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Councilmember Grosso introduces bills to strengthen safe passage to school and support students on extended medical leave

For Immediate Release:
July 10, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso introduces bills to strengthen safe passage to school and support students on extended medical leave

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, yesterday introduced two bills to support students’ academic success by improving safe passage to school and reducing barriers to academic instruction when medical conditions require them to be away from school for extended periods of time.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our students feel safe from the moment they step out of their home until they return from school at the end of the day,” Grosso said. “Unfortunately, our city has experienced far too many shootings near our schools in just this past year which threatens our students’ sense of safety and negatively impacts their ability to learn.”

According to research conducted by Guns & America, 177 of the 286 shootings in the District of Columbia occurred within a 1,000-foot-radius of a school campus. Most of these incidents were concentrated near schools on the east end of the city.

The Safe Passage to School Expansion Act of 2019 establishes an Office of Safe Passage charged with improving the safety of students on their way to and from school through the creation of a five-year plan, enhanced agency coordination, grant making, and data collection. It also requires the Mayor to provide a shuttle bus from Metro stations to DCPS and public charter schools with the fewest transportation options.

“With continuous and sustained safe passage programming, I believe our students, schools, and communities will be safer and our students will be in a better position to succeed academically,” Grosso said.

Grosso also introduced legislation to protect the right to an education for students who are absent from school for an extended period of time due to physical or psychological reasons.

“Students in the District of Columbia have a right to an education even when they are unable to attend school for long periods of time due to medical reasons. However, it has become clear that D.C. is not always fulfilling that responsibility to our students,” Grosso said.

Research conducted by Councilmember Grosso’s office found major shortcomings across sectors in the provision of home and hospital instruction services to students.

At DCPS, many parents are unfamiliar with their home hospital instruction program. There is no transparent process for determining a child’s eligibility, no clear mechanism for appealing a decision, and no basic public data about the program.

Further, students who are admitted into the Psychiatric Institute of Washington or St. Elizabeth’s Hospital do not receive any instruction at all. It is also unclear if all public charter schools have a program in place, what the requirements are, or if they are in line with best practices.

The Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019 requires every local education agency to adopt and implement a home or hospital instruction program that provides academic instruction and support to students who have been or will be absent from their school of enrollment for 10 or more consecutive or cumulative school days due to a physical or psychological condition. It also creates an appeal process to be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

“This long overdue legislation sets basic expectations for local education agencies to ensure they are meeting their responsibility to educate our students,” Grosso said.

Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Trayon White joined Grosso as co-introducers of both bills.

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Comment

Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019

Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019

Introduced: July 9, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Trayon White

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To require every LEA to adopt and implement a home or hospital instruction program that provides academic instruction and support to students who have been or will be absent from their school of enrollment for 10 or more consecutive or cumulative school days due to a physical condition or a psychological condition; require OSSE to administer the appeals process; require OSSE to promulgate regulations.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, Mary Cheh, Robert White, and Trayon White, I am introducing the Students’ Right to Home or Hospital Instruction Act of 2019.

This legislation requires every local education agency to adopt and implement a home or hospital instruction program that provides academic instruction and support to students who have been or will be absent from their school of enrollment for 10 or more consecutive or cumulative school days due to a physical or psychological condition. It also creates an appeal process to be administered by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

Over the past year, I and my staff have spent time reviewing the policies and practices of DCPS and speaking to the community about DCPS’ Home Hospital Instruction Program.

What I’ve learned is there is no transparency of process for determining a child’s eligibility, no clear mechanism for appealing a decision, and no basic public data about the program.

Further, students who are admitted into the Psychiatric Institute of Washington or St. Elizabeth’s Hospital don’t get any instruction at all. And it's not clear if public charter schools have a program in place, what the requirements are, or if they are in line with best practices.

More troubling is that I’ve consistently heard that many parents don’t know this program exists which puts our students further behind in their schoolwork. This legislation attempts to overcome all of these barriers so that our students can continue to learn no matter their circumstance.

I welcome any co-sponsors. Thank you.

Comment

Comment

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on suspension of Springboard programs at D.C. schools

For Immediate Release:
June 12, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on suspension of Springboard programs at D.C. schools

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the suspension of Springboard Education’s before- and after-care programs following a sexual abuse incident that involved a Springboard employee at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan:

“I take very seriously the issue of sexual assault and abuse, especially against our students. Youth deserve a safe environment in which to learn and incidents like what happened at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan violate their sense of security. We must redouble our efforts to prevent these violations. 

“That is why I recently introduced, passed, and fully funded the School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act. This law requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students. The bill also increases the requirements of D.C. Public Schools, charter schools, and private schools to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students, including those who provide before- and after-care. Schools must also train staff, contractors, and volunteers on preventing, detecting, and reporting sexual abuse or misconduct. 

“In just the past year, several incidences of sexual assault—whether perpetrated by students or by adults against students—have occurred here in the District of Columbia, in traditional public, public charter, and private schools. It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate.

“I want to commend DCPS for following the proper protocols and referring the situation to the Metropolitan Police Department when they were informed of the incident. I also applaud both DCPS and charter schools who have contracted with Springboard for acting swiftly to suspend their services. However, greater efforts must be made before employees ever step foot in our schools to guarantee that they do not intend to harm our students. I have further questions about how schools, and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education when appropriate, are ensuring that contractors like Springboard have conducted the proper screening of employees. This incident also shows the need for training and clear policies on detecting sexual abuse including red flags of potential violations.”

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Comment

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

For Immediate Release: 
May 16, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on a new analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Survey results that found 7.4 percent of D.C. high schoolers have exchanged sex for money, a place to stay, food or something else of value, as first reported by WAMU:

“Students turning to trading sex for survival needs is a stunning failure of the District of Columbia to aid the youth who need our support most. What is most frustrating is that we know these kids. We have the opportunity to help them every day when they step foot into our school buildings. Yet we do not meet them where they are with the services they need.

“How can we demand academic excellence from them and put them on the path to a successful future when they do not know where they will rest their head that night or where their next meal is coming from? The study also notes that these students are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If these students do not have access to food and shelter, it's unlikely they have regular access to medical treatment.

“Compounding these disadvantages, D.C. continues to take a failed law enforcement approach to the sex trade. While I helped end the prosecution of minors involved in commercial sex in 2014, they are still subject to arrest. Adults are still fully criminalized, even though these conditions of poverty do not change when someone turns 18. Criminalizing those who engage in sex work directly undercuts their efforts to leave behind homelessness or hunger, while exposing them to greater physical and health risks. Arrest records become a barrier to other income sources or opportunities, leaving them with fewer options than before. It’s a trap.

“Despite this upsetting state of affairs, I believe we continue to make progress. We have included more money in this year’s budget to support homeless youth and provide greater access to food. I have been meeting with education leaders to address our rising HIV and STI rates among youth through comprehensive sexual education and reproductive health resources in schools.

“However, to say ‘We need to do more’ is a gross understatement. We need to provide additional social, behavioral, and physical health supports in our schools, policies I have pursued during my time as chairperson of the Committee on Education. It’s also time for a new approach to how D.C. handles sex trade, from one of criminalization to one that is focused on health and safety.”

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Comment

Education Committee increases investments in students and fully funds discipline, school safety laws in budget recommendations

For Immediate Release: 
May 2, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Education Committee increases investments in students and fully funds discipline, school safety laws in budget recommendations

Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Education, under the leadership of Councilmember David Grosso, unanimously approved budget and policy recommendations that increase per student and at-risk funding over the mayor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020.

“Putting our students in the best position to succeed requires a greater commitment to funding education. Despite her contention that it represents ‘historic’ investments, the mayor proposed a budget that does not keep up with the rising costs of educating our students,” Grosso said. “The Committee on Education, however, was able to work with several other committees to increase per student and at-risk funding to better support our students needs and set them up for academic success.”

This increased investment allows for full implementation of three laws that Grosso introduced and the Council passed unanimously in 2018: the Student Fair Access to School Act, the School Safety Omnibus Act, and the Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act.

“I’m proud of the budget we passed today. It fully invests in the Committee on Education’s efforts over the past two years to reduce exclusionary discipline, combat sexual assault and abuse in our schools, and improve the academic success of our most vulnerable students,” Grosso said.

Despite the increased resources for D.C. schools, Grosso believes greater investments are necessary to make up for where the mayor’s budget falls short.

“The budget recommendations approved today are only the beginning. I will work with Chairman Mendelson and my colleagues as the budget makes its way through the Committee of the Whole and the full Council to further bolster the resources going to our schools.”

The Committee on Education received an unprecedented amount of public input during the performance and budget oversight process this year. Since the mayor released her FY2020 budget proposal in late March, the committee held approximately 23 hours of hearings, heard from nearly 300 witnesses and received over 1,000 pages of written testimony.

“I want to thank every single member of the public for engaging with the Committee on Education on a multitude of funding issues ranging from school buildings to mental health supports to the per student funding formula,” Grosso said. “Your involvement holds us accountable and ensures that we make fiscally responsible and equitable decisions for our students and schools.”

Investment Highlights

  • Protects students’ right to an education - Fully funds implementation of the Student Fair Access to School Act with an increase in at-risk funding to support schools in addressing the root causes of behavioral issues, provide mental health supports to our students, and reduce the use of exclusionary discipline practices. Made possible with support from Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Kenyan McDuffie.

  • Addresses and prevents sexual assault and abuse in schools - Fully funds the School Safety Omnibus Act to ensure schools are working to prevent and properly handle cases of sexual assault and abuse through better policies, improved hiring practices, and age-appropriate consent education. Made possible with support from Councilmembers Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen, and Brandon Todd.

  • Improves educational outcomes for our most vulnerable youth - Fully funds the creation of a multi-stakeholder Students in the Care of the District of Columbia Committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face in achieving academic success. Made possible with support from Councilmember Trayon White.

  • Promotes safe passage to increase student attendance - Transferred funds to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment for the District Department of Transportation to coordinate with schools and communities to plan safe routes to and from school for all modes of travel.

  • Invests in a world-class central library on opening day - Provides additional investments in necessary technology and maintenance to ensure that the newly modernized Martin Luther King, Jr. Central Library is fully functional when it re-opens in 2020.

Policy Recommendation Highlights

  • Directs D.C. Public Schools to research and identify alternatives to the current school budgeting method to create a model that gives schools the opportunity to thrive and address their specific needs.

  • Recommends that DCPS seek public input on and fast-track its plan to support and expand dual language immersion programs.

  • Directs the Office of the State Superintendent for Education implement the Healthy Schools Act to ensure comprehensive HIV education in all public schools, following a report that young people aged 13 to 29 made up the highest percentage of new HIV cases in a decade.

  • Directs OSSE to support the District of Columbia Education Research Collaborative by improving access to MySchoolDC and Common Lottery data.

  • Recommends that the Deputy Mayor for Education focus on improving student attendance by collaborating with DDOT to analyze student transportation times, options, and routes for students who regularly miss school.

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Comment

Grosso proposes greater local control and transparency in school budgeting

For Immediate Release: 
April 2, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Grosso proposes greater local control and transparency in school budgeting

Washington, D.C. – Today Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, introduced legislation to improve how education investments in D.C. Public Schools serve students and provide the public with greater information on how taxpayer dollars are expended in both traditional public and public charter schools in the District of Columbia.

“Over the past several years, there has been significant confusion around funding for both DCPS and charter schools,” Grosso said. “This has raised many questions from the public and elected officials about annual school funding cuts and increased calls for more transparency from both sectors. The School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019 seeks to provide the public and policymakers a more transparent way to digest and engage with how the District of Columbia funds schools.”

The legislation requires DCPS to use a school-based budgeting model, as opposed to the comprehensive staffing model, to fund schools and submit that to the D.C. Council.

“Communities and individual school leaders know how best to meet the needs of their students,” Grosso said. “This bill would allow principals to have more autonomy of their local dollars and the ability to build their budgets based on their students’ needs, rather than the adults that Central Office dictates schools must hire.”

The bill also requires greater transparency from D.C. public charter schools by subjecting them to the requirements of the D.C. Open Meetings Act and requiring the Public Charter School Board to publish both charter school budgets and school expenditures–including a delineation of how at-risk funds are being spent at each school. Currently, only school budgets are published.

Finally, the bill requires that the Office of the State Superintendent of Education publish school budget expenditure information in a way that ensures the public can compare expenditures by local education agencies and schools in a clear manner.

“These provisions give the public clear information and finally allows us to see across all schools how tax dollars are being spent,” Grosso said. “By no means is this the panacea to solve all of the problems around school budgets that the Council and the public have identified. I believe this starts the conversation,” Grosso said.

Chairman Phil Mendelson, along with every member of the Council, joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Comment

Comment

School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019

School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019

Introduced: April 2, 2019

Co-introducers: Chairman Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Jack Evans, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, Vincent Gray, and Trayon White

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend The Uniform Per Student Funding Formula for Public Schools and Public Charter Schools Amendment Act of 1998 to require that the District of Columbia Public Schools submission be based on the cost associated at each school based on projected enrollment and include detailed information for each school’s funding, a separate line-item for at-risk funding for each school, and a narrative description of programs and services funded by at-risk funds; that the DCPS submission delineate cost of the central office attributed listed categories of students in each grade level; that the Public Charter School Board shall publish the detailed budget and end of year expenditures of each public charter school; to amend the District of Columbia School Reform Act of 1995 to require the Boards of Trustees of public charter schools to comply with Title IV of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedures Act; and to require the Office of the State Superintendent of Education to create an electronic reporting system for the public to ensure the greatest degree of clarity and comparability by laypersons of expenditures among all public schools in the District of Columbia.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Next, along with Chairman Mendelson, Councilmembers Allen, Bonds, Cheh, Evans, Gray, McDuffie, Nadeau, Silverman, Todd, R. White, T. White, I am introducing the School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019.

Over the past several years, there has been significant confusion around funding for DCPS schools. At the same time, there is less information about funding for public charter schools. The lack of information about public schools in both sectors has raised many questions around school funding cuts and transparency.

The Council and the public have had a number of conversations about the Universal Per Student Funding Formula, At-Risk Funding, and if fund allocations meant to supplement are actually supplanting.

I have long believed that we cannot have a full and meaningful conversation on this topic until we all have similar baseline information. Unfortunately, because of the disjointedness of our education system, and specifically our funding systems, we continue to have these conversations in silos.

Last year, the Committee on Education attempted to start this conversation when it approved a Budget Support Act subtitle to require the Mayor to be more transparent about how the executive formulates DCPS and schools’ budgets. Unfortunately, that language was not included in the final BSA.

This Council Period, we are attempting to start that conversation again because it is clear that the public is clamoring for a more transparent way to digest and engage with how the District of Columbia funds schools.

The School Based Budgeting and Transparency Act of 2019 attempts to bring about transparency in the following ways:

  • First, it requires DCPS use a school-based budgeting model to fund schools, as opposed to the comprehensive staffing model, and submit that to DC Council. This would allow principals to have more autonomy of their local dollars and the ability to build their budgets based on their students’ needs, rather than the adults that Central Office dictates schools must hire. It would also require DCPS to delineate the cost of central office in its budget submission.

  • Next, Public Charter Schools must be more transparent. It would subject charter schools to the DC Open Meetings Act. Additionally, it requires PCSB to publish both charter school budgets and school expenditures – currently, only school budgets are published. Also, the legislation makes clear that charters must delineate how at-risk funds are being spent at each school.

  • Finally, the bill requires that OSSE publish school budget expenditure information in a way that ensures the public can compare expenditures by LEA and by school in a clear manner. This gives parents and policymakers clear information and finally allows us to see across all schools how tax dollars are being spent.

By no means do I believe this is the panacea to solve all the problems around school budgets that the Council and the public have identified. I do however believe this is a place to start the conversation and I look forward to having that discussion with all stakeholders.

Comment

Comment

FY2020 Budget Oversight Questions and Responses

Councilmember Grosso, as chairperson of the Committee on Education, has received responses to his pre-hearing budget oversight questions from D.C. Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, D.C. Public Library, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the State Board of Education, The Office of the Student Advocate, and the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education.

You can find the Committee's questions and agencies responses here.

Comment

Comment

Grosso introduces bill to develop technology roadmap for D.C. Public Schools

For Immediate Release:
March 19, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso introduces bill to develop technology roadmap for D.C. Public Schools

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, today introduced legislation to create a technology roadmap for D.C. Public Schools which will improve access to educational technology for students and create a framework to maintain and update technology into the future.

“Last summer, I heard from students at my youth-led education town halls who shared that the access to adequate technology in their schools was a major hindrance to their academic pursuits,” Grosso said. “Slow and outdated computers, laptops missing keys, spotty Wi-Fi, and students forced to share devices are just a few of the complaints students have voiced and advocates with Digital Equity in DC Education have raised. In 2019, this is unacceptable.”

A Michigan State University study published in 2016 found that improved access to technology had a statistically significant positive impact on student test scores in English/language arts, writing, math, and science.

The D.C. Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019 requires the mayor to periodically convene a steering committee of DCPS, the Chief Technology Officer, educational stakeholders, and information technology experts to assess the current state of education technology in DCPS, identify gaps, and develop the Comprehensive Student Technology Equity Plan–a roadmap to ensure there is one device per student in grades 3-12 in the next 5 years.

“While D.C. Public Schools has made a great first step with recently announced investments in technology for critical grades, a comprehensive multi-year technology plan and a strategy to maintain and update this education technology in DCPS is necessary,” said Grosso.

Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Anita Bonds joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019

District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019

Introduced: March 19, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Anita Bonds

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To require the development of a comprehensive multi-year student technology plan for the District of Columbia Public Schools that achieves a one-to-one device-to-student ratio for grades 3-12 and provides for the adequate repairing, maintaining, and updating of information technology in schools.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Along with Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert White, Elissa Silverman, Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, and Anita Bonds, I am introducing the District of Columbia Public Schools Student Technology Equity Act of 2019.

Last summer, I heard from students at my youth-led education town halls who shared that the access to adequate technology in their schools was a major hinderance to their academic pursuits.

Slow and outdated computers, laptops missing keys, spotty Wi-Fi, and students forced to share devices are just a few of the complaints students have voiced.

In 2019, this is unacceptable.

Studies have shown that adequate access to technology has a positive impact on student test scores and imparts modern skills they will need to fully participate in a 21st century economy.

Up-to-date and ample technology in our schools would also improve their ability to seamlessly administer annual standardized testing, which has presented logistical challenges in years past.

The DCPS Student Technology Equity Act of 2019 requires the mayor to periodically convene a steering committee of DCPS, the Chief Technology Officer, educational stakeholders, and information technology experts.

The steering committee will be responsible for engaging the public, assessing the current state of education technology, identifying gaps in student fluency, and determining the adequacy of information technology support for each DCPS school.

This needs assessment will form the basis of a Comprehensive Student Technology Equity Plan that will lay out a road map to ensure there is one device per student in grades 3-12 in the next 5 years.

It will also include a framework to maintain and update technology in our schools and recommendations on how to close the gaps in student technology fluency.

At the end of February 2019, DCPS released a budget that would invest $4.6 million in technology for FY20 and provide a three-to-one technology device ratio for all students and a one-to-one ratio in grades 3, 6, and 9 in SY2019-2020.

While this is a great first step, a comprehensive, multi year technology plan and a strategy to maintain and update this education technology in DCPS is necessary.

In closing, I want to thank student leaders who participated in my town halls for raising their concerns last year and Digital Equity in DC Education for their continued advocacy for improving technology in our schools.

Comment

Comment

FY2018 Performance Oversight Questions and Responses

Councilmember Grosso, as chairperson of the Committee on Education, has received responses to his pre-hearing performance oversight questions from D.C. Public Schools, the Public Charter School Board, D.C. Public Library, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the Deputy Mayor for Education, the State Board of Education, The Office of the Student Advocate, and the Office of the Ombudsman for Public Education.

You can find the Committee's questions and agencies responses here.

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Grosso leads Council comments opposed to Trump Administration's proposed Title IX changes

Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, sent a letter signed by every member of the Council of the District of Columbia, to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos opposing the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title IX enforcement for failing to properly address the realities of sexual harassment and assault in schools.

“As local elected officials, including the chairperson of the D.C. Council Committee on Education, we support a robust oversight role by the Department and we look to the Department to set the bar for ourselves and other jurisdictions in protecting our students,” the Councilmembers wrote. “The proposed rules would restrict our ability to build upon the floor that federal laws and rules should allow, thereby undermining your goal of providing greater control over these decisions to local communities.”

Last year, Grosso introduced and the Council unanimously passed the School Safety Act, which requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. The act also increases the requirements of what efforts D.C. Public Schools and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students.

Councilmembers expressed their concerns that changes to Title IX could undermine this work, including its ability to address off-campus incidents which have on-campus effects.

“We heard consistently from schools, students and parents, and experts about the need for schools to be able to respond to incidents of abuse or harassment that happen outside of school hours or off-campus,” Councilmembers wrote, referencing testimony they heard in considering the school safety legislation. “This could include online harassment or an abuse near school that significantly disrupts students’ ability to learn. The proposed rules would contradict this by requiring schools to dismiss a complaint if the alleged conduct “did not occur within the [school’s] program or activity.”

The Council also raised concerns over language that forces schools to ignore harassment until it becomes incredibly severe, raise the bar on what is considered “deliberate indifference” to complaints of misconduct, and allow parochial schools greater freedom in claiming religious exemptions from fulfilling their Title IX responsibilities.

“Taken together, these proposed rules represent a serious misstep in the ongoing effort to address safety and stop discrimination in education. We ask that you withdraw the proposed rulemaking and reconsider the best way to ensure safety for students,” the Councilmembers concluded.

You can read the full letter below and here.

Comment

Comment

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on D.C. School Report Card release

For Immediate Release:
December 7, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on D.C. School Report Card release

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 D.C. School Report Card and School Transparency and Reporting (STAR) Framework by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE):

“The DC School Report Card is an important step towards greater transparency from our education system. It provides parents with detailed data on every public school in the District of Columbia, both our public charter schools and our traditional schools, to help them make informed decisions about their child’s education. Additionally, educators and policymakers now have a common metric by which to measure our schools and demonstrating where we need to focus our efforts to ensure that every student in the District of Columbia is in the best position to succeed.

“The STAR ratings are just one way to assess our schools at-a-glance. Behind those ratings is detailed data on academic growth, achievement, environment, and other important information–such as course and extra-curricular offerings–that provide a more complete picture to education stakeholders. I’m proud to note that there is a “4-star” school in every ward of our city, but we can not rest until every student has access to a top-quality educational experience no matter where in the city they reside. I truly believe that we are on that path, but much work remains. School communities on the lowest end of the scale will now be able to access federal education funding and be given the latitude to address their areas of improvement in a manner most appropriate for them. As chairperson of the Committee on Education, I will continue to push for greater local investments to help them succeed.

“I applaud OSSE and Superintendent Kang for their diligent work to create this report card, including the outstanding community and school outreach and engagement effort they undertook to create this important tool. This is the culmination of three years of hard work to implement the District of Columbia’s compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and I am very proud of our state education agency’s work on this.”

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the nomination of Lewis Ferebee to be the Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools

For Immediate Release:
December 3, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on the nomination of Lewis Ferebee to be the Chancellor of 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 Mayor Bowser’s nomination of Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis D. Ferebee to be D.C. Public Schools Chancellor:

“Over the past few months, I have had the great pleasure of working closely with interim Chancellor Amanda Alexander as she has steered D.C. Public Schools through a period of intense public scrutiny. After the resignation of the last chancellor, and as she has done throughout her entire career with DCPS, she answered the call to service for our students. Dr. Alexander has a storied career at DCPS, first as an elementary teacher, then principal, instructional superintendent, chief of elementary schools, and now interim chancellor. This dedication to our schools deserves our highest appreciation I want to express my profound gratitude for her dedication and service.

“In Dr. Ferebee, the mayor has chosen to nominate an individual from outside of the District of Columbia. The vetting of such a candidate should not be taken lightly or hastily. Due to the late nature of this nomination in the legislative process, the Committee on Education will not schedule public engagement sessions this month and has no plans to move it through the Council before the end of the legislative session. I encourage Dr. Ferebee to seize this time as an opportunity to meet with DCPS students, family, teachers, and staff in preparation for his confirmation process.

“When the Council returns in January, I intend to hold two public engagement sessions in the community–one in Ward 7 and one in Ward 1–before the confirmation hearing at the Wilson Building. As always, I encourage and welcome public feedback, comments, questions, and concerns about the nomination as we prepare for a hearing on the nominee.”

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Comment

Latest version of education research legislation further insulates research from politics

For Immediate Release:
December 3, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Latest version of education research legislation further insulates research from politics

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), chairperson of the Committee on Education, on the Committee of the Whole’s Committee Print of B22-776, “District of Columbia Education Research Practice Partnership Establishment and Audit Act of 2018” (formerly known as the “District of Columbia Education Research Advisory Board and Collaborative Establishment Amendment Act of 2018”):

“Since this bill was introduced in June, my staff and I have worked collaboratively with Chairman Mendelson’s office to develop the strongest bill possible to establish an independent education research practice partnership in the District of Columbia.

“From the outset, I have been intent on creating an entity whose primary focus is on improving practice and giving all education stakeholders the best possible data to inform their decision making process. Meeting that goal will aid our efforts to close the persistent achievement gap and put every student in the best position to succeed.

“Though the Committee Print released by the Committee of the Whole differs from the Education Committee’s, I am glad to see this version further insulates the research practice partnership from politics by removing it completely from government. This is a change I have sought since the Council first began consideration of the bill and I look forward to wholeheartedly supporting it at tomorrow’s Committee of the Whole and Legislative Meetings tomorrow.”

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Committee on Education unanimously approves Grosso’s legislation to address school sexual assault

For Immediate Release:
November 27, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Committee on Education unanimously approves Grosso’s legislation to address school sexual assault

Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Education today unanimously approved Councilmember David Grosso’s legislation to address and prevent sexual assault and abuse in D.C. schools.

“As the Trump administration is rolling back protections for student victims of sexual assault, and amid a national conversation about sexual misconduct, the time for the Council to create safer school environments for our students is now,” Grosso said. “While the nation has understandably been focused on the tragic and all too frequent occurrence of school shootings, the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse in our schools has not received the attention that it deserves.”

Between 2011 and 2015, the Associated Press found approximately 17,000 cases of sexual assault were filed in K-12 schools across the country.

“In just the past year, several incidences of sexual assault—whether perpetrated by students or by adults against students—have occurred here in the District of Columbia, in both traditional public and public charter schools. It was upsetting enough to learn of these incidents, but in too many cases we also learned that the school’s response was inadequate. Cases were mishandled. Victims, rather than the perpetrators, were punished. Claims were mocked,” Grosso said. “Through performance oversight hearings held this year, I grew more concerned that school leaders had not addressed this violence with appropriate urgency.”

The School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 requires all schools to have policies in place to prevent and properly respond to sexual abuse by adults against children and sexual harassment and assault among students, including dating violence. The bill also increases the requirements of what efforts D.C. Public Schools and charter schools must make to uncover past sexual misconduct of any potential employees who will have direct contact with students.

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

Last year in D.C., 7% of heterosexual high-school aged youth and 15.4% of lesbian, gay or bisexual high-school aged youth had been physically forced to have sex when they did not want to, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The same survey found that 11.6% of heterosexual youth and 24.2% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth had been victims of dating violence.

The School Safety Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 will be considered by the full Council at the December 4th legislative meeting.

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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 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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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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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.

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