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PARCC scores continue to demonstrate improvement

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

PARCC scores continue to demonstrate improvement

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 2018-2019 school year:

“The PARCC results released today demonstrate that public education in the District of Columbia continues to improve. I appreciate the hard work of educators across the District of Columbia whose dedication to our students’ success has produced these positive results.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that every student, regardless of race, disability, or other factor, completes their education prepared for a bright future; and while today’s results show some improvements, we still have more work to do in order to fulfill that responsibility. The data we gain from these assessments will provide us with valuable information about where our focus needs to be in order to continue our progress and put every student in the best position to succeed.”

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Councilmember Grosso endorses plan to expand protected bike lanes by 2020

Councilmember David Grosso, joined by six of his Council colleagues, today sent a letter to District Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian in support of the Washington Area Bicycle Association’s proposed 20x20 plan which calls for the creation of 20 miles of protected bike lanes to be completed by the end of 2020.

You can read the letter below:

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Public comment period now open on Trump Administration's anti-transgender health care rule

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is currently accepting public comments on a proposed federal rule that would roll back civil rights protections for transgender individuals, making it more difficult for them to access vital health care in the United States.

Today, Councilmember Grosso ensured that the D.C. Council submits comments opposing the proposed rule-making.

Last November, Councilmember Grosso introduced–and the Council unanimously passed–the Sense of the Council in Support of Transgender, Intersex, and Gender Non-Conforming Communities Resolution of 2018 last November.

“Transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming people exist and deserve the full and equal protection under the laws of District of Columbia and the United States, the U.S. Constitution, and international law including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” reads the resolution. ”Stigma and discrimination based on gender identity or expression are well documented, including in a national survey of nearly 28,000 transgender individuals that found that…one-third of those who saw a doctor in the previous year faced discrimination. There is no evidence that ensuring civil rights protections for these communities causes harm to anyone else, and in fact leading national experts and associations in the fields of education, health care, child health and welfare, and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence roundly reject any such claims and support nondiscrimination protections for transgender people.”

The resolution includes a requirement that the Secretary of the Council submit the resolution as public comment on any relevant proposed rule-making, on behalf of the Council of the District of Columbia. I will be following up to ensure that this happens. Today he sent a memorandum to Secretary Nyasha Smith to ensure it is submitted.

“While the Trump administration wants to give a green light to shelters, housing programs, doctors and medical institutions to turn away transgender people, in D.C. the law will not change,” Councilmember Grosso said in May. “Our local Human Rights Act explicitly protects our transgender, intersex, gender non-conforming, and non-binary residents, workers, and visitors from discrimination. It is critical that the D.C. government double down on its commitment to protect these community members from discrimination and get the word out that anti-transgender bias has no place in the District of Columbia.”

Members of the public are encouraged to submit their own comments opposing the proposed rule before the public comment period ends on August 13, 2019. You can visit https://protecttranshealth.org/ to learn more and submit your own comments.

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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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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.

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Safe Passage to School Expansion Act of 2019

Safe Passage to School Expansion 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 establish an Office of Safe Passage to ensure safe passage for students traveling to and from LEAs between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Monday through Friday during the school year and summer; and to require the Mayor to provide a shuttle bus from the metro station to a DCPS and public charter school within a priority area with the fewest public transportation options.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson.

Today, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Brandon Todd, Mary Cheh, Robert White, and Trayon White, I am introducing the Safe Passage to School Expansion Act of 2019.

According to research conducted by Guns & America, there were 286 identified shootings in the District of Columbia between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the 2016-2017 school year. 177 of these shootings were within a 1,000-foot-radius of a school campus. 82% of these incidents happened near schools on the east end of our city.

And, as many of you know, we've had several scary incidences this past school year.

DC PREP and Ketcham Elementary School have repeatedly gone on lockdown because of the proximity and intensity of the shootings in their neighborhood.

A family was attacked on their way back from KIPP DC Douglass Campus to Anacostia metro station.

Shootings have occurred near Savoy and Tubman Elementary school.

More recently, shots were fired during a movie night at Hendley Elementary School and they’ve been occurring in close proximity to their building over the course of many days.

And we’ve had multiple children die due to gun violence this year on their way to and from school.

This is not normal and it’s not okay. And for far too long, adults have turned a blind eye to this. How do we expect our students to learn when they can’t rely on us to keep them safe to and from school?

This legislation establishes an Office of Safe Passage to ensure students are able to travel safely to and from schools every day during school hours and after school activities. It also requires the Mayor to provide a shuttle bus from the metro station to a DCPS and public charter school with the fewest transportation options.

With continuous and sustained safe passage programming, I believe our students, schools and communities will be safer.

I welcome any co-sponsors.

• Thank You.

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Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from the D.C. Council

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso regarding Councilmember Evans’ latest dishonesty to the Council about the nature of his relationship with lobbyist Bill Jarvis:

“Tomorrow, the Council will consider resolutions to remove Councilmember Jack Evans as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee and hire a law firm to conduct an investigation into his potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. While I appreciate that the Council is finally acting to take Councilmember Evans’ misconduct seriously, it is frustrating that it has taken us this long to act to protect the Council’s reputation and hold our colleague accountable.

“Regardless of the actions we take tomorrow, given new revelations over the weekend of Councilmember Evans’ dishonesty, I believe the public trust in Councilmember Evans is irreparable and it is in the best interest of the Council and the residents of the District of Columbia that Jack Evans resign as the Ward 2 Councilmember. Short of that, I will be offering an amendment that would also remove him from all committees until the conclusion of this investigation.

“Last week, Councilmember Evans attempted to present his case to Councilmembers in response to the release of a memo from a law firm hired by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to investigate Evans. This memo illustrated that Mr. Evans was not forthcoming and not truthful with his colleagues and the public about the findings of the WMATA investigation.

“My colleagues and I asked many questions, including the nature of the relationship between Mr. Evans and his consulting firm NSE Consulting with lobbyist Bill Jarvis. Councilmember Evans maintained that Mr. Jarvis was merely a long-time friend who helped file the paperwork creating NSE Consulting. However, over the weekend The Washington Post ran a story contradicting Mr. Evans’ claims yet again, summarizing e-mails demonstrating that Mr. Jarvis acted on behalf of the firm by negotiating contracts with potential clients.

“It is no longer possible to trust anything that Councilmember Evans has told us since this ordeal began. Councilmember Evans lied about what happened with the WMATA report, and now he’s lying about the nature of his relationship with a well-known lobbyist, Mr. Jarvis. We must now question votes and actions he has taken on the Council during his many years as chairperson of the Finance and Revenue Committee, and particularly during the past decade in which he has not once recused himself from a Council vote.

“Especially troubling is his rush to legalize sports wagering and to sole-source the contract to ensure his business partner’s client remains the incumbent vendor. The relationship between Councilmember Evans and Intralot’s lobbyist Bill Jarvis only reinforces my view that we should disapprove the proposed $215 million lottery and sports wagering contract, decouple the two issues, and open both to competition.

“This is an unfortunate situation of our own making. The Council failed to address the allegations of Councilmember Evans’ corruption, conflicts of interest, and misconduct when they first surfaced in early 2018. At that time I privately requested that Chairman Mendelson create an ad hoc committee made up of five Councilmembers to investigate. I re-iterated those calls in the subsequent months as new allegations and information came to light. The Chairman still has not appointed an ad hoc committee and has indicated that he is unlikely to do so until the fall.

“Rather than investigating these allegations at the first hint of wrongdoing, it has taken the work of the press to bring Councilmember Evans’ conflicts and dishonesty to light. We are continually distracted by new allegations of wrongdoing or new information that casts doubt on Councilmember Evans’ honesty. Who knows what else this week will bring? Further distraction can be avoided if Councilmember Evans takes the appropriate action by resigning from the Council.”

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In Recognition of National Children’s Awareness Month

In Recognition of National Children’s Awareness Month

By: Alejandra Barrera* 

The month of June has been established as National Children’s Awareness Month. It is the perfect time to raise awareness on the vulnerability of children exposed to violence and the importance of providing school-based mental health support.

At the most fundamental level, investing resources in children to help them flourish and develop to their full potential is a moral imperative. But investing in children is also important on practical grounds. Their well-being contributes to poverty reduction, income equality and economic growth in our common future.[1]  Since the foundation of an individual’s health and well-being is set in early childhood, it is during that time that we have to provide the most support with better policies and interventions.

While maltreatment and traumatic experiences are unacceptable for anyone, it’s particularly detrimental and damaging during childhood as children are going through a process of cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Today, children and youth are in high need of mental health support given the high exposure to different forms of violence, such as domestic violence, bullying, and gang and gun violence that are prevalent in our schools and communities. These environments put children in a state of distress that can eventually lead to lasting physical, mental and emotional harm.

A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds, and 91 percent of child abuse is committed by parents.[2] Further, 4 to 5 children die from abuse or neglect every day in the U.S., and 75 percent of these children are under the age of 3 years old.[3] U.S. teens and young adults have reached their highest suicide rates. In 2017, suicide claimed the lives of 5,016 males and 1,225 females between the ages of 15 and 24 in the United States.[4] More than 3 million adolescents aged 12-17 reported at least one major depressive episode in the past year.[5]

The latest Child Maltreatment report published by the Children’s Bureau at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF) shows us that as society, we are making progress in reducing victimization and deaths due to maltreatment; however, the numbers of victims and deaths are still higher than they were five years ago, which is concerning.

In 2017, Children Protective Services agencies received a national estimate of 4.1 million referrals of child maltreatment in the United States involving more than 7.5 million children. Of that estimated 7.5 million children who were included in referral, 3.5 million children received an investigation or alternative response. An estimated 674,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment. In total, three quarters or 74.9 percent of victims were neglected, 18.3 percent were physically abused, and 8.6 percent were sexually abused.  For 2017, an estimated 1,720 children died of abuse and neglect at a rate of 2.32 per 100,000 children in the national population.[6]

D.C. has historically had one of the country’s highest child fatality rates. [7] In 2008, 182 children died in the District; by 2013, it dropped to 91. Child fatality statistics show that total deaths have increased steadily again since 2013, rising to 100 in 2014 and 124 in 2015, though the city’s overall rate of child deaths decreased from 2008 to 2015. According to Child Fatality Review Committee in the District of Columbia, between 2011 and 2015, only 17 of the child fatalities reviewed were the result of abuse or neglect.[8] In the Child Maltreatment report, DC reported four fatalities in 2017, and its child fatality rate per 100,000 children was 3.21, demonstrating the city's commitment to reducing violence of any form against children. [9]

For this FY 2020 budget, Councilmember David Grosso and the Committee on Education worked to fund a number of priorities that focused on child welfare.[10] These investments included fully funding bills such as the School Safety Act, which will ensure schools are working to prevent and properly handle cases of sexual assault and abuse through better policies, including protocols for responding to and reporting allegations.  

Additionally, the Fair Access to School law will reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and address the root causes of student behavioral issues through school-based mental health services. Councilmember Grosso and the Committee on Education were also able to  fully fund Students in the Care of D.C. Coordinating Committee Act that will create a committee to identify challenges and resolve issues that students in detainment, commitment, incarceration, and foster care face in order to improve educational outcomes.  

The commitment of the community, parents, caregivers, teachers, leaders, government officials, and students themselves have helped shape policies that better serve our children as a whole, however there is room for continued improvement in the District’s child welfare system. 

Advocates, parents, and Councilmembers alike have all called for the allocation of additional funding to support and expand school-based and community-based mental health services so that kids can get the help they need, or tackle risk factors that lead to dysfunctional families, which in many cases increase the likelihood of child maltreatment or neglect. Additionally, the city should continue working to implement a comprehensive counseling program in our schools by setting counselors-to-student ratios.

Though more work can be done to strengthen our policies, the city should take pride in its efforts thus far. The D.C. Council and the Mayor have demonstrated a shared commitment to comprehensively addressing critical issues facing children and youth, by bringing new approaches and bills that seek to optimize child well-being in the District of Columbia. Through these efforts and continued engagment with the community, the District of Columbia will become a leader in advancing robust policies that protect the health and well-being of our children and youth.  

*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. Alejandra is a former intern and now current Office Manager with the Office of Councilmember Grosso.*

[1] (UNICEF, n.d.)

[2] (Health Alliance, 2018)

[3] (Health Alliance, 2018)

[4] (Los Angeles Times, 2019)

[5] (Los Angeles Times, 2019)

[6] (Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019)

[7] (Washington City Paper, 2019)

[8] (Washington City Paper, 2019)

[9] (Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019)

[10] (David Grosso DC Council At-Large Blog, 2019)

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Councilmember Grosso inquiries into Max Brown's views on Washington Football Team's return to the District

On June 21, 2019 Councilmember David Grosso and Councilmember Brianne Nadeau sent a letter to chair of the Board of the Washington Convention and Sports Authority Max Brown in advance of his re-nomination.

The councilmembers stated their unequivocal opposition to the construction of a new stadium for the Washington Football Team in the District of Columbia, citing both the team’s use of an offensive mascot and racist name; and the failure of NFL stadiums to generate the promised economic growth. They requested more information regarding his views and any actions he has taken to pave the way for the team’s return to D.C.

Mr. Brown responded today, June 28, in a letter the indicated his awareness of the councilmembers’ opposition, but would not rule out that the RFK Campus could be anchored by a new stadium for the Washington Football Team. He did however acknowledge that the ultimate decision will be left up to elected officials, including the Council.

You can read both letters below.

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Councilmember Grosso requests more information on DCPS deficit

Today Councilmember Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, and Chairman Phil Mendelson sent the below letter to D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee requesting more information on issues raised at the June 26 hearing on school budgeting, including what the scope of their projected deficit is for the current and next fiscal years. They have requested a response by Friday, July 12, 2019.

Update July 12, 2019: Chancellor Ferebee sent a response to Councilmember Grosso and Chairman Mendelson. You can read it here and below.

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Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

For Immediate Release:
June 21, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso reiterates need for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation of Councilmember Evans and calls for the removal of Evans from all committees

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on the ethical issues plaguing Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Evans’ ethical lapses have created a terrible distraction for the Council of the District of Columbia and it is preventing this body from moving forward with its work in a manner that instills trust and confidence in the public. The Council has abdicated its responsibility to conduct an investigation of one of its members–to its own detriment. We cannot continue to incrementally sanction Councilmember Evans based on a slow trickle of information from media outlets. Only a full investigation will provide Councilmembers with the necessary information to act appropriately and with finality.

"Chairman Mendelson must appoint an ad hoc committee to fully investigate Councilmember Evans and Councilmember Evans should be removed from all Committees while that investigation moves forward."

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Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

For Immediate Release:
June 20, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso calls on Councilmember Evans to resign from WMATA Board and for the D.C. Council to conduct a full investigation

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso on recent news reports of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's ethics investigation into Councilmember Jack Evans:

"Councilmember Jack Evans’ reputation and ability to faithfully represent the people of the District of Columbia to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are beyond repair and he should resign from the Board of Directors immediately.

"Councilmember Evans has represented the citizens of the District of Columbia on the WMATA Board since 2015. In that time, he has 'knowingly' engaged in 'a pattern of conduct in which Evans attempted to and did help his friends and clients and served their interests' rather than the interests of WMATA or D.C. residents. Worse still, his attempt to obfuscate WMATA’s Ethics Committee’s findings have tarnished the District’s reputation in the eyes of our partner jurisdictions. There are 12 other members of the Council who could bring a strong, ethical, diverse, and respected voice to the WMATA Board and begin to repair our critical regional relationships.

"Furthermore, Councilmember Evans’ actions throughout the WMATA ethics investigation and his statements this week have called into question his honesty. His entire strategy is to avoid public accountability for his actions. By eschewing an ad hoc committee to investigate Councilmember Evans’ potential violation of the Council’s Code of Conduct in favor of a mere reprimand and minor committee reassignments, the Council has abdicated its responsibility to hold its members accountable.

"If the WMATA Ethics Committee can investigate without interference from federal authorities, the Council should do the same and hold Councilmember Evans accountable. I grow increasingly concerned that our failure to conduct a thorough and full investigation will allow further media reports of Councilmember Evans’ behavior to distract the Council from its work on behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia and corrode the public trust.

"The people of the District of Columbia deserve a full accounting of the misuse of his public office and potential violations of the Council’s Code of Conduct. I urge Chairman Mendelson to immediately appoint an ad hoc committee to carry out this task."

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Council preserves independence and dedicated funding for arts and humanities in final action on FY2020 budget

For Immediate Release:
June 18, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Council preserves independence and dedicated funding for arts and humanities in final action on FY2020 budget

Washington, D.C. – The Council provided strong support for the arts and humanities today as it finalized the fiscal year 2020 budget with policy changes that preserve dedicated arts funding and improve the independence of the Commission on Arts and Humanities–both priorities for Councilmember David Grosso.

“The restoration of dedicated funding for the arts and humanities sends a strong signal that the Council is committed to a stable funding stream for our cultural institutions,” Grosso said. “It is especially important that we have provided a past due dedication to the humanities, which elevates the appreciation of our local history and culture.”

Last year, Councilmember Grosso worked with his colleagues to secure a dedicated funding stream for the arts and humanities in D.C.’s fiscal year 2019 budget. However, the mayor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 repealed that dedication

“I am also excited about the restructuring of the Commission on Arts and Humanities that we passed today,” Grosso said. “These reforms will insulate the commission from political interference, ensure more equitable and reliable funding for the arts, and provide stability through the authorization of multi-year grants.”

“I appreciate Chairman Mendelson’s partnership in these efforts that put the arts and humanities on a path to become an even greater cultural force in the District of Columbia,” Grosso said. “I’m looking forward to where we go from here. I look forward to a productive hearing on the Cultural Plan and how we can work together over the coming months to focus on elevating arts education as a policy priority across the District of Columbia.”

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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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Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019

Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019

Introduced: June 4, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, and Mary Cheh

BILL TEXT

Summary: This resolution reaffirms the District's status as a guardian of human rights for all people and calls on the President and Congress to act quickly to end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as, end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Robert White, I am introducing the Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019.

Since 1959, when Fidel Castro seized power in Havana, overthrowing the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been plagued by distrust and hostility.

In the decades to follow, economic and diplomatic isolation have come to characterize the U.S. government's policy toward Cuba, with the United States at times engaging in hostile, aggressive and sometimes violent actions against the island nation.

Under the Obama administration, enormous strides were made to reestablish diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Obama eased restrictions on travel and trade, repealed the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, and eventually announced that he and Raul Castro would work to restore full diplomatic ties.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has altered several Obama-era regulations including eliminating the "people-to-people educational travel" category for U.S. citizens to qualify for a license from the Treasury Department to travel to Cuba.

Additionally, the Trump administration has pulled 2/3rds of its embassy staff from Havana and imposed prohibitions on commerce.

The more the Trump administration seeks to asphyxiate Cuba, the harder the Cuban government will impose political discipline on its people. In the end, the Trump administration's approach will only serve to create scarcity, desperation, and chaos for the Cuban people.

This resolution reaffirms the District's status as a guardian of human rights for all people and calls on the President and Congress to act quickly to end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as, end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. Citizens.

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Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

For Immediate Release: 
June 3, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember David Grosso re-introduces legislation to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

Washington, D.C. – With increased support from Council colleagues, Councilmember David Grosso today announced the re-introduction of legislation that would reduce violence and improve public health and safety by removing criminal penalties for consensual sexual exchange in the District of Columbia.

“It is long past time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a new approach that focuses on human rights, health, and safety,” Grosso said at a press conference and rally held in support of the bill with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition on Monday.

The Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 eliminates criminal prohibitions and penalties for consensual sex work and establishes a task force to evaluate the effects of removing criminal penalties and recommend further improvements to public safety, health, and human rights.

“By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help connect them to the services they need to live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise,” Grosso said.

Removing criminal penalties for engaging in sexual exchange reduces public violence and protects sex workers. People in the sex trade are safest when their work is not criminalized. It allows them to better screen clients, to negotiate safer sex practices, and to report incidents of trafficking or client and police violence.

“Decriminalizing sex work will make life easier not only for the people that complain about K Street, but also for the girls who are getting turned away from jobs, housing, health care, and more. Everyone needs to survive, and everyone needs to make money. If Sis has to turn to sex work so she can buy a room or so she can eat, don't send her to jail,” said Tiara Moten, Lead Organizer with No Justice No Pride.

Eighty percent of sex workers report experiencing some form of violence in the course of their work. This is especially true for sex workers from communities that already face increased discrimination such as immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals of color. Criminalization discourages sex workers from reporting these incidents.

“It is appropriate that we address this issue at the start of LGBTQ Pride month that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the riots at the Stonewall Inn. We know that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender individuals engage in sex work at higher rates, making decriminalization of sex work an LGBTQ issue,” said Benjamin Brooks, Assistant Director for Policy at Whitman Walker Health. “Removing criminal penalties recognizes the dignity of the individual and removes key barriers to preventing HIV and improving health for our communities.”

"As a faith leader, a Black woman, and an advocate for abused and neglected children, at-risk youth, adjudicated youth, victims of domestic violence, women’s issues, and cancer patients I believe that Black women deserve to live free from violence and provide for themselves and their families. I support the decriminalization of sex work because criminalization only harms our communities and we must support and love one another not ostracize each other,” said Rev. Shirley Currie, associate minister at Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Protections for minors and prohibitions against coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking already exists in D.C. law and remain untouched by Grosso’s bill.

“This legislation slightly differs from the previous version by leaving some language in the code making it crystal clear that coercion, exploitation, and human trafficking are not tolerated in D.C.,” Grosso said.

Grosso’s proposal now enjoys expanded support on the Council. Only Councilmember Robert White co-introduced the legislation back in 2017. This time, Councilmembers Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau have added their names.

Grosso developed the legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition (SWAC), a coalition of more than nearly two dozen local and national organizations: HIPS, ACLU DC, GLAA, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, D.C. Rape Crisis Center, Amara Legal Center, National Center for Trans Equality, Whitman Walker Health, Casa Ruby, Best Practices Policy Project, SWOP-USA, Black Youth Project (BYP) 100, Black Lives Matter DMV, No Justice No Pride, D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, Bread for the City, Network for Victims Recovery DC, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Ultraviolet, Center for Health and Gender Equity, and URGE.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed their voice to the development of this legislation, has endorsed its approach, or engaged with elected officials to build to the unprecedented level of support we see here today,” Grosso said. “ I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.”

The bill will officially be re-introduced tomorrow, June 4, 2019 at the Council's regular legislative meeting. It will likely be referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

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Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: June 4, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau

FACT SHEETS | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE | MYTH vs. FACT

Summary: To amend an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health.


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Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

For Immediate Release:
May 28, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Councilmember Grosso seeks to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination by D.C. government

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso today introduced legislation that would protect current or prospective District of Columbia government employees from discrimination based on their enrollment in medical marijuana programs.

“Medical marijuana is no different than any other prescription medication. Individuals who are using it to manage their personal medical conditions should not have to also worry that they will lose their job or not be hired,” Grosso said. “However, over the past several months I have heard in the press and from constituents that some D.C. agencies are willfully ignoring existing policy allowing for exceptions for these individuals.”

The D.C. Department of Human Resources specifically sets out an exception for government employees enrolled in medical marijuana programs in District Personnel Manual Instruction No. 4-34, similar to exceptions for other prescription drugs.

However, current and prospective employees of from several government agencies have reported treatment inconsistent with official policy.

The Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019 would enshrine in the law a prohibition against D.C. government agencies discriminating in employment against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

“Unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not refuse to hire, fire, or penalize individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated."

Councilmember Grosso, himself a member of the District’s Medical Marijuana Program, has corresponded with DOC Director Quincy Booth since November 2018 to resolve this issue. Grosso, along with five of his colleagues, also sent a letter to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue seeking his intervention. Both efforts were unsuccessful.

“I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, but it has now become necessary to legislate and immediately correct this inconsistency,” Grosso said. “To that end, I will also be moving this bill as emergency legislation at the next legislative meeting.”

Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray joined Councilmember Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation. Councilmembers Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, and Charles Allen co-sponsored the bill.

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Councilmember Grosso’s priorities funded in final fiscal year 2020 budget

For Immediate Release: 
May 28, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Councilmember Grosso’s priorities funded in final fiscal year 2020 budget

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, celebrated investments in his budget priorities included in the District of Columbia's fiscal year 2020 budget following today’s final approval by the D.C. Council.

“Putting our students in the best position to succeed requires a greater commitment to funding education. The Committee on Education 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,” said Grosso. “While we must continue to provide additional resources, I am proud of the budget we have 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.”

Education investment highlights include:

  • Increases per-student funding by 3%, including an increase in the weight for students at-risk of academic failure to 0.225.

  • Fully funds the Fair Access to School law to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and address the root causes of student behavioral issues with $9 million more for school-based mental health services.

  • Fully funds School Safety 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.

  • 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.

  • Promotes safe passage to increase student attendance with funding for a District Department of Transportation safe routes coordinator to work with schools.

  • Invests over $2 million in the successful early literacy intervention program that gets students at or above reading level by third grade.

  • Restores funding for St. Coletta of Greater Washington to support their work educating the District’s most vulnerable students. 

Grosso also succeeded in his fight to restore $53 million for the long-delayed modernization of Banneker Academic High School and relocate the school to the former Shaw Jr. High site on Rhode Island Avenue NW to ensure it would not face further delays.

“Today’s budget passage is a major victory for the Banneker community which has waited far too long for a school building that meets its academic needs. I’m proud of the students and community members who have advocated for their school. Their voices have had a tremendous impact and their modernization will now move forward in a timely manner,” Grosso said.

In addition to his work on the Education Committee, Councilmember Grosso secured or supported changes to the budget in the areas of health, public safety, human services, the arts and humanities, transportation, and good government:

  • Over $4 million increase to expand violence interruption teams to additional neighborhoods.

  • Initial funds to implement Grosso’s Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019 when it passes, specifically to set up facilities where medical marijuana patients can consume if they are not allowed to do so at their home.

  • Restores dedicated funding for arts and humanities grants and strengthens the independence of the Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

  • Fully funds public restrooms legislation to build two new public restrooms sites each year and give incentives to businesses downtown to make their restrooms available to the public.

  • Funds 60 new shelter beds, 50 new transitional housing slots, and 35 permanent supportive housing units to combat youth homelessness.

  • Invests in ending chronic homelessness for about 600 individuals through permanent supportive housing and targeted affordable housing and continues homeless outreach despite the end of a federal grant.

  • Combats family homelessness with 180 new units of permanent supportive housing and 200 new units of targeted affordable.

  • Reverses the mayor’s cut of about $500,000 Emergency Rental Assistance Program and further increases it by over $600,000.

  • Advances the design of the East Downtown protected bike lane project, for which Grosso has advocated.

  • Leaves out an inappropriate Freedom of Information Act amendment which would decrease government transparency and accountability.

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Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: May 28, 2019

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

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978 and the Department of Corrections Employee Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing Act of 1996 to prohibit the District of Columbia government from discriminating, in employment, against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019, and I thank Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau and Mary Cheh for joining me as co-introducers.

The voters of the District of Columbia approved establishment of a medical marijuana program in 1999, but due to Congressional interference, the program was not set up and running until a little less than ten years ago.

Since that time, the Council and the executive have worked to improve the program to make medical marijuana available to D.C. residents who need it.

Unfortunately, unlike a number of other jurisdictions, we never updated our laws regarding drug testing to account for the fact that D.C. government employees could be patients registered with the program.

On the positive side, the Department of Human Resources on its own implemented a policy for employees who are registered with the medical marijuana program and who test positive for marijuana in the course of the routine testing that happens for some positions.

I found this out after I began to hear complaints from constituents last year about the fact that some agencies were NOT following the DCHR policy.

While those agencies, including the Department of Corrections, have the right to set their own policies on the topic, the decision to penalize employees for seeking medicine is definitely not the right one to make.

I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, including sending a letter along with several of my colleagues asking them to follow the DCHR policy.

DOC did not respond for over a month, and then claimed that they were following the policy, which is not true. While they are allowed to do routine testing for safety sensitive positions, they must also allow patients to present their medical marijuana card as explanation for positive results.

Simply put, unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not be refusing to hire, firing, or penalizing individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated.

Frankly it is embarrassing that it has taken us this long to take up this measure.

I hope that between this bill and the proposal from Councilmember Trayon White a few weeks ago regarding pre-employment drug testing, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development can lead a comprehensive discussion in the city about drug testing in both the public and private sectors and come up with a common sense set of reforms to pass.

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