morning (Aug. 14), when she spotted a group of workers near the former mall’s elevators. One of them, she noted, had Nazi symbols tattooed all over his arms and neck.

“I was just surprised a company would allow their worker to wear a tank top with such tattoos on his neck and arms,” she told ARLnow.

When her workout was wrapped up, Taylor, who is black, made her frustration with the situation clear to a Ballston Quarter employee nearby. She then grabbed her phone and opened up Twitter to make it clear just how she felt about what she saw.

Because she mentioned the construction company overseeing the work at Ballston Quarter, Clark Construction, in the tweet she says she soon heard from the company that they were investigating the situation, but otherwise heard nothing.

Since then, however, the company says it determined that the man Taylor saw was an employee of one of its subcontractors at the site. A spokeswoman for Clark did not offer additional details on whether it could confirm what Taylor saw, but it seems she was not mistaken.

“Clark Construction became aware of a violation of its anti-harassment policy on a job site in Arlington, Virginia and immediately took steps to investigate,” Brian Abt, division president and CEO for Clark’s Mid-Atlantic region, wrote in a statement. “Clark engaged the subcontractor employee who was involved and has taken appropriate action to resolve the situation.”

A spokeswoman for Clark also did not clarify whether that action included firing or otherwise disciplining the employee involved.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Army-Navy Country Club Employee Alleges Supervisor Used Racial Slurs — A former golf cart attendant at the club claims that one of his bosses repeatedly used racist language to refer to him and former President Barack Obama. It seems the supervisor has been fired, and the club’s employees are receiving sensitivity training. [Falls Church News-Press]

Crystal City Hotel to Host Anti-Muslim Group’s Conference — ACT for America will hold its annual gathering at the Crystal City Hyatt this fall. The group has alleged that Muslims can’t be loyal citizens of the United States and held “anti-Sharia” marches across the country, prompting Muslim groups to call on the hotel to abandon the event. [DCist]

Man Accused of Indecent Exposures Around Rosslyn Previously Convicted in Alexandria — County police arrested Fairfax County resident Santiago Rodriquez Campos on indecent exposure charges Monday, and it seems he’s been convicted on similar charges in the past. Immigration officials also believe he entered the country illegally. [WJLA]

Arlington Police Chief Reviews Restructuring — Chief Jay Farr says all has largely gone smoothly with the county’s restructuring of the department to cope with a staffing crunch, which kicked off in May. The county even has its largest class of recruits ever currently in training. [Arlington Connection]

County First Responders Make a Special Delivery — Arlington medics were hoping to get an expecting mother to a D.C. hospital, but her baby had other plans. They made it to the Virginia Hospital Center in the nick of time. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk

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As white supremacists prepare to march through D.C. this weekend, on the first anniversary of last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville, an Arlington college student hopes to match every step they take through the city by raising money to push back on hate.

Allison Herrity, a Washington-Lee graduate and a rising junior at George Washington University, kicked off the “Stomp Out Hate Walk-A-Thon” ahead of the “Unite the Right 2” rally coming to the city Saturday (Aug. 11).

While the white nationalists participating in the event, led by many of the organizers of the deadly demonstration in Charlottesville, may very well be outnumbered by counter-protesters, Herrity and fellow GW student Kendall Keelen say they wanted to find some way for people across the region to show their opposition to “Unite the Right” without actually heading into D.C. this weekend.

“We see this as a way for individuals who are unable to protest physically for a variety of reasons to make it clear that the actions of these white nationalists are not okay, and will not be accepted here or anywhere,” Herrity told ARLnow via email.

Herrity, who grew up in Ashton Heights and still lives in Arlington, says the proceeds of the fundraiser will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization dedicated to monitoring hate groups across the country. Herrity and Keelen will accept donations of any size, but the online fundraising site they’ve set up gives people the option to donate “per step” that the rally-goers take through D.C.

They estimate that the group will take roughly 1,700 steps if all goes according to plan and they march from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to Lafayette Park. Herrity said she was inspired by people in the German town of Wunsiedel, who similarly donated money to an anti-extremist organization for every meter neo-Nazi demonstrators marched through the town.

“We would have done a per mile pledge, but the protesters will not even be walking a mile,” Herrity and Keelen wrote on the fundraising page. “But hey, carrying around all that hate must be exhausting.”

So far, the pair have managed to raise just under $1,000, and they’ve set a $5,000 goal for the effort.

Photo via MightyCause

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