Newsletter

Morning Notes

Warmer Winter Expected — “According to the National Weather Service (NWS), we will see above normal temps this winter w/ an equal chance of above, near, or below normal precipitation. We urge you to be prepared for #WinterWeater to keep you and your family safe!” [Ready Fairfax/Twitter]

Pandemic Prompts Change at Fairfax County Meals on Wheels — “Roycraft said that he, along with about 480 volunteers, used to deliver meals to elderly people in Fairfax County about three times a week. When the pandemic struck, this changed…But then, even as pandemic restrictions eased up, the county decided not to return to a volunteer-based delivery system.” [Fairfax Times]

McLean Student Bakes Way onto Food Network — “What started as a pandemic hobby has evolved into a small business for Finley, who estimates she has completed 20 orders to date, including cakes, cupcakes and cookies. Her skill caught the attention of the Food Network, which offered her the chance to compete in its Kids Baking Championship, premiering Dec. 27.” [WTOP]

Why Johnny Depp Sued Amber Heard in Fairfax County — “Despite the subtle language, the tenuous connection to Virginia, and the previous loss in court on a stronger claim, Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County — and has won four motions to dismiss in three years. On October 13, 2021, a Fairfax County judge ruled that because the processors and ink cartridges that delivered the words to the public were located in Virginia, Depp could sue Heard for libel in the state.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Local Church Collects Food Donations With Drive-Thru Nativity — For a second year in a row, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in McLean will hold a drive-thru Nativity event next week that will double as a food drive to support the nonprofit SHARE of McLean. Last year’s event drew over 1,000 cars and brought in enough donations to last the food bank two months. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

FCPS Settles Lawsuit Over Treatment of Students with Disabilities — “Three disability rights organizations…and the families of six students with disabilities had sued in 2019, alleging that students with disabilities in Fairfax schools experienced discrimination, trauma and physical harm through the excessive and improper use of seclusion and physical restraint. As part of the agreement reached Tuesday [Nov. 23], Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) will ban all seclusion practices and curtail its use of physical restraint by the next academic year.” [The Washington Post]

Black Friday Shoppers Return to Tysons Corner — Traffic and sales at Tysons Corner Center were roughly on par with 2019 for Black Friday, according to a senior marketing manager for the mall. She said the return of pre-pandemic crowds wasn’t surprising, since the shopping center has seen a steady increase in traffic over the past three weeks. [WTOP]

Fire and Rescue Department Offers Hanukkah Safety Tips — “Hanukkah starts this evening [Sunday] and runs through December 6. It is a joyous time, so please ensure you and your loved ones stay safe as the holiday season is the peak time of year for home candle fires. Get in S.T.E.P. (Safety Takes Every Person) With FCFRD This Holiday Season and candle with care!” [FCFRD]

McLean Rotary Club Recognizes Front-Line Service Workers — “Under the leadership of president John McEvilly, the Rotary Club of McLean has initiated a new program — ‘Dignity of Work’ Award. According to former McLean Rotary President Lynn Heinrichs, who chairs the initiative, the award ‘is designed to recognize and promote the great people working in the McLean community.'” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Retirement Puts Vienna Tree Assessments on Hold — “Due to staffing shortages stemming from a retirement, the Town is temporarily unable to conduct tree assessments on private property.  Tree assessments on private property are expected to resume in March 2022 after appropriate staffing levels have been restored.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Lorton Pharmacy Gave Adult-Sized COVID-19 Vaccine Dose to Kids — The Fairfax County Health Department advises families whose children got the vaccine between Nov. 2 and 10 from the KC Pharmacy in Lorton to monitor for side effects and talk to a health care provider. The pharmacy is under investigation by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy and has been removed from the state and federal vaccination programs. [FCHD]

Sexual Assault Lawsuit Against FCPS Proceeds — A federal appeals court ruled in favor of a girl who filed a Title IX lawsuit against Fairfax County Public Schools over its handling of sexual harassment and rape allegations from when she was a student at Rachel Carson Middle School from October 2011 until February 2012. The lawsuit is one of two facing FCPS, which also has three outstanding federal investigations. [Inside NoVA]

NoVA Public Health Officials Urge Caution During Holidays — “Although Northern Virginia localities have some of the highest vaccination rates in the state, there is still substantial transmission of COVID-19 in the community, and we must remain vigilant to protect those who are not eligible for vaccination and those at higher risk for serious illness.” [VDH]

Public Meeting on McLean Sidewalk Project Tonight — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a virtual community meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, at 7 p.m., to present updates on the Chesterbrook Road Walkway Project from Maddux Lane to North 41st Street. The project is intended to provide a continuous pedestrian facility along the south side of the roadway from Maddux Lane to 41st Street.” [FCDOT]

Local Restaurants Generate Heat — “Tysons restaurants, Wren and Leila were recently featured in ‘The 16 Hottest New Restaurants Around D.C.,’ according to @Eater_DC. Both restaurants offer a variety of eclectic cuisine and specialty cocktails, perfect for any occasion.” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Settles Wrongful Arrest Lawsuit — Fairfax County will pay $390,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by former D.C. firefighter Elon Wilson, who spent almost two years in prison after a police officer arrested him during a traffic stop in 2018, his lawyers said Monday (Oct. 11). A Circuit Court judge vacated Wilson’s conviction in April after police investigators uncovered then-Officer Jonathan A. Freitag’s history of pretextual traffic stops. [The Washington Post]

Pedestrian Hospitalized After Falls Church Crash — “Officers on scene of crash involving pedestrian in 6100 blk of Leesburg Pike. Pedestrian, a man, was taken to hospital w/ life-threatening injuries. Driver remained at scene & taken to hospital for non-life threatening injuries.” [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

Personalized Sample Ballots Coming for Voters — “The Fairfax County Office of Elections is mailing a sample ballot beginning this week to each of the county’s 727,000 registered voters. The mailer also offers other helpful information, including: ways to request a mailed ballot, early voting locations and hours for those who choose to vote before Election Day, [and] each voter’s assigned polling place on Election Day.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna Halloween Parade Returns in Full — The Vienna Halloween Parade will be back at 7 p.m. on Oct. 27 after being revamped as a drive-by event last year. The parade will return to its normal route along Maple Avenue and surrounding streets with “The Roaring Twenties” as its theme and Rustic Love Vienna and the Vienna VA Foodies as grand marshals. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Vienna Metro station across I-66 (photo by John Lee/Twitter)

Vienna Contractor Settles Federal Lawsuit — IT company Sage Consulting Group, Inc. agreed to pay $4.8 million to settle allegations that the company and its owner Robert Pleghardt paid kickbacks to obtain subcontracts on set-aside contracts intended for small businesses owned and operated by socially and economically disadvantaged citizens. The settlement was announced yesterday (Tuesday) by Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia. [U.S. Attorney’s Office]

Capital One Plans Technologist Hiring Surge — “Amid cloud growth, banking giant Capital One plans to add 3,000 new roles for technologists by the end of 2021…Almost 75% of the hires will be in engineering roles, focusing on machine learning, software development and data work to advance the company’s natural language processing.  Capital One said ‘hundreds’ of positions will be open at the company’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia, with others will be at locations across the country.” [Technical.ly]

Language Barriers Challenge Those Seeking Unemployment Benefits — “Many non-English speakers who lost their jobs during the pandemic had to rely on their children, family or friends to help them file unemployment insurance claims with the [Virginia Employment Commission]. The state agency does not provide claimants with any language translation options other than English and Spanish on its website.” [Inside NoVA]

Wolf Trap Adds More Summer Concerts — Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts has added five more shows to its 50th anniversary season lineup, including singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, “Star Wars: A New Hope” in concert with the National Symphony Orchestra, and a “Broadway in the Park” musical theater showcase featuring “Hamilton” star Renée Elise Goldsberry and Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell. [Patch]

Photo by John Lee/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Metro Starts Testing New Faregates — As of Friday (June 25), Metro has installed new faregates at six rail stations, including the ones at Dunn Loring and West Falls Church, as part of a one-month pilot that will eventually see more than 1,200 gates replaced systemwide. The new faregates have “enhanced safety features, larger displays, and faster processing that will make passing through the gates quicker and easier.” [WMATA]

Telecom Company Settles Kickback Lawsuit — Level 3 Communications, a telecommunications and Internet service provider company with offices worldwide, including one in McLean, will pay a $12.7 million settlement in a civil lawsuit alleging that its managers accepted kickbacks to direct government contracts to specific contractors. [Patch]

Madison Wins Baseball State Championship — James Madison High School’s baseball team won the fifth state title in school history, the most for any Northern Virginia school, on Saturday (June 26) behind a dominant performance by senior James Triantos, who pitched a complete game with 12 strikeouts and gave up just one hit and one earned run to the Colgan Sharks. [WDVM]

Vienna Seeks Playwrights for Festival — “The Town of Vienna is calling all Actors and Playwrights ages 16+ in the DMV! The Vienna Playwriting Festival is looking for 6 actors and 6 short plays. Please email [email protected] for details. Submission deadline is June 30.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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A former Oakton High School student will get another day in court after a three-judge panel ordered a new trial in her lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board over school officials’ handling of a sexual assault report in 2017.

In an opinion released yesterday (Wednesday), Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges James Wynn Jr. and Stephanie Thacker reversed a judgment rendered by a jury in 2019 and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for a new trial, stating that the lower court incorrectly defined the legal standard to determine whether officials knew about the reported assault.

“We hold that a school’s receipt of a report that can objectively be taken to allege sexual harassment is sufficient to establish actual notice or knowledge under Title IX — regardless of whether school officials subjectively understood the report to allege sexual harassment or whether they believed the alleged harassment actually occurred,” Wynn wrote in the majority opinion.

A third judge on the panel, Judge Paul Niemeyer, wrote a dissenting opinion that Fairfax County Public Schools is not liable under Title IX — the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education — because its conduct was not so indifferent that it caused or amounted to discrimination.

Identified in court documents as Jane Doe, the plaintiff argued in a complaint filed against the school board in 2018 that FCPS administrators and employees did not meaningfully and appropriately respond to her report that a fellow student sexually assaulted her during a school band trip.

A junior at the time, Doe said she “struggled academically, emotionally, and physically” as a result of the experience, alleging that school officials suggested she might be disciplined for the incident and did not inform her parents about her report or the result of the subsequent investigation, according to Public Justice, the nonprofit representing her.

A jury in Alexandria determined in August 2019 that Doe had been assaulted and that the experience affected her education, but they found that the school board could not be held liable because it didn’t have “actual knowledge” of the assault, a term some jury members later said they found confusing.

That confusion became the basis for Doe’s appeal of the ruling, which came before the appeals court for oral arguments in January.

“I’m so grateful that the Fourth Circuit is sending my case back for a new trial, and recognized that Fairfax’s legal arguments would lead to ‘absurd results’ for student survivors like me,” Doe said in a statement provided by Public Justice. “It means a lot to me that the appeals court’s strong opinion will protect other survivors. Every student deserves to feel safe in school.”

An FCPS spokesperson said yesterday that the school system “respects the court’s decision” and was in the process of reviewing the opinions.

Public Justice attorney Alexandra Brodsky, who delivered the plaintiff’s arguments before the Fourth Circuit, said in a statement that the appeals court’s ruling makes clear “ignorance is no defense to violating students’ rights.”

“FCPS’s behavior — dismissing a student’s report of sexual assault out of hand — is too common among school districts across the country,” Brodsky said. “The Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Jane Doe’s case should serve as a warning that all schools must train staff to recognize and address sexual harassment.”

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Thursday Morning Notes

Federal American Recovery Plan Will Prevent Metro Budget Cuts — Metro will not need to make the drastic service and personnel cuts proposed in its fiscal year 2022 budget, thanks to Congress’ approval of a new COVID-19 relief package that includes $1.4 billion for D.C. region transit agencies. The potential changes, which included closures of the McLean and Greensboro stations, would have taken effect in January 2022 if the advertised budget got approved. [WMATA]

Thomas Jefferson Admissions Changes Spur New Federal Lawsuit — “Fairfax County Public Schools is facing a second lawsuit over changes officials made last year to the admissions process at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, its flagship STEM magnet school. The suit, filed in federal court Wednesday, alleges the changes are discriminatory against Asian Americans and therefore violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.” [The Washington Post]

Ramp Closure Planned for I-495/I-66 at Fairview Park — The ramp from southbound Interstate 495 to westbound Interstate 66 will be closed from 11 p.m. Saturday (March 13) to 7 a.m. Sunday, and again on 10 p.m. Sunday to 4 a.m. Monday. The ramp will have two exit lanes when it reopens, one of which has been closed since late January for the construction of a new ramp as part of the Transform 66 Outside the Beltway project. [Patch]

Vienna Town Council Debates Undergrounding Utilities — “Placing utility lines underground in Vienna’s Maple Avenue corridor would beautify the streetscape and improve service reliability, but at a steep cost. According to a feasibility study…presented at the Vienna Town Council’s March 8 work session, utility undergrounding in 10 locations would cost an estimated $22 million – the equivalent of about half of the town’s general-fund budget for one year.” [Sun Gazette]

Capital One Appoints New Board Members — “McLean banking giant Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF) has appointed executives from Facebook Inc. and Nike Inc. to its board of directors, the company said Tuesday. In May, shareholders will vote on the election of Ime Archibong, head of new product experimentation at Facebook, and Craig Williams, president of Jordan Brand at Nike.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vienna Fire Department to Host Two Inova Blood Drives — The Vienna Volunteer Fire Department (400 Center St. S) will hold two blood drives this spring for Inova, one from 1-7 p.m. on March 25 and the second from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on April 2. Face coverings are required at both events. [@ViennaVFD/Twitter]

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Route 7 Construction Leads to Gas Leak — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units were dispatched to the 9100 block of Leesburg Pike yesterday afternoon (Monday) when workers “struck a large gas line,” resulting in an outside gas leak. A building at that address was vacant, and the incident did not affect traffic. [FCFRD/Twitter]

McLean Resident Helps Neighbors Get COVID-19 Vaccine — “Over the past week and a half, [Katja] Hom has helped more than 30 people get vaccination appointments at Safeways in McLean, Arlington, Vienna and other parts of Northern Virginia.” [Patch]

Virginia Tech to End Therapy Program at Falls Church Campus — “The master’s program in marriage and family therapy (MFT) will end in August 2023, the university told the Washington Business Journal. The program’s clinic, at 7054 Haycock Road, which provides low-cost mental health services to low-income residents and training opportunities for students, will also shut down.” [Washington Business Journal]

Fairfax County Police Hit With Civil Rights Violation Lawsuit — “A Black man who was Tasered and punched by a White Fairfax County police officer without apparent provocation in 2020 filed a federal lawsuit Monday claiming his civil rights were violated, he was subject to excessive force, and he was falsely arrested.” [The Washington Post]

ViVa Vienna Organizers Hopeful for Memorial Day Weekend Event — Organizers of the Town of Vienna’s annual ViVa Vienna festival hope to hold the event on Memorial Day weekend as usual, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam raised the attendance limit on outdoor amusements from 250 to 1,000 people. The festival will likely still operate a little differently to accommodate social distancing protocols. The town will determine a date on Apr. 5. [Sun Gazette]

Fairfax County Board Chair Praises New Federal COVID-19 Relief Package — “Glad to see that the Senate support Americans through @POTUS’s American Rescue Plan. With the $350B to state/local govs, we can continue to provide the assistance our residents need.” [@JeffreyCMcKay/Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A former Oakton High School student is seeking a new trial in her lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board involving a sexual assault that occurred on a school band trip in 2017.

Attorneys representing the plaintiff, known as Jane Doe, and the school board delivered oral arguments to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit remotely on Monday (Jan. 25).

According to Public Justice, the nonprofit representing the plaintiff and her family, Jane Doe — then a junior — and another bandmate — then a senior — were sitting next to each other on a bus when he touched her without her consent.

Filed in 2018, the nonprofit’s original complaint alleged that administrators and employees failed to take meaningful and appropriate action. According to the complaint, administrators threatened to discipline her and discouraged her from reporting the assault to police or taking legal action.

In August 2019, a jury with the U.S. District Court in Alexandria found that Jane Doe was sexually harassed and that the experience negatively impacted her education. But the jury did not find the Fairfax County School Board could be held liable for the deprivation of her education as a result of her assault.

The jury determined that the school board did not have “actual knowledge” about the assault, though one juror later said there was confusion over the term’s definition. As a result, the jury did not discuss the final question in the case, which asked whether the school board acted with deliberate indifference toward Doe’s complaint.

FCPS’s liability, which appears to hinge on the extent to which school officials knew an assault had taken place and whether they took sufficient action to address the plaintiff’s concerns, is now being relitigated.

“There may be hard actual knowledge cases, but this isn’t one of them. This family did all they could to put the school on notice,” Public Justice attorney Alexandra Brodsky said in her argument on Monday. “This court should remand a new trial so a jury can reach, for the first time, the question of whether the school did enough.”

Stuart Raphael, the attorney for the school board, argued that the board did not have “actual knowledge” because Doe — in a conversation with Fairfax County Public Schools Director of Student Services Jennifer Hogan — did not describe her experience as sexual assault or nonconsensual. He added that Doe was “incredulous” when another administrator asked if she would press charges.

He argued that these facts, as well as inconsistencies between the stories that reached administrators, support the jury’s initial finding that the school board had no “actual knowledge” of the sexual assault.

“It cannot be that a school administrator’s failure to understand what constitutes sexual harassment is an absolute bar to liability,” Brodsky said.  “That’s why this court and others have treated a failure to categorize reports of sexual harassment as evidence of a deficient response.”

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