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Fairfax County faces a marginal risk of flash flooding from Hurricane Ian (via NOAA)

(Updated at 11:20 p.m.) An October weekend once filled with fall events is starting to clear out, as Fairfax County braces for Hurricane Ian.

The storm that devastated Florida after making landfall on Wednesday (Sept. 28) is expected to weaken as it heads north, but its rain and winds could still prove dangerous, the Fairfax County Department of Emergency Management and Security (DEMS) warns.

According to the department, remnants of Hurricane Ian are projected to arrive tonight (Friday), bringing scattered flooding and strong winds:

  • Scattered localized flooding is possible from rain. Overall, we are not expecting significant flooding impacts from this event. The rainfall totals are expected to be between 1″-2″ with a high end of 3″ over the three day period of Friday through Sunday. A rumble of thunder may enter the area early Saturday morning, but no significant thunderstorm threat is expected.
  • Winds will be sustained at 15-20 mph with gusts between 20-30 mph throughout the weekend.
  • Tidal anomalies of 1-2 feet are possible, but no significant tidal flooding for Fairfax County is expected.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a State of Emergency earlier this week, giving the state authority to mobilize resources in preparation for the storm.

Several events planned across the county for tomorrow (Saturday) have already been canceled or rescheduled, with organizers citing the impending inclement weather. Others are still monitoring conditions before making a determination.

The McLean Project for the Arts pulled the plug on its annual MPAartfest on Wednesday, though the 2022 McLean 5K is still on for now.

“This is a rain or shine event, we have no plans to cancel,” McLean Community Center General Programs Director Mike Fisher said. “If we do cancel, that decision will be made in the moment as a result of on the ground conditions at the event site.”

Reston Community Center’s first-ever Silent Dance Party at Reston Station has been postponed to 5 p.m. on Oct. 9, while Reston Association announced yesterday (Thursday) that its popular Reston Community Yard Sale has moved to next Saturday, Oct. 8.

This morning, the Town of Vienna officially canceled tomorrow’s Oktoberfest, which drew more than 35,000 visitors last year. The Fall Native Plant Sale has been bumped to Oct. 8.

Both Fairfax County Park Authority events set for tomorrow have been altered. Bug Fest at Lewinsville Park in McLean has been postponed to Oct. 22, but Buktertoberfest at Burke Lake Golf Course has been canceled.

In Fairfax City, the Out of Darkness Walk to raise awareness about suicide and mental health impacts is currently still a go, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it will provide an update by 5 p.m. if that changes.

Map via NOAA

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Morning Notes

Clouds loom over the Tysons Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fare-Free Connector to Metrorail Transfers Start Tomorrow — “To continue to improve transit service in Fairfax County, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved service and fare changes on Fairfax Connector that will go into effect on October 1, 2022. Members of the public provided input on these proposed service changes in the Spring of 2022″ [Fairfax Connector]

County IT Worker Arrested for Embezzlement — A 43-year-old Maryland man allegedly embezzled more than 150 Wi-Fi routers from the Fairfax County Department of Information and Technology. DIT employees reported 178 missing Mist Wi-Fi Access point routers to police on Sept. 13. The county has placed the man on administrative leave during the investigation. [FCPD]

Hybla Valley Fire Displaced 35 People — An attic exhaust fan’s wiring sparked a fire on Saturday (Sept. 24) at a three-story apartment in the 7500 block of Republic Court that displaced 35 residents. Fairfax County and Alexandria firefighters were dispatched to the blaze at 10:59 p.m. No injuries were reported, but the fire resulted in approximately $321,250 in damages. [FCFRD]

Family of Rose Hill Man Charged with Killing Father Speaks — “Sherif and Tarik Hassanein are devastated they lost their brother and father on the same day. They’re also angry at the system because they said Samy is bipolar and a paranoid schizophrenic who was never given the proper treatment.” [FOX5]

GMU Approves Tuition Cost Relief — “George Mason University leaders agreed on Thursday to ease tuition costs this year, approving a credit for in-state undergraduate students that offsets the 3 percent increase that went into place this fall. The pivot came amid strong messages from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) to public universities to hold college tuition steady this year to ease the impact of inflation on Virginia families.” [The Washington Post]

Police Shares Video of Recent West Springfield ATM Burglaries — “Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) detectives have been investigating several commercial ATM burglaries occurring in Fairfax County and surrounding jurisdictions. FCPD is asking community members to help identify these suspects.” [FCPD]

Rehab Proposal for Historic West Falls Church House Paused — “The resident curator application for the White Gardens is on hold, but cannot be considered dead, according to Park Authority officials…The only resident curator applicant, Meg Stout, proposed having her daughter’s family live there rather than herself,” though the site was given to Fairfax County on the condition be turned into a public garden. [Annandale Today]

Affordable Housing Nonprofit Adds Hybla Valley Condos — “Today I was thrilled to attend the Shepherd Housing & Family Services ribbon cutting ceremony where we celebrated the acquisition of their 85th housing unit thanks to a $2 million gift from @amazon. Thank you @GoodHousingOrg for all that you do for our residents.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

County Businesses Make Noise — “Twenty Fairfax County-based companies and 14 companies based in additional Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance jurisdictions out of 50 companies placed on the Washington Business Journal’s 2022 list of Fastest Growing Companies in Greater Washington, D.C.” [Fairfax County EDA]

It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 62 and low of 54. Sunrise at 7:05 am and sunset at 6:54 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Students wear and wave Pride flags at Fairfax High School’s walkout (photo by Carys Owens)

(Updated, 3:20 p.m.) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay believes the county will be on “safe legal ground” if it chooses to not follow Virginia’s recently-proposed model policies that would limit the rights of transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Based on conversations with the school board, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), and legal experts since the draft policies were unveiled earlier this month, McKay senses the school system will ultimately stick with its current policies, he told FFXnow yesterday (Wednesday).

The proposed policies would reverse regulations that FCPS adopted in 2020 affirming students’ right to access restrooms according to their gender identity and be called by their chosen names and pronouns. The regulation was updated last year based on state recommendations.

“If we do it and ignore [what] the governor is dictating here…my prediction based on everything I’m hearing is that the legal folks will say you’re on safe legal ground to continue the good practices that you have in place and not adhere to these new ones. That’s certainly what I’m being told preliminarily,” McKay told FFXnow.

McKay noted that, as has been reported elsewhere, legal experts have identified a myriad of legal problems” with the new proposed policies, including protections from discrimination based on gender identity in the Virginia Human Rights Act.

The cities of Falls Church and Alexandria have already indicated that they won’t adhere to the state policies. State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), who represents parts of Fairfax County, Alexandria, and Arlington County, told FFXnow on Tuesday (Sept. 27) that there could be basis for a lawsuit.

“I think there’s existing law problems. I think there’s case law problems. I think there’s political problems,” McKay said. “And so, my suspicion is that we will likely be able to continue doing what we’re doing.”

The governor may be relying on the Dillon Rule as the rationale for arguing counties must adhere to the guidelines, if they’re adopted, McKay says.

Under that rule, localities only have legal authorities expressly granted to them by the state, but that doesn’t absolve the governor from the “obligation of being consistent with case law that’s already been established,” he said.

When asked whether the school system plans on taking legal action if the policies are adopted by the state, an FCPS spokesperson said they have no comment for now beyond a message that Superintendent Michelle Reid sent to families earlier this month, stating that FCPS was reviewing the draft policies.

“We will share more information when it is available,” the spokesperson said. Read More

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation advertises the coming opening of Metro’s Silver Line extension at the Mosaic District Fall Festival (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 9:40 a.m. on 9/30/2022) Metro’s extension of the Silver Line through Herndon into Loudoun County is finally starting to look like a reality, instead of a hypothetical, albeit expensive, project.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority unveiled new maps for its rail system last Friday (Sept. 23) that featured the six new stations, among other changes. A day earlier, its general manager got the go-ahead to set an opening date, though one has yet to be announced.

Coming six years after its initial projected opening of 2016, Silver Line Phase 2 will bring the D.C. region’s subway system into Loudoun for the first time, with stops at Dulles International Airport and Ashburn. Along the way, trains will pass through Reston Town Center, Herndon, and Innovation Center in the Dulles area.

Despite frustrations with the project’s many delays, Fairfax County officials remain hopeful that the rail line’s arrival will be a boon for residents and businesses in Reston and Herndon, fueling growth akin to what Tysons has seen since the Silver Line’s first phase opened there in 2014.

Are you excited to enter the shiny new Silver Line stations, potentially as soon as next month? Or have Metro’s ongoing safety and reliability issues turned you off of the transit system for now?

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Morning Notes

The office building at 1600 Tysons Blvd reflects the sky (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

State of Emergency in Virginia for Hurricane — “Governor Glenn Youngkin today declared a State of Emergency in advance of Hurricane Ian, which is expected to impact portions of Virginia starting on Friday, September 30, 2022…Virginians should be prepared for the potential of severe rainfall, flooding, wind damage, tornadoes, and other storm-related impacts.” [Governor of Virginia]

Burke VRE Station Gets Longer Platform — Fairfax County officials cut a ribbon yesterday (Wednesday) to celebrate the completion of a platform expansion project at the Virginia Railway Express Rolling Road Station. With an added 290 feet, the platform can now fit eight-car trains, reducing passenger loading times. [Jeff McKay, James Walkinshaw, Pat Herrity/Twitter]

Kingstowne Man Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement — “A Fairfax County, Virginia, man has pleaded guilty to embezzling $4 million in what authorities described as one of the largest white-collar fraud cases in the county’s history. Carlos Camacho, 59, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one felony count each of embezzlement and forgery, according to Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.” [WTOP]

McLean Arts Festival Canceled by Hurricane Ian — “We have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2022 MPAartfest, scheduled for Sun, Oct 2 in McLean Central Park. The decision was made in anticipation of the 2-3 inches of rain projected to inundate the area this weekend.” [McLean Project for the Arts/Twitter]

Tax Credit Journal Recognizes County’s Affordable Housing Work — “The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) and Fairfax County were recently featured in the August edition of The Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits, highlighting their collective and unprecedented work in developing public-private partnerships to more effectively deliver affordable housing.” [Housing and Community Development]

Public Input Sought on New Parks Strategy — “The Fairfax County Park Authority is developing a Parks, Recreation, Open Space, and Access Strategy (PROSA)…The PROSA Strategy is anticipated to be completed in 2023 and will provide a pathway toward improved park access and a balance of recreational experiences.” [FCPA]

Vienna Honors Local Workers — Vienna bestowed its first-ever Outstanding Service Awards on Monday (Sept. 26) to opthamologist Ann Dunning, who has worked at Mitchell Eye Institute for 50 years, and Foster’s Grille Assistant General Manager Nancy Nichols, who has worked at the restaurant for over 20 years. The award was created to “recognize local business employees who have provided significant customer service to the Vienna community.” [Town of Vienna]

Learn About Medicare at Thomas Jefferson Library — “Medicare 101 training is for individuals and their care partners who will soon be eligible for Medicare or have Medicare and would like to learn more about it…This free class is taught by Fairfax County staff who are non-biased, state certified and SHIP (State Health Insurance and Assistance Program) Counselors.” [FCPL]

It’s Thursday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 51. Sunrise at 7:04 am and sunset at 6:56 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

Fairfax County Public Schools will require all workers to undergo “regular” background checks after a now-terminated counselor remained employed at Lincolnia’s Glasgow Middle School despite being convicted of a sex crime.

The new policy is one of several changes announced yesterday (Tuesday) by FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid in response to an independent investigation into why the school system continued to employ Darren Thornton after he was convicted on March 11 of soliciting prostitution from a minor in Chesterfield County.

Conducted by outside legal counsel, the investigation found that Chesterfield officials didn’t notify FCPS of Thornton’s arrest on Nov. 19 or about his subsequent conviction, according to a summary of the report.

The Chesterfield Police Department has said that its emails to FCPS bounced back as undeliverable after ending up in a spam folder.

Once informed about the conviction, the Fairfax County School Board “acted without delay,” FCPS says. Reid told the community on Aug. 18 that she and the board had ordered an outside, independent investigation into what happened.

The investigation found systematic human resources issues related to hiring, licensure, leave, dismissal, and resignations, according to FCPS. Among the issues are a pattern of suspending employees without pay after felony convictions, rather than “consistently and promptly dismissing” them.

“These have been exacerbated by factors such as significant leadership churn,” FCPS wrote in the summary. “As we plan to work with identifying and implementing strong systems of accountability, it will be important that we implement these actions with fidelity and have frequent accountability checks.”

Reid said in her message to families that she has “begun to take appropriate disciplinary actions” but didn’t detail which personnel are being disciplined or how.

Reid shared results of the investigation with Glasgow parents at a community meeting yesterday, but said that the full report won’t be made public “because parts of it are protected by attorney-client privilege,” WTOP reported.

In addition to requiring regular background checks of current employees, Reid said FCPS will add more steps to the hiring process, including reference checks with former employers and more timely verifications of their licensure status. It will also seek to dismiss and get licenses revoked for any employees convicted of “barrier crimes.”

The school system is also looking at joining the FBI’s Rap Back program, which notifies employers if a worker’s fingerprints are entered into its database in connection with criminal activity. However, FCPS says it won’t be able to enroll in the program until it’s made available in Virginia.

Reid says FCPS is working with state lawmakers and federal, state and local law enforcement “to ensure timely and robust information sharing and notice regarding employee arrests and convictions.” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer sent a letter to the county’s General Assembly delegation in August proposing a centralized, statewide notification system. Read More

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Steve Steiner, a 73-year-old cyclist who lives in Reston’s Hunters Woods neighborhood, nearly lost his life when he was cycling from Leesburg nearly four years ago.

Steiner was hit by an SUV that was turning right through a red signal onto Fairfax County Parkway at the exit for the Dulles Toll Road. Despite trying to veer to the right, he was struck by the car, suffering a concussion, several broken ribs and other serious internal injuries, he said.

“An incident like this buries deep into your psyche and your brain,” Steiner said.

The crash resulted in $100,000 in medical expenses and months of recovery — an ordeal that he hopes no one else has to face.

Steiner spoke yesterday morning (Tuesday) at the launch of a countywide campaign called “Take a Moment” that aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths and injuries. Fairfax County officials hope that the communications campaign will encourage residents, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to take a moment to pause before making decisions on roadways and paths.

The county also plans to commit $100 million over the next six years for pedestrian safety efforts in the county — a figure that includes $25 million in carryover funds.

“It’s so important that we mention this is a team effort and not just an effort of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors,” said Jeff McKay, the board chair.

The press conference took place at a busy intersection in Reston where a pedestrian and cyclist bridge is currently under construction at Wiehle Avenue.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn noted that tackling traffic issues is particularly important given the expected opening of phase two of Metro’s Silver Line this fall.

He said the pedestrian bridge currently under construction remedies issues with a particularly “challenging” area of Wiehle Avenue. Work is expected to wrap up by the beginning of 2024.

To date, 13 pedestrian have been killed in crashes and accidents on county roadways — despite crashes overall being reduced by more than 400, according to Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis. The number of pedestrian fatalities is three more than this time last year.

“It deserves our constant attention,” he said.

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A Fairfax County voting machine in use during the June 2021 primary election (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting for the next general election has just gotten underway, but Fairfax County’s elections staff is already planning for next year and beyond.

The county’s Office of Elections has requested $5 million to launch a multi-year rollout of new, updated voting machines as part of a $190 million spending package carried over from fiscal year 2022, which ended on June 30.

Expected to start in 2023, the process will replace more than 1,200 machines owned by the county, according to Fairfax County Office of Elections spokesperson Brian Worthy. The existing machines are now eight years old.

“While the machines are secure, function well and meet current standards, the Office of Elections will replace them to keep up with technology changes, as well as meet new federal security guidelines that will become the standard in the near future,” Worthy said.

The voting machine replacement plan is one of several initiatives covered by the FY 2022 carryover review, which uses surplus funds to address previously approved or new, one-time budget items.

Buoyed by higher-than-anticipated revenue from staff vacancies and close spending management, per an Aug. 1 memo from County Executive Bryan Hill, the package includes a net total of 30 new positions, 27 of them for the upcoming South County Animal Shelter.

The animal shelter positions are needed to ensure the facility is staffed for an expected opening in May, Chief Financial Officer Christian Jackson told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ budget policy committee on Sept. 20.

The proposal raised some eyebrows, since it will require ongoing funding.

“We have traditionally been very, very disciplined about using carryover for recurring expenses,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “30 is a lot [of positions].”

Jackson reassured the committee that the carryover will allocate $1.9 million to fill the positions for part of a year, but full-time funding of $2.9 million will be included in the county’s next proposed budget, which is typically presented in February each year.

Other notable items in the carryover review include:

  • $10.3 million for environmental initiatives, including electric vehicles and charging stations as well as LED streetlight replacements
  • $3.5 million for an expanded child care center at the Original Mount Vernon High School
  • $2.58 million for employee pay and benefits
  • $2.5 million to establish a Tysons anchor organization
  • $5 million for Fairfax County Park Authority capital projects
  • About $13.2 million for facility improvements, including the demolition of two Historic Courthouse wings and a long-term design for the Hybla Valley Community Center

The Board of Supervisors has also proposed using remaining unallocated money to help bring permanent restrooms to local high school stadiums, improve sidewalks to Huntley Meadows Park, enhance trails in Gum Springs, and hire a data scientist for the board auditor’s office.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity requested that the county address police staffing shortages with a $2.5 million reserve for one-time hiring bonuses. He also proposed letting employees defer retirement for two more years and enabling the police chief to hire retired officers.

Jackson said employees can only use the deferred retirement option for up to three years, but the current average is less than two years. She also said retired police officers can already be hired for a limited amount of time, since otherwise, they’d have to un-retire.

The board will vote on the carryover review after a public hearing on Oct. 11.

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Morning Notes

The sun sets on Vienna’s future Chase Bank, now under construction (photo by Amy Woolsey)

Board Chair Calls on Youngkin to Withdraw Trans Student Policies — “I am so proud of the FCPS students who today stood together in support of their transgender classmates who are under threat by the proposed Model Policies. I joined the ~20,000 others providing comments to the Youngkin Administration stating my strong opposition to these Policies” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Teachers’ Union Also Opposes Proposed Policies — “Our union firmly opposes the VDOE 2022 Model Policies which will create an unsafe school environment for trans and nonbinary students if implemented. We urge our members to submit public comments against these proposed policies here” [Fairfax County Federation of Teachers/Twitter]

Herndon Father and Son Charged with Rape — “On Sept. 11, police charged 45-year-old Alexander Alvarado Sanchez of Herndon with rape, sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, and indecent liberties with a child. Police also charged Sanchez’s son, 21-year-old David Isai Alvarado Requeno of Leesburg, with rape, sodomy, and indecent liberties, according to police.” [Patch]

Stratford University Students Protest Impending Closures — “Over 100 Stratford University students packed the school’s Alexandria campus Monday afternoon, looking for answers about their future after the for-profit college announced Friday that it would be closing all three of its local campuses by the end of the week…Falls Church-based Stratford has campuses in Woodbridge and Baltimore in addition to Alexandria.” [Inside NoVA]

County Gets 41 More Housing Vouchers — “U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, visited Fairfax County to announce the most expansive allocation of flexible rental assistance in 20 years with the award of more than 19,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers to almost 2,000 public housing authorities across the country.” [Housing and Community Development]

Task Force Recommends Preserving Manufactured Homes — “On September 19, the Fairfax County Manufactured Housing Task Force delivered its recommendations to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for the preservation of the county’s approximately 1,750 manufactured homes as well as tools and strategies to address the unique needs and challenges facing the community owners and families who live there. [HCD]

Fairfax Fall Festival Returns Next Month — “The 46th Annual Fall Festival returns to the heart of Fairfax City Oct. 8. The festival runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a special performance by the high-energy Celtic band, Scythian, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Old Town Square. Admission is free!” [City of Fairfax]

Reston Comp Plan Info Session Tomorrow — “Reston Association is hosting a drop-in information session from 6:30-9:30 p.m., on Thursday, for residents to stop by and learn more about the Reston Comprehensive Plan Review. Members of the RA Board and other representatives will be available to share information an answer questions about the plan.” [Patch]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 50. Sunrise at 7:03 am and sunset at 6:57 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Across Fairfax County and Virginia, thousands of students walked out today (Tuesday) in protest of proposed state policies that would limit schools’ ability to support transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.

Students from more than 90 schools, including nearly 30 in Fairfax County, took a stand against policies introduced earlier this month by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin regulating everything from which bathroom a student can use to the definition of “the phrase ‘transgender student.'”

The walkout protests were organized by the Pride Liberation Project, a student-led organization that advocates for the LQBTQ+ community in schools. The group aims to persuade the governor to revoke the draft policies, which are now open for public comment through Oct. 26.

Since the policies were announced more than a week ago, local school districts, board members, and elected officials have questioned and overwhelmingly come out against policies that would severely curtail the rights of and support that school districts can give transgender students.

Fairfax County Public Schools said last week that it was “reviewing” the proposed policies and reiterated a commitment to supporting LGBTQ students.

Today, though, it was students’ turn to make their voices heard.

At West Potomac High School in Belle Haven, an estimated 1,000 students walked out at 10 a.m. in protest. They filed into bleachers on the football field, while speakers shared their experiences and why they personally would be affected by the new policies.

“As a trans [person], I have been discriminated against for my gender identity and was told it was wrong. That I was wrong,” said a West Potomac High School senior. “These policies are just a new case of this happening.”

“I can’t be a student if I don’t know what name my teacher is going to call me,” said another student.

Mara Surovell, one of the lead organizers for the West Potomac High School walkout, hopes it will encourage Youngkin to not implement the policies or, at the very least, allow school districts the authority to continue to implement their own guidance.

“Most of my friends are transgender and my sister is also transgender. So it affects all people I love. And I don’t want any of my friends to feel like school is an unsafe place,” Surovell told FFXnow. “I don’t want to see…their mental health plummet because of these policies, and I really just want them to feel safe and loved, and I don’t think that’ll happen if these policies get approved.”

Students involved in walkouts at South Lakes High School in Reston and Marshall High School in Idylwood shared similar thoughts.

Rishi Chandra, a South Lakes junior, said that he has personally seen how well trans and nonbinary students can do in school when they feel safe, but if the new policies get approved, they will “harm queer students.” Read More

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