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Students listen to a speaker during a walkout from Yorktown High School (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A petition calling on Arlington Public Schools to ramp up education on sexual misconduct and healthy relationships has netted more than 31,000 signatures.

The petition targets Yorktown High School, where in October a homecoming football game was marred by “unacceptable behavior” by a group of students. Several Yorktown students reportedly harassed fellow students with sexual language, and one student told police she was inappropriately touched.

These events in part sparked walkouts at YHS and other high schools in APS across the county a few weeks later.

“To put in plainly, Yorktown has a problem with sexual misconduct,” said the petition authors, who are members of the Teen Network Board, a county- and APS-appointed teen advocacy group. “We are two of many concerned students who want to change the way the system works to handle issues such as sexual harassment and assault in schools.”

The student authors propose introducing two prevention and awareness programs at Yorktown, and possibly throughout APS. They call on YHS to “hold students accountable for their actions in schools” and to make reporting sexual assault and harassment to administrators easier.

As of Tuesday morning, more than 31,600 people had signed the petition. In an update to the petition on Friday, the authors said exceeding 20,000 signatures was “absolutely amazing,” as their initial goal was around 1,000-2,000 signatures.

In the update, the authors said they were meeting with Yorktown administrators Monday (yesterday) to discuss implementing their proposals at YHS. They said they reached out to Superintendent Francisco Durán and the School Board to discuss making the changes at a county level.

“Arlington Public Schools is aware of the petition, and we fully support and stand with our students against sexual harassment and assault in our schools and community,” Durán said in a statement sent to ARLnow. “We are also open and committed to the exploration of additional ways we can support students at Yorktown High School, and across the division.”

Together, APS and Yorktown staff and student members of the Teen Network Board will review current practices and consider their recommendations, as well as any additional steps needed to ensure every student feels safe, accepted and respected at school, he said.

Specifically, the petition recommends introducing Coaching Boys into Men and safeBAE. The first is a prevention-based education program for male athletes in which coaches educate players on how to have healthy relationships and be leaders in the community. The second would “spread awareness” about sexual misconduct and healthy relationships to the general student body.

“A lot of sexual misconduct in schools is caused by ignorance; often students don’t know what they’re doing is wrong. Education is key in preventing assault and harassment,” the petition said. “We want to make our community a safe and positive place for all students.”

Currently, Yorktown partners with several outside educational and advocacy organizations, such as Doorways and Project PEACE, that target intimate partner violence, according to Durán. The school holds assemblies to educate and support students and the Students Against Sexual Assault Club works to de-stigmatize and educate their peers about sexual assault.

He affirmed that Yorktown follows APS policy and procedures for responding to reported incidents of harassment or assault. He said all complaints are followed up on “with appropriate actions to prevent the behavior from happening again and provide the needed supports to students.”

“We encourage students to report incidents to a teacher, counselor, administrator or parent,” he said. “If a Yorktown student does not feel comfortable reporting in person, we encourage them to use the anonymous Student Safety Reporting form found on the Yorktown homepage.”

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Morning Notes

Another APS Sexual Harassment Incident — “The most recent case of sexual harassment being discussed on social media happened at Swanson Middle School. Students told their parents two weeks ago cheerleaders were being called sexual names and having their body parts touched inappropriately during the school day. The Swanson Middle School principal sent out a letter alerting families… Some say that was only revealed after the community caught wind of the incident which makes them now question — how many situations are not brought to light?” [Fox 5]

Two Libraries Reopening on Sundays — “The slow resumption of Arlington library hours continues on Oct. 31, when Central Library and the Columbia Pike branch will resume Sunday service for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Those two libraries will be open 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.” [Sun Gazette]

Tree Falls Near Wakefield HS — “First tree down across a road that we’ve heard during [Tuesday’s] windy weather… This is reportedly at 25th Street S. and S. Dinwiddie Street, a couple of blocks from Wakefield High School.” [Twitter]

Activists Decry Tree Loss from New Homes — “Arlington County Board members say they will take under advisement concerns that a quirk – critics call it a loophole – in the local zoning ordinance encourages developers to clear-cut certain lots to maximize the footprint of new construction out of proportion to surrounding homes. The matter was raised by activist Anne Bodine at the Oct. 16 County Board meeting.” [Sun Gazette]

More Trees to Be Removed from Water Park — “The board voted 5-0 on Oct. 19 to approve modifications to the plan for the waterpark (located at 1601 Crystal Drive and now being rebranded as National Landing Water Park) that will see seven additional trees removed from the site, while one tree that previously had been slated for removal will be retained… Removing these trees ‘is not ideal,’ acknowledged Olivia Sontag of the county government’s Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development, but staff concluded it represents a fair tradeoff for a package that includes the planting of 11 additional buffer trees.” [Sun Gazette]

Chamber to Help Teach Financial Skills — ” The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the launch of a new program to support early childhood education providers in partnership with 20 Degrees. The Early Childhood Financial Resiliency Accelerator focuses on teaching child care providers the business and financial technical skills necessary to maintain and to grow their businesses and on building a community of practice among child care providers. The program will be available at no cost to the participants thanks to support from Presenting Sponsor Amazon as well as the PNC Foundation.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

TV Station Broadcasts from Outdoor Lab — “The Phoebe Hall Knipling Outdoor Laboratory is a 225-acre facility in Fauquier County that provides a natural classroom for Arlington Public School students. The Arlington Outdoor Lab is designed to give Arlington students an opportunity to learn science, outdoor skills, arts, and humanities in a natural setting. Brian van de Graaf takes us to Broad Run, VA for a look.” [WJLA]

It’s Wednesday — 🍃 Today will be breezy, but less so than yesterday. It will start mostly cloudy, then gradually become sunny, with a high near 67. Northwest wind 13 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph. Sunrise at 7:30 a.m. and sunset at 6:13 p.m. Tomorrow, it will be partly sunny, with a high near 63.

Get the Morning Notes four hours early on most days (and get text alerts for urgent stories) by joining the ARLnow Press Club.

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(Updated 10/25/21 at 9:50 a.m.) Hundreds of students walked out of their classrooms this morning to take a stand against sexual assault and harassment in Arlington Public Schools.

Walkouts were held from 11 a.m. to noon at Yorktown, Washington-Liberty, Wakefield high schools, H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, and Arlington Career Center. The Yorktown walkout — held just two weeks after reports that a group of students yelled inappropriate sexual language and touched a fellow student inappropriately at a football game — trekked from the campus to nearby Chestnut Hills Park for a rally, then returned.

“It was so amazing to see so many people come out,” YHS student body president Sebastian Morales-Talero tells ARLnow. “Seeing them come out gave me hope that things will be better and that we can change as a community.”

He said another organizer was in tears over the show of support from fellow students.

During a speech by Scotney Young, a social worker and sexual assault prevention specialist for local nonprofit Doorways, many students raised their hands to indicate they’ve experienced sexual violence or know someone who has.

“It was really powerful to see so many students using their voices and actions to speak out against sexual violence and to demand more action from school administrators,” Young tells ARLnow. “Sexual violence thrives when there is a culture and system that allows and accepts it, and these students were saying they want to change that.”

Young said she conducts educational programming focused on giving young people the tools they need to have “respectful, safe and supportive relationships and interactions free from violence.”

Today’s protests were tied to similar ones at schools nationwide, according to School Talk emails APS sent to high school families last night (Thursday). In his email to families, Yorktown Principal Kevin Clark connected the walkout to the Homecoming game.

“While we do not have additional details about this activity, we understand that this is to raise awareness about the issue of sexual assault and harassment and ensuring appropriate responses,” Clark said. “While we know of recent events at the Yorktown Homecoming Football game, there have also been similar walkouts at other schools across the country recently.”

During half-time, a handful of YHS students allegedly used “inappropriate and unacceptable language of a sexual nature and inappropriately touched a student,” Clark wrote to students and families two weeks ago. A report of sexual battery was filed with Arlington County Police Department.

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Signature Theatre’s long-time leader is stepping down following allegations of sexual harassment.

The Shirlington-based theater said in a statement today that co-founder and Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is retiring at the end of the month. No mention was made of the allegations.

Over the weekend, actor Thomas Keegan resurfaced his assertion that Schaeffer repeatedly grabbed his genitals at a local 2018 award show. Signature said in a subsequent statement that the allegations were investigated and found to be “without merit.”

Keegan, however, said he was personally aware of at least one other person sexually assaulted by Schaeffer. Yesterday he posted screenshots of other accusers who reached out to him.

https://twitter.com/TheThomasKeegan/status/1275482385782575104

In a statement posted online at 2 p.m. today, Keegan said Schaeffer should have stepped down years ago.

Eric Schaeffer’s resignation is more than a decade overdue. As the #blacklivesmatter movement is proving, abuse of power is systemic, insidious, corrosive, and institutional. I believe that silence is complicity. The entire hierarchy of Signature Theatre, to include the board and people I once called friends and colleagues, has aided and abetted a sacrilegious abuse of power, criminal activity, and depraved behavior, in a theatre that good, hardworking artists call home. They have betrayed their patrons, their employees, and the artistic community. They should be removed and replaced by the next generation of theatre makers, honestly and transparently committed to creating safe spaces and pursuing our most pressing matter: racial justice and equity.

Signature, which is reported to be in good financial shape despite the pandemic and its money troubles six years ago, says it will now embark on a search for a new Artistic Director, with a focus on ensuring a diverse pool of candidates.

The full announcement from Schaeffer and Signature Theatre is below.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City to Grow With Amazon — “‘Amazon, and its 25,000 employees, coming to Crystal City will change everything,’ [Vornado Realty Trust Chairman and CEO Steven] Roth wrote in the letter. ‘Crystal City will become a teeming metropolis of apartments, shops and offices.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Couple Talks About Deadly Accident — “An Arlington couple is making a personal plea for a recall of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘N Play sleeper after their son died while laying in the product. Arlington parents Evan and Keenan Overton’s baby son Ezra died in the Rock ‘N Play sleeper right before Christmas in 2017.” [WJLA]

FLIR Moves to Pentagon Row — Infrared camera manufacturer FLIR Systems is moving its D.C. area headquarters to Pentagon Row, in the former LA Fitness space. The company recently announced an investment in a drone company and a large new DoD contract. [FLIR, BusinessWire, BusinessWire]

Confusing Signs Corrected on the Pike — A pair of seemingly contradictory direction signs on Columbia Pike, at the Washington Blvd interchange, have been corrected, county officials say. [Twitter]

Arlington Holds #MeToo Event — “On Wednesday, several Arlington County groups and Arlington’s ‘Project PEACE,’ held an event named ‘#MeToo: Being Men – Raising Men’ at the Arlington County Central Library. Lisa Tingle, the senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Fairfax County and Falls Church, said it is important to teach men about sexual harassment at an early age.” [WUSA 9]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) County officials are hosting an event this week about the #MeToo movement and how men and boys can stop sexual harassment.

The event is called “#MeToo: Being Men-Raising Men” and aims to create a “community discussion about masculinity and the role of men in addressing sexual assault and harassment in our community,” per a county press release. It comes at a time when officials say they’ve seen increases in requests for “sexual assault services across Arlington County… from police to advocacy and hotline to medical services.”

The event is the latest response from officials following a 2017 survey indicating as many as half the APS female students in grades 8, 10, and 12 have been sexually harassed at school.

The discussion will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Arlington Central Library Auditorium.

Officials from APS, ACPD and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office will speak at the event.

Also attending are representatives from groups dedicated to combatting sexual violence based in the county’s Department of Human Services, INOVA Loudon Hospital, and abuse hotline Doorways for Women and Families.

The event is a sequel to last year’s discussion, which was entitled #MeToo: What Men, Boys, and Everyone Need to Know.

Arlington County is planning several other events this month in honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Upcoming events include a poetry night at Metro Stage on Tuesday, April 16, and a rally at Gateway Park, near Rosslyn Metro, on Thursday, April 25.

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A community conversation regarding sex and violence is set to be held today (Thursday) at Yorktown High School.

The event, scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s Patriot Hall, will kick off Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in Arlington.

Entitled “#MeToo: What Men, Boys, and Everyone Need to Know,” the event will feature nationally recognized scholar and activist Jackson Katz as the keynote speaker. Katz is also the co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), an organization that has been running gender violence, sexual harassment and bullying prevention programs for more than 20 years.

Almost 50 percent of Arlington Public School female students in grades 8, 10 and 12 report that they have been sexually harassed while at school, according to the Arlington 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Other community leaders will also be in attendance, including Arlington Chief of Police Jay Farr, County Board Chair Katie Crisol and Theo Stamos, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church. Middle and high school students as well as adults are encouraged to attend.

Arlington’s Project PEACE is hosting the event in partnership with INOVA Fairfax Hospital and Arlington Public Schools. Project PEACE, which stands for Partnering to End Abuse in the Community for Everyone, is a community educational initiative to end domestic and sexual violence in the county.

Photo via APS

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Morning Notes

More on Hit-and-Run Suspect Arrest — A lobbyist known for his promotion of conspiracy theories, particularly theories about the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich, says he was the victim of an incident that led to the arrest of a man in Fairlington on Saturday. Jack Burkman says the suspect, Kevin Doherty, shot him twice and tried to run him over with an SUV in the parking garage of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn. [Washington Post]

Isabella Sued for Sexual Harassment — “Celebrity chef Mike Isabella, the head of a $30 million culinary empire based in the nation’s capital, was sued Monday by a former top manager who claims that Isabella and his partners repeatedly sexually harassed her in the workplace… [The plaintiff] told The Post she joined Isabella’s company as a regional manager in 2015, helping to open his three Arlington, Va., properties.” [Washington Post]

Sprynt to Reopen for Season — Local free ride service Sprynt will be reopening for the season “in a few weeks,” according to founder Alex Villanueva. One of the company’s electric vehicles was seen parked in Clarendon last night with a “now hiring” sign on it. [Twitter]

Hotel Company Moving HQ to Crystal City — Interstate Hotels and Resorts is moving its headquarters from Ballston to Crystal City, per a press release. The company is leasing 35,000 square feet at 2011 Crystal Drive. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

ARLnow’s Eighth Birthday — Today is the eighth anniversary of the founding of ARLnow.com. Here is our first post ever.

Sexual Harassment FOIA Folo — In a follow-up to our FOIA request seeking any records of sexual harassment or assault allegations against senior Arlington officials since 2000 — no such records were found — we asked about any such cases, against any county employee, that were handled by the County Attorney’s office over the past decade. The response from the county’s FOIA officer: “There are no records responsive to your request because no such cases exist.” The last publicly reported case was that against an Arlington police officer in 2007.

Vihstadt Launches Re-election Bid — Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt made it official last night: he is running for re-election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has picked up at least one Democratic challenger so far. However, he again has the backing of a number of prominent Democrats, including fellow Board member Libby Garvey, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Treasurer Carla de la Pava. [InsideNova]

County Accepts Millions in Grant Funds — “The Arlington County Board today accepted $17.85 million in grant funding from three transportation entities that will be used for transit, bridge renovation and transportation capital projects in the County.” Among the projects is a new west entrance for the Ballston Metro station. [Arlington County]

County Board Accepts Immigration Donation — “The Arlington County Board today accepted a resident’s anonymous donation for a Citizenship Scholarship to help Arlingtonians pay the $725 federal application fee charged to those seeking to become U.S. citizens.” [Arlington County]

Man Convicted of 7-Eleven Robberies — A man arrested last year for a string of robberies has been convicted by a federal jury of three armed robberies and an armed carjacking. Among the crimes were two armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores in Arlington. [Alexandria News]

Arlington Lauded for Solar Program — The U.S. Department of Energy has named Arlington County a “SolSmart” community “for making it faster, easier and more affordable for Arlington homes and businesses to go solar.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Flickr photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington County’s Dept. of Human Resources has no record of any allegations of workplace sexual harassment or sexual assault against senior county officials over the past 18 years.

That’s the response ARLnow.com received to a Freedom of Information Act request, filed in the wake of a wave of sexual misconduct allegations in Hollywood, politics and the news business.

The recent #MeToo awakening started with explosive allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and has since spread, with dozens of prominent men from Kevin Spacey to Matt Lauer to Rep. John Conyers Jr. facing accusations that have led to firings and resignations.

One common thread: often the men accused of serious wrongdoing — from rape to harassment — were in positions of authority, which they used against their victims.

ARLnow wanted to see if anyone in a position of high authority within Arlington County government has been accused of sexual harassment or assault since 2000. At first we asked a county spokeswoman, who then directed us to file a Freedom of Information Act request.

Here’s the response we received to our FOIA filing:

This letter is in response to your Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for details of any allegations, known to Arlington County’s Human Resources Department, of sexual assault or sexual harassment against Arlington County elected officials or senior staff members (director level or above) since 2000.

Please note, pursuant to Virginia Code Section 2.2-3704(B)(3) the requested records could not be found or do not exist.

Thank you for contacting this office.

Sincerely,

Ina Chandler
Arlington County FOIA Officer

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Morning Notes

Lost Hikers Found Near Chain Bridge — Two men who had apparently been hiking along the Potomac River got lost and had to call emergency dispatchers after one of them fell and hurt himself. The call came in around 2:30 a.m. this morning. Arlington, Fairfax County, D.C. and U.S. Park Police units helped to search for the men — Fairfax used its police helicopter — and eventually they were found and transported to the hospital. [WUSA 9]

Video: ACFD Responds to FC Vehicle Fire — A minivan caught on fire in Falls Church over the weekend and a camera was rolling as Arlington County firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze. [Twitter]

Holiday Decorations Going Up — Around Clarendon yesterday — and perhaps in other parts of the county as well — lights, window paintings and other festive decorations were being put up in anticipation of the holiday season. [Instagram]

Arlington Mill Gym Floor Installed — The new gym floor has been installed and is ready to use at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The gym’s previous floor had to be removed due to water damage stemming from a March snow storm. [Twitter]

County Announces Human Rights Award Winners — Among the recipients of Arlington County’s 2017 James B. Hunter Award winners are: Signature Theatre’s Eric Schaeffer; the Building Bridges community initiative; Saint George’s Episcopal Church and its refugee advocacy; Café Sazón and its support of immigrant rights; and Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City, which is considered the only gay bar in Northern Virginia. [Arlington County]

Reporter Accused of Unwanted Advances in Local Bar — New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush has been suspended following accusations that during his time at Arlington-based Politico, he made unwanted sexual advances at young, female colleagues while drinking at a Rosslyn bar. [Vox]

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