Comment

Grosso introduces legislation to protect educational rights of special needs students in criminal proceedings

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces legislation to protect educational rights of special needs students in criminal proceedings

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, introduced legislation to protect the educational rights of youth with special needs involved in criminal proceedings in the District of Columbia.

“The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive free appropriate public education and makes them eligible for special education and related services up until the age of 22,” said Grosso. “While the Superior Court designates a panel of special education attorneys for these youth in Family Court, adult students that appear in criminal proceedings do not receive the same treatment.”

The Special Education Rights for Youth Defendants Amendment Act of 2018 establishes a panel of special education attorneys at the Superior Court to represent students with identified special education needs who are involved in the criminal justice system.

According to the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, students with disabilities represent a large portion of students in correctional facilities. In D.C., over 80% of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (“DYRS”) committed youth have special education needs.

“This legislation will go a long way in helping ensure older students with special needs are adequately represented, afforded a real opportunity to earn a high school diploma, and placed on a path to a more productive and successful life,” said Grosso.

This bill is the latest step Councilmember Grosso has taken to implement the recommendations of the Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group he convened in 2018.  According to a report issued by the group in July, students in the care of the D.C. government experience many disruptions to education which make it difficult for them to achieve their educational goals.

“The government of the District of Columbia has a responsibility to provide high-quality education to the youth who are in its care,” Grosso said. “The recommendations put forward by the working group push D.C. to better fulfill that responsibility by improving coordination between agencies and reducing barriers to educational achievement for these often-overlooked youth.”

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Comment

Comment

Grosso proposes bill to assess public health impacts of new development

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bill to assess public health impacts of new development

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today proposed legislation that would promote healthier individuals and communities by requiring new development projects to receive an analysis of its health impacts before proceeding.

“New housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated,” said Grosso. “As the District of Columbia continues to grow, with new development projects emerging every day, it is imperative that we assess how these projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents.”

The Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2018 creates a health impact assessment program within the Department of Health to evaluate the potential health effects of proposed projects on individuals and communities and to support healthy communities, healthy community design, and development that promotes physical and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors, quality of life, social connectedness, safety, and equity.

Through this legislation DOH will be able to examine all projects that require an environmental impact statement–such as those relating to new construction, roadway changes, and others–to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

“I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident,” Grosso said. “Implementing this comprehensive approach here in D.C. would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.”

Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Vince Gray, and Brandon Todd joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Comment

Comment

Judiciary Committee advances legislation to help sexual abuse survivors heal

For Immediate Release:
October 4, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Judiciary Committee advances legislation to help sexual abuse survivors heal

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), member of the Committee on Judiciary & Public Safety, on the committee’s approval of the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Amendment Act of 2018 which incorporates pieces of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act, a measure Grosso introduced in 2015 and 2017:

“For over a decade, the Council has considered some form of legislation meant to help childhood survivors of sexual abuse heal from the trauma of their experience. Today, we finally advanced legislation that will allow those survivors to seek justice and recompense and further hold the individuals who perpetrate these atrocities accountable.

“I originally introduced the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act because I believe there are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children. The experience of sexual violence as a child is one that endures for ages.  Most survivors do not come forward until well into adulthood, suffering for years with depression, feelings of guilt and sometimes difficulty forming intimate relationships. 

“I applaud the expansion in the legislation we have approved today which allows an individual to file a civil suit to recover damages for any sexual abuse – not just acts of sexual abuse that occurred while the victim was a minor.

“The recent spate of high-profile cases involving allegations of and convictions for sexual abuse underscore the pervasiveness of sexual assault in America. The prevalence of these incidences, across every sector, from the Catholic Church to as far reaching as the Office of the President of the United States, defies the word "problem." This is an epidemic, and what we've come to realize is that American culture has and continues to reinforce the normalization of sexual violence. Far too often, survivors of sexual violence are let down by the justice system.

“While this bill is not a panacea, it will go a long way to encourage and empower victims to come forward and know that a fair and just system is in place to help them right wrongs and begin to heal.

“As policymakers, we have to ensure that every available option is afforded to those who have been harmed and this legislation will allow the many courageous survivors across the city to seek justice under the law. I want to thank Chairperson Charles Allen and his staff for the time and effort that has been dedicated to advancing this measure to mark-up. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation when it comes before the full Council.”

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Comment

Grosso expresses concerns over Providence Hospital closure

On September 26, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter to the Department of Health about his concerns regarding the planned closure of Providence Hospital’s acute care services and to better understand DOH’s role during the transition.

“Ascension’s decision to close acute-care services at Providence Hospital is devastating as three-quarters of patients accessing care at Providence are D.C. residents primarily coming from Wards 5, 7, and 8,” wrote Grosso. “This loss of much needed medical care on the east side of the city greatly limits access and may exacerbate already troubling health outcomes for our residents in these communities.”

On October 3, the Department of Health respond with a letter outlining their role. Both can be found below.

Comment

Comment

Grosso schedules hearing on bills to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, assault in schools

For Immediate Release:
September 28, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso schedules hearing on bills to prevent and respond to sexual abuse, assault in schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, announcing a hearing on his legislation to address sexual assault and abuse in schools:

“How schools address the very real problems of sexual abuse and assault have been at the forefront of my mind over the past year. I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were mishandling sexual assaults, in some cases punishing the victims of sexual assault.

“Through performance oversight hearings held this year, I grew more concerned that D.C. Public School senior leadership, the Office of Integrity, and some charter local education agencies were not taking these matters seriously. Then this week, the recordings from Roosevelt High School came to light. It has left parents, students, and the community uncertain about their own safety and how they will be treated if they are or were the victim of sexual assault.

“Our schools need to have more appropriate policies that support these victims and address the behaviors of the perpetrators. Last week, after working throughout the summer with education stakeholders, I introduced three pieces of legislation aimed at improving school safety at both traditional public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia.

“Two of the bills, the School Safety Act of 2018 and the Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018, would require all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to both child sexual abuse between adults and minors and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. Further, schools will need to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

“I will hold a hearing on these bills on November 1, 2018 in Room 412 of the John A. Wilson Building at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. I encourage all witnesses to sign up to testify to share their stories, or if they feel more comfortable, to submit written testimony to the Committee on Education by emailing testimony to astrange@dccouncil.us.”

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Grosso questions Bowser administration on implementation of changes to Kids Ride Free program

Today, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to Director of the District Department of Transporation Jeff Marootian, interim Deputy Mayor for Education Ahnna Smith, and City Administrator Rashad Young after constituents reported that hundreds students have not yet received new Kids Ride Free (KRF) SmarTrip cards which provide free access to Metrorail, Metrobus, and D.C. Circulator.

“Recently, I learned that 775 students at D.C. International School need KRF cards, but have not yet received them, and this problem extends to other schools as well. This is unacceptable. The KRF program was created four years ago to ensure our school system is more equitable for students and families in the District of Columbia. Without access to public transportation, I am concerned that many students will not be able to go to school.”

UPDATE: City Administrator Rashad Young sent responded to Councilmember Grosso on September 25. The letter can be found below.

Comment

Comment

Grosso proposes coordinating committee to focus on education of students in care of D.C. government

For Immediate Release:
September 18, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes coordinating committee to focus on education of students in care of D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Building on his work to improve the educational outcomes of students in the care of the District of Columbia government, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, proposed the establishment of a coordinating committee to focus on the educational success of students who are detained, committed, incarcerated, and in foster care.

“Much of the work of this city has focused on closing the achievement gap between black and white students. However, the educational needs of a subgroup of students who are involved with the justice or foster care systems, have not received as much as attention they deserve,” said Grosso. “As a result of the working group that I convened to examine these issues, I am excited to introduce legislation that will permanently bring stakeholders together to keep a constant focus on a group of students that deserve our government’s undivided attention.”

The Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act of 2018 establishes an interagency coordinating committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face as the D.C. government works to fulfill its responsibility to educate these students.

Students in the care of the D.C. government experience many disruptions to education which make it difficult for them to achieve their educational goals, according to a report issued in July by a working group of over 30 entities convened by Councilmember Grosso in 2018. The legislation introduced today is a direct result of the 40 policy recommendations included in that report.

Students who were experiencing challenges in their academic career prior to detention, commitment, incarceration, or placement in foster care are at increased risk of falling even further behind in their education. Many of these students are placed outside of the District of Columbia and are highly mobile. Consequently, they experience issues enrolling in school, obtaining transferrable credit, and receiving special education and related services. As a result, earning a high school diploma is far more difficult.

“The government of the District of Columbia has a responsibility to provide high-quality education to the youth who are in its care,” Grosso said. “The recommendations put forward by the working group push D.C. to better fulfill that responsibility by improving coordination between agencies and reducing barriers to educational achievement for these often-overlooked youth.”

Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brandon Todd, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers.

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Comment

Comment

Grosso introduces three bills to improve school safety

For Immediate Release:
September 18, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces three bills to improve school safety

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced three bills to create safer school environments for all students in the District of Columbia.

“Our students learn best when they are in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Grosso. “Addressing the very real concerns of sexual abuse and threats of physical violence are vital to protecting our students’ well-being.”

Grosso introduced the School Safety Act of 2018 today at the Council’s first legislative meeting following its summer recess. The bill requires both traditional public and charter schools to develop policies to prevent and properly respond to child sexual abuse when it occurs. It also mandates training for staff, students, and parents on child sexual abuse, in-line with legislation passed in many other jurisdictions.

“Over the past year we have seen incidences of sexual abuse and assault in our schools,” said Grosso, chairperson of the Council’s Committee on Education. “It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate. My legislation seeks to fix that.”

Additionally, schools will need to take additional steps to ensure educators have not previously been fired or lost their teaching license in another jurisdiction for sexual misconduct, including cross-checking potential hires against the national database of teachers’ licenses.

Under another bill Grosso filed on Tuesday, the Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018, schools will be required to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence.

“I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were mishandling sexual assaults, in some cases punishing the victims of sexual assault,” Grosso said. “They need to have more appropriate policies on the books that support these victims and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.”

Further under the bill, schools will need to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Finally, Grosso filed legislation, the Safe2Tell Act, creating an anonymous tip line for reporting student plans to do harm to themselves or others based on successful programs in other states including Colorado and Pennsylvania.

“At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer.”

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Comment

Comment

Bill to reduce political influence on superintendent introduced by Grosso

For Immediate Release:
September 18, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Bill to reduce political influence on superintendent introduced by Grosso

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, today introduced legislation that would make the District of Columbia’s state education agency more independent and increase public confidence in its work.

The State Education Agency Independence Amendment Act of 2018 establishes the Office of the State Superintendent for Education as an independent agency and extends the term of the Superintendent from four years to six years. Further, it removes the Mayor’s discretion to remove the Superintendent at will and grants OSSE exclusive hiring authority for its personnel.

“Over the past few months I have heard a desire from the community for a more objective superintendent of education, one that more closely aligns with state education agencies across the country,” Grosso said. “We can deepen the public’s and the Council’s trust in its work by removing and insulating OSSE from the day-to-day political considerations of the mayor.”

Grosso intends to hold a hearing on the legislation in the Committee on Education before the end of the year.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers. 

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Comment

Comment

Safe2Tell Act of 2018

Safe2Tell Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Trayon White.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a program in the Office of the Attorney General to allow anonymous reporting concerning unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent, or criminal activities in a school or the threat of the activities in a school.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Throughout the past year, the national conversation about school safety has focused on school shooting incidents, particularly as a result of the willingness of survivors of the Parkland, Florida tragedy to speak out.

While those mass-casualty incidents are deeply disturbing, despite seeming to happen ever more often, they remain fairly rare when compared to other forms of violence that affect our students and schools.

Locally, we had the misfortune to witness another form of violence over the past year—teachers sexually abusing children and students sexually assaulting other students.

It was upsetting enough to learn of the these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

The School Safety Act seeks to fix that going forward, along with accompanying legislation I am introducing in the secretary’s office today. 

Under this legislation, all schools would have to establish policies and protocols for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including mandatory prevention-oriented education for staff, students, and parents.

We learned last year of a school that did not report allegations of child sexual abuse properly and this bill should help fix that. 

The bill would also increase the requirements of what efforts DCPS and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any individual they are hiring who will have direct contact with students.

As a companion bill to this legislation, I also am introducing today in the secretary’s office the “Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018.

That bill focuses on sexual violence among students, requiring all schools to establish policies to prevent and properly respond to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.

I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were punishing the victims of sexual assault rather than seeking to support them and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.

As part of prevention efforts, the bill also requires DCPS and public charter schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Lastly, I want to note that I also introduced today in the secretary’s office a third school safety-focused bill that would establish an anonymous hotline for reporting instances of student plans to harm others or themselves, modeled on similar successful programs in other states.

At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer places.

Comment

Comment

Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018

Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a requirement that all schools in the District of Columbia shall adopt and implement a policy to prevent and address sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence among student and to amend the Healthy Schools Act to require that local education agencies shall provide age-appropriate instruction on consent.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Throughout the past year, the national conversation about school safety has focused on school shooting incidents, particularly as a result of the willingness of survivors of the Parkland, Florida tragedy to speak out.

While those mass-casualty incidents are deeply disturbing, despite seeming to happen ever more often, they remain fairly rare when compared to other forms of violence that affect our students and schools.

Locally, we had the misfortune to witness another form of violence over the past year—teachers sexually abusing children and students sexually assaulting other students.

It was upsetting enough to learn of the these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

The School Safety Act seeks to fix that going forward, along with accompanying legislation I am introducing in the secretary’s office today. 

Under this legislation, all schools would have to establish policies and protocols for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including mandatory prevention-oriented education for staff, students, and parents.

We learned last year of a school that did not report allegations of child sexual abuse properly and this bill should help fix that. 

The bill would also increase the requirements of what efforts DCPS and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any individual they are hiring who will have direct contact with students.

As a companion bill to this legislation, I also am introducing today in the secretary’s office the “Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018.

That bill focuses on sexual violence among students, requiring all schools to establish policies to prevent and properly respond to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.

I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were punishing the victims of sexual assault rather than seeking to support them and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.

As part of prevention efforts, the bill also requires DCPS and public charter schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Lastly, I want to note that I also introduced today in the secretary’s office a third school safety-focused bill that would establish an anonymous hotline for reporting instances of student plans to harm others or themselves, modeled on similar successful programs in other states.

At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer places.

Comment

Comment

School Safety Act of 2018

School Safety Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a requirement that all schools in the District of Columbia shall adopt and implement a policy to prevent and address child sexual abuse and to require that District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools thoroughly vet potential hires including by checking the national licensing database.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Throughout the past year, the national conversation about school safety has focused on school shooting incidents, particularly as a result of the willingness of survivors of the Parkland, Florida tragedy to speak out.

While those mass-casualty incidents are deeply disturbing, despite seeming to happen ever more often, they remain fairly rare when compared to other forms of violence that affect our students and schools.

Locally, we had the misfortune to witness another form of violence over the past year—teachers sexually abusing children and students sexually assaulting other students.

It was upsetting enough to learn of the these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

The School Safety Act seeks to fix that going forward, along with accompanying legislation I am introducing in the secretary’s office today. 

Under this legislation, all schools would have to establish policies and protocols for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, including mandatory prevention-oriented education for staff, students, and parents.

We learned last year of a school that did not report allegations of child sexual abuse properly and this bill should help fix that. 

The bill would also increase the requirements of what efforts DCPS and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any individual they are hiring who will have direct contact with students.

As a companion bill to this legislation, I also am introducing today in the secretary’s office the “Student Safety and Consent Education Act of 2018.

That bill focuses on sexual violence among students, requiring all schools to establish policies to prevent and properly respond to instances of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and dating violence.

I was disturbed by reports last year that high schools were punishing the victims of sexual assault rather than seeking to support them and address the behaviors of the perpetrators.

As part of prevention efforts, the bill also requires DCPS and public charter schools to provide age-appropriate instruction to students on consent, personal boundaries, and healthy relationships.

Lastly, I want to note that I also introduced today in the secretary’s office a third school safety-focused bill that would establish an anonymous hotline for reporting instances of student plans to harm others or themselves, modeled on similar successful programs in other states.

At a time when the federal Department of Education is promoting more guns in schools as a response to violence, I am excited to continue the conversation in D.C. about how to truly make our schools safer places.

Comment

Comment

State Education Agency Independence Amendment Act of 2018

State Education Agency Independence Amendment Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, and Brianne K. Nadeau.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the State Education Office Establishment Act of 2000 to establish the Office of the State Superintendent of Education as an independent agency and to amend the State Superintendent of Education’s term from 4 to 6 years.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.

Today I am introducing the State Education Agency Independence Act of 2018, along with Chairman Mendelson, and Councilmembers Nadeau and Bonds

For the past few months I have engaged with community members about what the next steps to improving our education system are.

Many have expressed a desire to see more independent oversight of both traditional public and public charter schools that puts our students’ education above political victories.

The District has seen growth in education outcomes over the past 10 years because we have learned from what has been working and made gradual adjustments. This Bill is a continuation of those adjustments.

The State Education Agency has a number of responsibilities that require a more intentional level of autonomy and independence from politics than what is currently in place. By removing OSSE from the Office of the Mayor, extending the term of the State Superintendent, and only allowing for the removal of the State Superintendent but for cause, the State Superintendent would have the autonomy to hold all LEAs accountable without the consideration of what is politically best for the executive or any political entity.

The provisions contained in my legislation are necessary to move us to a more impartial education agency in the District of Columbia. 

This legislation amends the State Education Office Establishment Act of 2000 to establish the Office of the State Superintendent of Education as an independent agency and amend the State Superintendent’s term from 4 years to 6 years.

This legislation will not stop scandals.  It will however ensure that the public can trust as objective and impartial the work of OSSE and the Superintendent when they investigate issues that arise.

I look forward to the discussion spurred by this bill and would welcome any of my colleagues to cosponsor this bill.

Comment

Comment

Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act of 2018

Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act of 2018

Introduced: September 18, 2018

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen.

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To establish a Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face in order improve educational outcomes.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, I am introducing the Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act of 2018, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Brandon Todd, and Brianne K. Nadeau.

This legislation establishes a multi-stakeholder committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face in order improve educational outcomes.

On October 4, 2017, the Committee on Education held a public roundtable to examine educational opportunities for students under the supervision or care of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, Court Social Services, Pre-Trial Services Agency, Department of Corrections, and Bureau of Prisons.

The roundtable revealed that many students in the care of DC experience significant barriers to earning a high school diploma. Many of these students are placed outside of the District of Columbia and are highly mobile. Consequently, they experience issues enrolling in school, obtaining transferrable credit, and receiving special education and related services. Consequently, these disruptions negatively affect the young person’s ability to move forward and become successful in their educational endeavors.

Fortunately, both public and government witnesses agreed that creating a working group to further tackle some of these issues was the next logical step.

From February to June, I convened a working group of over 80 participants comprised of students, Councilmembers and staff, executive agency

directors and staff, representatives from D.C. Superior Court, school leaders, and advocacy groups. For five months we grappled with how to best improve collaboration and coordination among entities responsible for the education and care of students.

As a result, we produced a report of over 40 policy and legislative recommendations that will help improve educational outcomes. One of those recommendation was to create a coordinating committee. For more information about the report, please visit my website.

I am confident this legislation will provide better educational continuity while strengthening and expanding critical services to ensure that our most vulnerable youth are afforded every available opportunity for success.

Thank you to everyone that participated in the working group and helped make this bill a reality. I look forward to all of the good work that lies ahead.
 

Comment

Comment

A student's voice

A student's voice

By: Tallya Rhodes*

Coming to Washington, D.C., I did not expect the school system to be as frustrating as it is. The school system I came from was different than DCPS. People had personal MacBook Air computers that we borrowed from the school throughout the year. Middle schoolers had iPads that they borrowed. There were apparel classes, cooking classes, and child development classes. There was even a class where you did construction work, being able to make small projects using real tools. In DCPS, I had none of that. I only had the basic core classes and electives, no interesting classes that the students would have loved. I am not saying that my old school system was better, just that it was really different and it took a lot of time to get used to the change. The one thing I still had not adjusted to was not being able to talk about my experiences and be heard.

One of my teachers would take me to different meetings across the city where people talked about issues in our schools and our community. Usually, I was the only student and was told multiple times that the politicians loved hearing students’ voices. I always found that hard to believe because politicians usually didn’t look like they were even listening to adults. If they wouldn’t listen to the adults, it was even more likely that I wouldn’t be heard or understood. Yet I kept trying anyway.

This summer I had the privilege of facilitating At-large Councilmember David Grosso’s education town halls in each ward with five other students. We were able to talk about the issues we’ve experienced while engaging in conversations with people from the community who wanted to talk about issues and solutions. It was great to be able to talk about what I went through being in D.C. Public Schools and talk about some solutions that I thought could help with fixing that issue.

For me, I was also able to see the different issues that each ward sees as important. No two wards were similar. In Ward 7, our conversation was mainly on the violence that we see in the city and how that hinders students from getting to school either on time or at all. That was a very serious conversation that showed how unsafe students felt when getting to and from school. Community members wanted to know what could be done to help the students feel safe when traveling to and from school but none of the students present could really give a concrete answer. “If the police doesn’t even help us, how can you make us feel safe?” Ceon Dubose, rising junior at Idea Public Charter School, said in our Ward 7 town hall. It was suggested that community members help get students and bring them to school and have more social workers in the schools who actually care about their students.

“As a person who’s experienced switching from school to school and being pushed out, it’s important for someone in the school building to support you and lead the way,” Jessica Parks, rising junior at Friendship Collegiate High School, said in one of our town halls. People wonder why the school to prison pipeline is so great. “In order to get kids to come to in school more, I think schools need better or more counselors. Schools need better disciplinary policies. School is supposed to feel safe, we are supposed to feel secure, and some kind of comfort. We should want to come to school instead of skipping, or dropping out because we feel unsafe or pushed out.” Ceon said, having been pushed out of school many times. “I just want to love school again.”

Yet, in Ward 2 the main concerns were about having a high school in that ward to ensure a community where the students who go to the elementary and middle schools there have a high school that they can attend. These parents didn’t want their students to leave their Ward to go to a high school, instead wanting them to stay in Ward 2. But, you usually see students in Wards 7 and 8 who would rather leave their Ward to go to a better school than the one in their neighborhood.

While listening to the comments about building a community in a Ward and making sure that community was intact because it was essential for students and the community to flourish, I started to think about the reason why I went to H.D. Woodson and not my neighborhood school. I also started to think about what was essential for my success towards graduation - numbers. I realized that it wasn’t the community that was essential, at least in the political world. It’s the numbers. If a school is not a good number, then the students aren’t perceived as smart or ‘adequate’ enough to get the opportunities and resources as those in these other ‘communities.’ Once our education stops being based on numbers, then maybe we can look towards a better system. Numbers aren’t everything. If anything, it should show how great the needs are. I was a great student in terms of numbers, but that doesn’t define me as a person. My school may have a bad number, and students who go there may have bad numbers, but that doesn’t define them. It takes more than numbers to define something or someone. 

I actually now understand why it’s so hard to please every ward and every school in the city because we are extremely different. We’re a city but with very different needs. From my vantage point, most of the resources and energy go to the wards with the most money and better schools, which leaves the rest of us without the resources or funding for the students. I may understand why it’s so hard to please every ward in the city, but I still don’t understand why schools in certain parts of the city get better resources than those with the greatest need considering the many issues us students have explained and experienced. That still remains one of the biggest issues students have to face, and it’s our job to continue to show the divided line the city has drawn.

Despite Thurgood Marshall being a public charter school, schools like TMA, H.D. Woodson, Ballou, etc. have little to no resources yet other schools are able to receive multiple Dual Enrollment courses. Trinity Brown, rising senior at Thurgood Marshall Academy, wanted to get her associate degree during high school. But, she wasn’t able to do that because of funding being low at her school, resulting in her not being able to take Dual Enrollment classes. If Trinity went to another school on the other side of town, she could have been able to have an associate degree before she graduates. But, she should be able to do that at the school she has chosen.

Politicians have a hard job but that’s no excuse for ignoring the issues that students face everyday. Having these student-led town halls was a great way to get the issues out there and get people to actually listen to student’s issues for once, especially since politician’s decisions affect us the most. In this way, we were actually listened to, not just heard. You can hear someone but you can only really understand what that person is saying if you actually listen to them. The experience working on the town halls made me feel like I was being listened to for once. 

*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso. Tallya Rhodes was the valedictorian of H.D. Woodson's Class of 2018 and Mikva Challenge Fellow in Councilmember Grosso's office in summer 2018.*
 

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PARCC scores show incremental progress, persistent gaps

For Immediate Release:
August 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

PARCC scores show incremental progress, persistent gaps

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the release of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) scores from assessments administered in the 2017-2018 school year:

“The PARCC results released today demonstrate that the District of Columbia continues to improve educational outcomes for its students.  Year after year we have seen incremental gains in nearly every group of students, something unheard of in other states that administer this assessment.  I’m particularly encouraged by the 7-point drop in the number of students who scored in the lowest two levels over the past 4 years. This is a strong indicator that efforts to reach our lowest performing students are paying dividends. 

“However, the results also illuminate that work remains.  Though racial groups and at-risk students saw gains overall, the gap between their achievement and that of their peers continues. Closing that gap will continue to remain our education system’s greatest challenge and will need to be a major focus of the education leaders the mayor will nominate in the coming months.”
 

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Cardinal Wuerl should resign in wake of Pennsylvania child abuse report

For Immediate Release:
August 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Cardinal Wuerl should resign in wake of Pennsylvania child abuse report

Washington, D.C. – Today, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), author of the Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act of 2017, released the following statement:

“There are few actions more depraved than sexual violence against children, and the experience of abuse is one that endures for years. It destroys the unique innocence of childhood and leaves many survivors suffering for years with depression, feelings of guilt, and sometimes difficulty forming intimate relationships.

“The groundbreaking investigation into clerical sex abuse of minors in Pennsylvania forces us to face a painful truth: the Catholic Church has institutionalized sexual abuse by systematically shielding or blatantly covering up the criminal acts of priests and other church officials.

“The Pennsylvania grand jury report is harrowing and revelatory. It raises serious questions about the fitness of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who previously spent 18 years as the bishop of Pittsburgh and now serves as the archbishop of Washington, D.C. Tuesday’s report details several instances of Wuerl covering for abusive priests.

“Just last month, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who previously served as the archbishop of the District of Columbia, and was one of the highest-ranking Vatican officials, resigned amid numerous accusations of sexual abuse.

“What is happening in Pennsylvania is a watershed moment in the Catholic Church child sex abuse crisis. We cannot stand idly by—deliberate action is imperative. Child safety depends on holding institutions, not just individual perpetrators, accountable for their actions.  It is for this reason that I believe Cardinal Wuerl should immediately resign. 

“It is also time that the Council takes action to ensure that both my Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act of 2017 and the Sexual Abuse Statute of Limitations Elimination Amendment Act of 2017, authored by Councilmember Cheh, become law. 

“Eliminating the civil statute of limitations and creating a two-year window for individuals whose claims of child sex abuse were previously time-barred, enables survivors to go back in time and begin working to heal.

“We cannot continue to allow individuals or institutions to maintain their depraved secrets and, while the resignation would signal a step in the right direction, both the Catholic Church and legislators must go further to protect our children.”

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Grosso requests DCPL's 3D printer policy to ensure public safety

Earlier this month, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter to D.C. Public Library Exectuive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan to request the policies and procedures in place to ensure that 3D printers associated with their Fabrication Lab, or Fab Lab, are not used to produce weapons or other harmful items.

"Our public libraries play a central role in the District of Columbia’s vibrancy. They educate, entertain, and foster community discourse," wrote Grosso. "We have a responsibility to safeguard these community centers from being used for a purpose that runs counter to our library’s mission or that adds to the persistent problem of violence across the city."

DCPL responded on August 13 with their full 3D printer policy, which explicitly prohibits patrons from producing items that can cause harm. In addition, library staff is involved in the production of materials and reserves the right to deny the production of any item in violation of the policy. Finally, the 3D printers available at the Fab Lab make it difficult to produce an operable firearm, which require a more advanced printer that uses a more durable form of plastic.

Councilmember Grosso appreciates DCPL for responding in a timely manner and for their forethought and thoroughness in addressing this issue.

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Grosso inquires about access to home and hospital instruction services for students

On July 11, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education and member of the Committee on Health, sent a letter to interim D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Amanda Alexander expressing concern that some children may not be receiving Home and Hospital Instruction Program (HIPP) services which are aimed at supporting students with physical disability and/or health impairment who are confined to home or hospital for three or more weeks.

"...there seems to be a lack of information and transparency about the process for determining a child's eligibility for HIPP and for appealing that decision," he wrote.

UPDATE: Grosso provided a list of questions to DCPS and received a response on August 3rd from DCPS which can be found here and below, along with the HHIP program manual and original letter from Councilmember Grosso.

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DCPS responses to Grosso's follow up inquiries on graduation accountability

On July 25th, 2018, Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, received a response from DCPS to a letter he sent to D.C. Public Schools Interim Chancellor Dr. Amanda Alexander with several questions following up on questions asked at the June 13, 2018, public oversight roundtable on graduation accountability. The purpose of the roundtable was to get an update from OSSE, DCPS, and PCSB on the implementation of Alvarez and Marsal’s recommendations on improving graduation accountability.  The response is below, along with the original letter Councilmember Grosso sent to DCPS.

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