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Councilmember Grosso urges Congresswoman Norton to oppose backdoor RFK deal

Citing the racist name and lack of transparency and community engagement, Councilmember Grosso today sent a letter to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton urging her to oppose efforts by Mayor Bowser, Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder, Republicans in the House of Representatives, and the Trump Administration to slip a provision into the must-pass end of year federal spending package that would pave the way for a return of the football team to RFK, as first reported by the Washington Post.

“The current effort is the latest ploy by the team and congressional Republicans to avoid public scrutiny,” wrote Grosso. “This process lacks transparency and there has been no engagement with District of Columbia residents or tribal leaders to afford them an opportunity to voice their concerns. The prospect that the District of Columbia would once again welcome a team whose name promotes prejudice and reinforces harmful ethnic stereotyping runs counter to the ideals of equality, diversity and inclusion for all that we have long embodied.”

In his time on the Council, Grosso has repeatedly called for the team to change their name–a racial slur against American Indians–most recently joining indigenous peoples and activists to deliver petitions to the football team. Last year, Grosso joined bipartisan lawmakers from Maryland and Virginia to introduce an interstate compact to prohibit all three jurisdiction from offering public incentives or financing for the construction or maintenance of facilities for the football team.

“As a vote on the appropriations bill could be imminent, there is an urgent need to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this backdoor attempt fails. I stand with the National Congress of American Indians, Advancement Project, NAACP, National Urban League, Race Forward, and other organizations working actively to oppose this effort and I urge you to do all you can to thwart this closed door process,” Grosso concluded.

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New OSSE report shows worsening racial disparity in use of suspensions

For Immediate Release:
January 19, 2018
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 -


New OSSE report shows worsening racial disparity in use of suspensions

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, regarding the State of Discipline Report for the 2016-17 School Year released yesterday by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). In comparison to the 2015-16 school year, the report found that black students are even more likely to be suspended as white students and that disciplinary action for subjective reasons has increased:

“The results of OSSE’s report on discipline in school year 2016-17 are very upsetting. Perhaps what is more distressing is that they are unsurprising. Though the overall rate of students receiving at least one out-of-school suspension is slightly down, the total number is up. Most troubling of all, the disparities in their application based on race have worsened.

“The current state of affairs is reinforcing the racial inequalities and biases that plague our education system—black students are nearly eight times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than white students. It is unacceptable.

“The report also found that: students with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to receive at least one out-of-school suspension; at-risk students 1.5 times more likely. We are seeing an increase in the use of disciplinary actions for subjective reasons. I am also convinced that these discipline practices contribute to the worsening absenteeism problem in our schools.

“Suspensions and expulsions often deprive students of their right to an education. Students pushed out of school are more likely to fail academically, to drop out, and to end up involved in the criminal justice system.

“We must continue the reforms to school discipline that I started when I began my tenure as chairperson of the Committee on Education.  On January 30, 2018, I will hold a hearing on my legislation to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline in our traditional public and public charter schools, the Student Fair Access to School Act of 2017.

“This bill limits out-of-school suspension of students in kindergarten through eighth grade to the most serious of circumstances and bans its utilization in high school for minor offenses. If exclusion becomes necessary, it protects a child’s right to an education while they are off premises and requires a plan for the student to successfully return to the classroom.”




Grosso Introduces “Youth Suicide Prevention and School Climate Survey Act of 2015”

Throughout the summer, Councilmember Grosso’s office worked with advocates from The D.C. Center, the Trevor Project, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and others on the “Youth Suicide Prevention and School Climate Survey Act of 2015” which Councilmember Grosso introduced today along with Councilmembers Nadeau, Allen, May, McDuffie, Todd, Bonds, Silverman, and Cheh.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (a federal survey by the Centers for Disease Control last administered in 2012), 38% of our LGBTQ middle school students had attempted suicide in their lifetime and 28% of our LGBTQ high school students had attempted suicide within the last year.



Discussion on Race and Gender Disparities in the D.C. Criminal Justice System

Will The Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Solve D.C.’s Race And Gender Disparity Problem?


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Councilmember Tommy Wells’ (D-Ward 6) marijuana decriminalization bill—which would reduce the penalty of the simple possession of marijuana (one ounce or less) to nothing more than a $100 fine—is currently undergoing a language rewrite following a hearing last month. So far, most of the D.C. Council and Mayor Vincent Gray are behind the bill, albeit with a few caveats, and a revised version of the bill will be sent to the full Council for a preliminary vote in December and a final vote in January.

In theory, the soul of this bill is to help to ease the racial disparities in the D.C. criminal justice system. Statistics show that a majority of D.C.’s marijuana-related arrests are of black males, despite the fact that the self-reported use of marijuana in D.C. is about equal between white and black residents. But the main question that remains with Wells’ bill—”The Simple Possession of Small Quantities Of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013”—is will it actually help alleviate some of these statistics?

Last night, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) held a forum at the David A. Clarke School of Law at UDC on race and gender disparities in the D.C. criminal justice system, and much of the conversation focused on this lingering question. Joined by a panel of legal experts—Niaz Kasravi, Director of the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Program, John Brittain, a UDC law professor, Josephine Ross, a Howard University law professor, Seema Sadanandan, Program Director for the ACLU of the Nation’s Capital, and Deborah Golden, Director of the D.C. Prisoners’ Rights Project and Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs—last night’s forum essentially turned into a critical symposium on the marijuana decriminalization bill and ways that the District can turn around some of the shocking statistics as it relates to race and the marijuana arrest rate.

Speaking to a packed room of over 100 citizens, law students, and activists, Grosso gave a brief introduction, explaining what led him to become so involved in this issue. “We’re here today because many people have done the hard work necessary to expose injustices in the way people are arrested, tried, arraigned, convicted, and sentenced,” Grosso said. “But the reason I’m here today is because of three independent events that happened over the past 12 months, which gave profound sense of responsibility to insert myself, as a leader in the District of Columbia, into the debate on race in the criminal justice system,” he said. Grosso cited the murder of Trayvon Martin (and subsequent trial of George Zimmerman), the book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and comprehensive reports produced by the ACLU and Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on racial disparity in arrests in D.C. as the three central reasons that led him to get so heavily involved on this issue.

Moderated by the Voice of Russia’s Kim Brown, each of the panelists laid out a variety of reasons why the U.S.’s failed War on Drugs has led to some disturbing trends in marijuana arrests and racial profiling, and how they’ve impact many black communities, specifically in D.C. Sadanandan of the ACLU said that, while working with young people in D.C., they would constantly tell her how they were “being stopped frequently by police under the pretext of marijuana,” and if cops thought they smelled like marijuana, they’d be searched. “The District, as compared to other jurisdictions in the United States,” Sadanandan said, “was one of the highest rates of marijuana enforcement anywhere, and we spent an enormous amount of money on marijuana arrests.” According to data compiled by the ACLU, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of black people, and by and large, were of black men, despite the fact that the District is about 50 percent black and 50 percent white.

John Brittain, a UDC law professor mentioned that there is equal self-reported usage rate of marijuana in the District between white and black residents. He also talked about how the War on Drugs is a failed policy and that the country needs to not only be focusing on the legalization of marijuana, but to work on “[developing] uniform policies of cannabis and hemp to avoid corporate control,” he said. “Legal market of marijuana must be careful in not using taxes and other regulations to make marijuana so expensive that the criminal market continues,” Brittain also said.

Several other of the discussions panelists, including Kasravi and Golden, talked about how the current simple possession laws devastate the lives of those who are charged, making it increasingly difficult for them to reenter society because they have trouble finding work and housing with a record.

Toward the end of the discussion, the panelists opened up the forum to those in attendance, asking them what they think needs to be done to help solve the D.C. criminal justice system’s race and gender problem. One citizen gained many cheers and claps for calling out Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier. “You need to get rid of Cathy Lanier,” he said. “She puts road blocks in Trinidad, but she wouldn’t dare put those same road blocks in Georgetown.”

Perhaps the most cheers and claps of the evening came from another citizen who, while admitting that the marijuana decriminalization bill is a step in the right direction, the problem lives within the training of police officers and the lack of any sort of public oversight. “There needs to be a public oversight committee,” he said, “so that the police will actually have to listen and answer to the wishes of the public.”

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Matt Cohen



on Nov 15, 2013 12:18 PM