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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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Interagency working group releases recommendations to improve education of students in the care of the District of Columbia

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

Interagency working group releases recommendations to improve education of students in the care of the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. – A working group composed of over 30 entities convened by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, today released recommendations to improve the educational outcomes of students who are in the care of the District of Columbia government.

“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.”

The Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group* was brought together by Councilmember Grosso in February to improve collaboration and coordination among entities responsible for educating and caring for students who are detained, committed, incarcerated, or placed in foster care.

“In my time on the Council, I have consistently raised concerns about the school-to-prison pipeline. However, the educational needs of our students who are involved with the justice or foster care systems have not received the attention they deserve,” said Grosso.

Students in the care of D.C. experience many disruptions to education which make it difficult for them to achieve their educational goals, according to the report.

Those 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 group issued nearly 40 recommendations for the various agencies that are involved in the care and education of youth in D.C. to improve their communication, collaboration, and coordination. Additionally, the working group recommends three legislative solutions, which Councilmember Grosso intends to explore for introduction when the Council returns from recess in the fall.

Other councilmembers participated in the working group and expressed a commitment to continuing the work started by Grosso.

“I was encouraged to see such a large coalition of stakeholders and advocates participate, which allowed us to gain a greater understanding of the challenges faced by students in the care of the District, involved in the juvenile justice system, and in foster care,” said Ward 1 D.C. Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, chairperson of the Committee on Human Services. “With this knowledge, I look forward to working with Councilmember Grosso and the rest of Council to improve how the District oversees the education and care of some our most vulnerable students.”

“The District government has a responsibility to provide the children in our juvenile justice, criminal justice and child welfare systems with a meaningful education,” said At-Large Councilmember Robert White. “I commend Councilmember Grosso and all the members of the Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group for working collaboratively to reduce the barriers faced by too many children in the District's care.”

“I applaud the agencies who participated in the working group for their willingness to acknowledge shortcomings and commit to improvement for the sake of these underserved youth. I also greatly appreciate the engagement of advocacy organizations, youth, and my Council colleagues to charter a path forward on this vital issue,” said Grosso.

Download the report here.

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*The Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Working Group comprised Advocates for Justice and Education; Campaign for Youth Justice; Center for Educational, Excellence in Alternative Settings; Children’s Law Center; Council for Court Excellence; Court Services & Offender Supervision Agency; D.C. Child and Family Services Agency; D.C. Corrections Information Council; D.C. Department of Corrections; D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Service; D.C. Public Charter School Board; D.C. Public Schools; D.C. ReEngagement Center; Free Minds Book Club; Georgetown University Law Juvenile Justice Initiative; GOODProjects; Kingsman Academy Public Charter School; Maya Angelou Schools & SeeForever Foundation; Monument Academy Public Charter School; Office of Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau (Ward 1), Chairperson of the Committee on Human Services; Office of Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary & Public Safety; Office of Councilmember David Grosso (At-Large), Chairperson of the Committee on Education; Office of Councilmember Robert C. White Jr. (At-Large); Office of Councilmember Trayon White, Sr. (Ward 8); Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia; Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education; Office of the State Superintendent of Education; Open City Advocates; Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia; School Justice Project; and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Family Court Social Services Division

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Education Committee continues work on outstanding education concerns over Council’s summer recess

For Immediate Release:
July 13, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Education Committee continues work on outstanding education concerns over Council’s summer recess

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, about the Committee’s work focus over the Council’s summer recess:

“Over the past eight months I have held several hearings, roundtables, town halls, and public engagement sessions focused on the challenges the District of Columbia faces in preparing our students for college, career, and life, but also with the structure of our education system. I believe we have made significant progress on several fronts, including a budget that invests in greater academic and non-academic supports for our students, keeps students in school by reducing exclusionary discipline, provides unprecedented funding for equitable out-of-school time programming, and requires additional transparency in how schools expend public dollars.

“There is still much more we must accomplish. Over the summer, my staff and I are working diligently so that we can address concerns that have been voiced over the first half of this year and continue putting students in the best position to succeed once the Council returns in the middle of September.

“One area of agreement I have gleaned from community conversations is the need for a more independent Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Over the summer, I will engage students, parents, educators, my colleagues, the community, and policy experts on how best to empower our state education agency and reduce the influence of politics on its work. I anticipate introducing legislation on this matter in the fall.

“I will continue meeting with OSSE, DCPS, and the Public Charter School Board, and the interim Deputy Mayor for Education, to monitor final graduation rates for school year 2017-2018, and the implementation of the corrective action plan to ensure we are graduating and promoting students who have met their academic requirements and are prepared for the next step on their academic or workforce journey in 2019.

“My staff is also conducting research and benchmarking policy proposals to create greater cross-sector budget transparency, provide adequate special education supports, promote school attendance through improved safe passage and transportation options, and improve school safety.

“Finally, as the mayor’s Chancellor search committee and Office of Talent and Appointments identify nominees to fill the vacuum of executive education leadership in the city, I will lay out a public engagement process to solicit the feedback of education stakeholders, especially teachers, in the confirmation of permanent Deputy Mayor for Education and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor.

“I invite the public to contact my office with their thoughts on any of these issues and encourage youth and the community to attend the four remaining Summer Education Town Halls I am holding across the city. Your continued engagement is integral to our students’ success.”

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Grosso names Akeem Anderson as new Education Committee director

For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso names Akeem Anderson as new Education Committee director

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, appointed Akeem Anderson the new director of the Committee on Education, effective June 25, 2018.

“I am extremely excited to welcome Akeem to Team Grosso as our new committee director and have been impressed with the enthusiasm he has shown in just a few short weeks on the job,” said Grosso of the appointment. “Akeem comes to the committee at a turbulent time for public education in the District of Columbia, but I have no doubt that his experience, professionalism, and passion will serve the committee’s integral oversight role and innovative policy development well as we continue the work to put every D.C. child in the best position to succeed.”

“I look forward to bringing my experiences both in the classroom and at DCPS to the Committee on Education and Councilmember Grosso’s work as chairperson to continue building on the successes in the D.C. education sector over the last 10 years with a particular focus on continuing to support the development of the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity in supports and resources across the District,” said Anderson.

Prior to his appointment, Anderson served two and a half years at D.C. Public Schools as a Continuous Improvements Specialist in the Office of School Design and Continuous Improvements. There he worked with school leaders in DCPS to identify trends in student performance data, used those trends to craft school plans, and tracked success throughout the school year. Before that, Anderson worked with schools in crafting and monitoring their school turnaround plans and also co-managed the District's Empowering Males of Color Grant—16 grants that cover 22 schools aimed at increasing academic and socio-emotional outcomes for Black and Latino boys in DCPS.

A 2008 Greater New Orleans TFA Corps Member, Anderson taught in New Orleans schools for two years before working for TFA-New Orleans as a Manager Corps and Partner Relations. He holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English from Mercer University.

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Councilmember Grosso expresses concerns to WMATA over cashless payment pilot for 79 express bus route

Earlier this month, Councilmember David Grosso sent a letter to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Chairman Jack Evans lauding WMATA for its attempt to speed up service but expressing his concerns over the impact of the pilot program being undertaken on the 79 express bus route.  This pilot will ban the use of cash payment or SmarTrip reloading and Grosso fears that the change could worsen commute options for riders with disabilities or lower income residents.

"It is very important that we continue efforts to make our buses more efficient and faster, and I have no doubt that this proposed pilot for the 79 bus will show that this reduces overall trip times," Grosso wrote. "However, a speedier bus should not be a result of leaving some of our residents behind."

In the letter, Grosso made several suggestions to provide equitable service to all residents along the route.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld responded to Councilmember Grosso with a letter dated June 21, 2018. Wiedefeld confirmed that nearly 10 percent of riders of the express route either paid their fare via cash or reloaded their SmarTrip onboard but did not elaborate on any plans to accommodate those riders beyond already existing options during the pilot.

Councilmember Grosso awaits the result of the pilot program and will continue to monitor its potential expansion to other routes to ensure that WMATA buses remain an option for all residents.

Both letters can be found below.

On June 25, Councilmember Grosso also introduced legislation to stop the trend toward cashless-only payments at local food establishments over concerns about equitable access for residents who are unbanked or underbanked.

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Police Incident Outside Nook’s Barbershop

For Immediate Release: 
June 26, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on Police Incident Outside Nook’s Barbershop

Washington, D.C. –The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the incident that occurred at Nook’s Barbershop in Deanwood on June 13, 2018:

“The police-initiated incident at Nook’s Barbershop is emblematic of an approach to policing that has led to a lack of trust between our police and the neighborhoods they serve. More police and aggressive, questionable tactics have all been tried before and yet violence persists. There is a better way.

“As I have said before, I remain committed to a different approach to public safety, one that would see a transformation of the Metropolitan Police Department into an agency whose highest priorities include promoting non-violence and collaborating meaningfully with our communities and neighborhoods. It would be about recognizing that people in the community should be leaders in creating a safer environment, with support of the police, not the other way around.

“The community deserves answers. I look forward to the completion of an investigation with the findings being made public as soon as possible.”
 

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Grosso promotes retail equity with bill to prohibit cashless retail

For Immediate Release:
June 26, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso promotes retail equity with bill to prohibit cashless retail

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced legislation that promotes equity at local businesses by ending the trend towards cashless retail, a discriminatory practice that excludes District residents who do not have a credit or debit card.

The Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018 requires retail food establishments operating in the District of Columbia to accept cash as a form of payment. Further, it prohibits the discrimination against anyone who chooses to use cash as a form of payment, such as charging different prices.

“By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome,” Grosso said. “Practices like this further stratify our diverse city when we should be working to foster greater inclusion.”

One in ten residents in the District of Columbia has no bank. An additional one in four are underbanked and therefore may not have access to a debit or credit card.  

“Through this bill, we can ensure that all D.C. residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card,” Grosso said.

Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018

Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018

Introduced: June 26, 2018

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White. 

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend Title 28 of the District of Columbia Official Code to require retail food establishments to accept cash; to prevent discrimination against customers who prefer to use cash or do not have access to credit cards or other payment methods; and to provide for enforcement of this requirement.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. Today, along with you, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White colleague, I am introducing the Cashless Retailers Prohibition Act of 2018.

Several local quick service restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks, and other businesses have recently implemented new policies to ban the use of cash as a form of payment.

This practice requires that patrons have a credit card in order to purchase a salad at Sweetgreen, frozen yogurt at Menchie’s, or a sandwich at Jetties.

Banning the use of cash is a discriminatory practice that disproportionately impacts the 10% of DC residents who are unbanked, and an additional 25% of residents who are underbanked and may not have access to a credit card.

In addition, this practice is discriminatory against youth, who are often unable to obtain a credit card, impacting many of our middle school and high school students.

By denying patrons the ability to use cash as a form of payment, businesses are effectively telling lower-income and young patrons that they are not welcome. 

These are customers who could otherwise afford the simple luxury of a glazed treat from B Doughnut in Union Market, though they may not have the ability to obtain a credit card.

In addition to the disparate impact on low-income and young patrons, this practice effects other customers who may prefer to pay with cash to better manage their budget, or to avoid the very real risk of identity theft that comes along with credit card use.

Through this bill, we can ensure that all DC residents and visitors can continue to patronize the businesses they choose while avoiding the potential embarrassment of being denied service simply because they lack a credit card.
 

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on unlicensed educators in D.C. Public Schools

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on unlicensed educators in D.C. Public Schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the news reports regarding unlicensed D.C. Public Schools staff:

“I am again frustrated with D.C. Public Schools over this most recent failure to properly follow established laws and regulations.  These licensing requirements were put in place to ensure that our students are safe and that we have quality educators in our schools. I applaud OSSE for continuing to hold DCPS to account and working with the central office to certify that educators have the proper and up-to-date licensure for the 2018-19 school year.

“However, there remains a greater question about whether we have the appropriate requirements in place for all school staff in both our traditional public and public charter schools.  The Committee on Education will be focused on that question over the summer as part of its work to improve school safety and will hold hearings on this matter once the Council returns from its recess in September.”

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Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on the separation of immigrant families by the Trump Administration

For Immediate Release:
June 15, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember David Grosso on the separation of immigrant families by the Trump Administration

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), on the separation of immigrant families by the Trump Administration:

"In recent days, I have been heartbroken by the news reports, videos, and images of families torn apart and caged by the Trump Administration in their callous enforcement of immigration laws. These camps harken back to World War II-era Japanese internment camps, one of the most shameful times in U.S. history and are no different than the ICE raids we saw last year in the District of Columbia. They have one intent: to instill fear into our communities and neighbors. Since he took office, the president has utilized fear to meet his political aims and satisfy his base without any thought to the broken families and traumatized children he leaves in his wake.

"This is immoral and, like many residents and local leaders across the country, I feel powerless. We are still a promised land to many around the world who seek to escape the unsafe or inhumane conditions of the place they were born.  We should meet those seeking refuge with open arms, not locked cells.

"I have always believed that the District of Columbia and the United States are stronger because of the diversity of thought, culture, and language that immigration adds to our history and heritage.  We should be doing more to ensure that immigrants feel welcome in our communities and our country.  That’s why I have fought for legislation that would lower language barriers to education in D.C., change our government issued I.D.s to ensure our residents cannot be targeted by ICE, provide legal aid to those whose status in our country is in question, and even allow some of our immigrant residents to vote in our local elections.

"I want to reiterate that my office remains open to anyone who has been, or knows someone who was, affected by the Trump Administration’s immigration policy. Please contact my office at 202.724.8105 so we can connect you to organizations who can assist."

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Grosso sends second letter to mayor laying out expectations for education leader search

On Thursday, June 14, Councilmember Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a second letter to Mayor Muriel Bowser asking her to provide a proposed timeline and plan for the selection of a permanent Deputy Mayor for Education and Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools for Council review, as required by law.

Over two months ago, the councilmember asked the mayor to provide a timeline for a robust public engagement process that would put leaders in place as the city navigates a tumultuous time for public education. The mayor never responded.

"The District of Columbia currently has a vacuum of executive leadership on public education, and you have done nothing to fix that," Grosso wrote.

Since the mayor has failed to lay out her plan, Councilmember Grosso laid out his expectations for the search going forward.

  • The mayor should go above and beyond the minimum legal requirements for the selection of the Chancellor by engaging in listening sessions with teachers, students, parents, and community members about the characteristics they want to see in our new education leaders.
  • Create an advisory committee of individuals that can work with the mayor to identify and announce the nominations. The Washington Teachers' Union should have the opportunity to put forward suggestions of teachers to participate in that committee for the chancellor.
  • Leaders should be committed to re-establishing public trust and closing the achievement gap.

The Committee on Education, under Grosso's leadership, intends to hold multiple hearings and, if appropriate, move the nominations through the legislative process during the Council review period to build the record and facilitate extensive public input. 

Unfortunately, the councilmember believes that D.C. Public Schools will begin a new school year without a permanent chancellor.

"While I believe it was a mistake to delay the chancellor selection processes, I hope that we can work together in making continued improvements to public education in D.C. for the benefit of our residents."

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In Recognition of National Children’s Awareness Month

In Recognition of National Children’s Awareness Month

By: Malik Worthy*

The month of June is recognized as Children’s Awareness Month. Sponsored by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Awareness Month is trying to get people to make a safe environment for youth and gives us an opportunity to reflect on the vulnerability of children exposed to violence.

There are many forms of violence from gun violence, physical violence such as sexual assault or battery, and more. Violence is a form of anger that leads to aggression. Violence has many causes, including frustration, exposure to violent media, violence in the home or neighborhood or a perception that another person’s actions toward you are aggressive, even when they’re not. While violence affects us broadly, it should be stated that men become crime victims more often than women, African Americans experience more crime than other racial groups, and unfortunately, adolescents are most likely to be victimized.

Violence impacts children differently than adults due to their developmental differences. In 2014, nearly two-fifths of children ages 17 and younger reported being a witness to violence in their lifetimes. An experience of violence can lead to lasting physical, mental, and emotional harm, whether the child is a direct victim or a witness. Children who experience violence are more than likely going to have many effects, such as behavior problems, depression, anxiety, and other problems throughout life.

Most children experience violence at school, home and in their communities. Annually, referrals to state child protective services involve 6.6 million children, and roughly 3.2 million of those children are subject to an investigated report. The District of Columbia is also facing an alarming trend. According to News Channel 4, more than half of the homicide victims in 2018 are teens or children. The Mayor, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Council have all done significant work to try and prevent increased crime. In late April, Mayor Bowser kicked off her Summer Crime Initiative and also launched a new MPD Crime Mapping Application. MPD has undertaken initiatives to hunt down illegal guns and more. 

Additionally, the Council has stepped up to make our streets and communities safe for everyone but most importantly, for youth. Bills such as Councilmember Grosso’s Childhood Protection Against Sexual Abuse Amendment Act and the Office on Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes Establishment Act seek to ensure that our youth are protected and have opportunities afforded to them to keep them out of harm’s way. Other bills before the Council to address violence or adverse actions, particularly against youth include the Youth Rehabilitation Amendment Act, Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act, Youth Mentoring Initiative Establishment Act and more. 

Many of the city’s leaders are working to stand up and stop the violence. They’ve introduced bills, held hearings, and had meetings in communities trying to resolve these problems.  Still, despite their best efforts, there is more work to be done as just in the past couple weeks, there has been an uptick in the number of homicides and incidences with guns across the city, primarily East of the River.

Addressing violence against youth is going to require ongoing efforts from all city leaders, residents, community organizations, faith-based institutions and many others but a broader conversation is also necessary.

Today’s youth are a product of the constant media churn, social media age and more. They are dealing with cyberbullying, an uptick in school shootings, worsening mental health, and the list goes on. As a rising senior at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School in D.C., I see these struggles play out in real time. From gun violence, gang violence, and bullying.  Though my peers are facing so many traumatic situations, we are fighters. We are survivors and we are pushing for change. Members of the Parkland, Florida community took to Washington, DC, for the "March for Our Lives" protest, honoring their friends and loved ones who were fatally shot at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The march was youth organized and youth-led. Black Youth Project 100 is another organization of youth committed to advocacy and pushing for change.

Despite all the challenges my peers and I face, we will change the world and we will inspire a nation. I’m glad to be a young person in this important time of youth activism and I can’t wait to see everything we will achieve.


*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. Malik is a rising senior at Cesar Chavez Public Charter School-Capitol Hill, and participated in the Cesar Chavez Policy Fellowship.*
 

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Grosso expresses support for Ellington and fair resolution to residency claims

For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso expresses support for Ellington and fair resolution to residency claims

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, regarding the Duke Ellington School of the Arts:

“The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is one of the premier public arts education high schools in the country, if not the world. The District of Columbia government and local philanthropic partners have put significant resources into the school, including most recently an extensive modernization of the building. This state of the art school is intended for, and ought to serve, residents of the District.

“Throughout my time as a Councilmember and as Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I have been an avid promoter of the arts, and of arts education in particular. My passion for the arts and the remarkable benefits they bring to our city extends to the storied Ellington. The entire District should be proud of this gem of a school. 

“Last month, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) issued findings of non-residency against a number of students at Ellington. It is unacceptable that a large number of non-resident students may be attending such a premier institution of learning at the expense of District taxpayers. However, any implicated family who legitimately has residency in the District should be able to provide proper documentation and resolve the issue. My office has spoken with families who fit this category but find their efforts to cure the issue stymied. While I fully support OSSE rigorously enforcing our residency requirements, there must also be an opportunity for families to resolve inaccuracies. I am calling today on the Mayor and Attorney General to figure out a way to quickly and fairly resolve these circumstances so that families can move on or avail themselves of the due process rights that they are owed.

“Unfortunately, the challenging situation facing the school and these families has been muddied by real and perceived bias from neighbors toward Ellington students. This has led to supporters of the school worrying that it is being unfairly targeted in an attempt to remove it. I want every Ellington student, family, staff member, and supporter to know that I do not support any effort to end the Ellington program, relocate it, or otherwise diminish its strength.

“I believe that we can come out of this scenario with a stronger Ellington, serving more D.C. residents and with a more robust set of applicants as we put more emphasis on arts education in DCPS and charter K-8 schools. Ellington’s future in D.C. is a bright one.”

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Grosso announces summer education town halls in each Ward

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, will hold education town halls in all eight Wards this summer.  Starting on June 25, parents, students, educators, and any interested community members are invited to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns about moving D.C. schools forward and ensuring that every student is in the best position to succeed.  Dates and locations are below. All town halls will be held from 6pm-7:30pm. 

RSVP encouraged, but not required.

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Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White introduce legislation to improve LGBTQ health data

For Immediate Release:
June 5, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmembers David Grosso and Robert White introduce legislation to improve LGBTQ health data

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large) and Robert White (D-At-Large) introduced a bill to improve the documentation by D.C. agencies of health outcomes and behavioral risk factors of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, as the federal government prepares to limit its collection of this critical public health data.

“At a time when the federal government is retreating from its responsibility to protect everyone’s human rights, D.C. must do everything it can to ensure those rights,” said Councilmember David Grosso. “We have a responsibility to meet the unique health needs of our LGBTQ residents.  Requiring our agencies to collect this critical public health data will better inform our policymaking and improve the health outcomes of all District residents.”

“We celebrate Pride in June, but we must go beyond words and parades to affirm and support our LGBTQ friends and neighbors. We need to push back on these proposals by the Trump administration that would impact their health by pretending they don’t exist,” said Councilmember Robert White.

The LGBTQ Health Data Collection Amendment Act of 2018 would require the District Department of Health to collect demographic data on sexual orientation and gender identity through its annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS).

The BRFSS is a cross-sectional telephone survey conducted by state health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia with technical and methodological assistance provided by the Center for Disease Control.

It would also require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to collect information on the sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression of respondents to the school-based Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS). YRBSS monitors six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults.

“Having a better understanding of how our students identify and the impact their sexual orientation or gender identity has on their behavior and risk factors will enable schools to better serve our students’ non-academic health needs,” Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, said. “When those needs are met, we know they are better prepared to succeed academically.”

All levels of government rely on the data from these surveys when making policy choices to address public health issues. Recently, Trump administration officials with the Center for Disease Controls hinted that they would discontinue the collection of this data.

Additionally, the bill would require that the data collected be used in the annual report on the health of the District’s LGBTQ community, a collaborative effort of the Department of Health and the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

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