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Fairfax County school bus (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 5 p.m.) A former Fairfax County Public Schools bus driver reportedly slapped a student at Fort Belvoir, according to a Fairfax County court affidavit filed on May 4.

An Army investigation for Fort Belvoir stated that there was probable cause to support allegations that the driver assaulted the student on March 16. According to a special agent, photos from a parent showed apparent bruising on the boy’s cheek and under his left eye.

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division declined to provide further details, including whether any charges have been filed. However, it said its investigation was still “active,” as of Tuesday (May 17).

Virginia banned schools from using corporal punishment in 1989, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether FCPS trains staff on the law.

FCPS refused to answer questions about the incident or its policies. It confirmed that the driver is no longer an employee but didn’t provide any further context on why.

The driver provided a statement to FCPS about the incident, but school officials have refused to release it in response to public records requests.

The district initially claimed the statement — identified as a student behavior incident report — was exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which has exclusions for personnel records with personally identifiable information and scholastic records involving identifiable individuals.

FFXnow requested that the record be released in redacted form without the driver’s name, stating that Virginia’s law doesn’t allow an agency to withhold a record in its entirety if there’s an exemption.

An FCPS public records officer then said that the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act also prohibits releasing a record linked to “a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty.”

Megan Rhyne, director of the nonprofit Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said by email that she believes in general that school districts and higher education systems “overuse the FERPA/scholastic records exemption,” stretching beyond the law’s purpose.

“The way so many interpret it is that ANYthing that has to do with a student or shows their image is off-limits,” she wrote. “We know this isn’t true because if it were, there wouldn’t be graduation programs (complete with dean’s list, cum laude distinction, etc., which touch on their academic record), featured students on district websites, Facebook posts of science fair winners, etc.”

She said the mere mention of a student does not turn an entire record into an exempt one.

“I also see a lot of overuse of the personnel exemption to withhold information on anything an employee does,” she wrote. “Again, this goes too far. The employee may have a zone of privacy around her, but that doesn’t extend to her public-facing work.”

Rhyne stressed that public agencies aren’t required to use the exemptions, and some choose an overly broad interpretation to justify keeping valuable information away from the public, even when the law’s policy statement says to interpret exemptions narrowly.

Virginia law allows a court to resolve disputes about whether a record should be released, but the process can unnecessarily waste public resources and newsroom budgets. Some states have an appeal mechanism for a state agency to handle issues, such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Rhyne said those remain rare, but Virginia would benefit from an administrative appeal system.

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Morning Notes

Construction cranes with Ukraine flag at Reston Station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax Resident Faces Prison for Unruly Airplane Behavior — “Last week, Kameron C. Stone, 30, of Fairfax, Virginia, was sentenced to one year in federal prison for interfering with flight crew and assault by striking and wounding in special aircraft jurisdiction after pleading guilty on February 8, 2022.” [Department of Justice]

Vienna Crash Leads to Power Outage and Evacuations — “According to a Town of Vienna alert, a traffic crash resulted in live, downed wires in the area of Cottage and Elm Streets. Homes on Elm Street from Cottage to Plum Streets and Cottage Street from Cherry to Battle Streets were evacuated due to the potential for fire, according to the town.” [Patch]

West Falls Project to Break Ground — “Developers are expected to break ground this month on the first of three mixed-use projects near the West Falls Church Metro station with a total investment of about $1.2 billion…Falls Church’s George Mason High School was demolished and replaced by the nearby Meridian High School to make way for the first development, which is scheduled to break ground in mid-May.” [Virginia Business]

Fairfax County Among Healthiest in Virginia — “According to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute 2022 County Health Rankings report, Fairfax County is ranked the fourth healthiest county out of 133 in the commonwealth. Falls Church City ranks as the healthiest locality, while Fairfax City ranks as 13th in healthiest outcomes.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Unemployment Numbers Decline — “Fairfax County’s jobless rate ticked down slightly from February to March, among ongoing if incremental improvement from pandemic highs of 2020…the unemployment rate of 2.3 percent was down from 2.5 percent in February and well below the rate of 4.1 percent recorded a year ago.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Reston Farmers Market Reaches 25 Years — “One of the people on hand for the opening of the 2022 season was Del. Ken Plum (D-42nd), who has represented Reston in the Virginia House of Delegates for 42 years. Plum and Reston founder Robert E. Simon were on hand 25 years ago for the opening of the first farmers market at Lake Anne Village.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Libraries Celebrate Star Wars Day — Tomorrow (Wednesday) is May 4, and Fairfax County Public Library will let kids and kids at heart indulge their love for the still-ubiquitous space opera with a variety of activities, from origami Yoda at Tysons-Pimmit to an R2D2 photo op in Sherwood. Most events are open to all, though two that require registration have filled up. [FCPL]

It’s Tuesday — Rain overnight. High of 74 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:10 am and sunset at 8:04 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Vienna police SUV (via Vienna Police Department/Facebook)

In a sequence of events that could’ve been ripped out of a pulpy crime thriller, a man in Vienna was reportedly taken for a ride and robbed at gunpoint — potentially by a trio spotted patronizing a local gun shop earlier that day.

Around 2:40 p.m. on April 9, the man was picked up by three men in a vehicle, one of them an acquaintance, at the Giant shopping center (359 Maple Avenue), according to the Vienna Police Department’s recap for the week of April 8-14.

“While they were driving around, the three men displayed handguns and announced a robbery, taking the citizen’s belongings,” police said. “The men allowed the citizen to exit the vehicle on Cabin Road where he ran to the nearest residence for assistance.”

According to the police report, a citizen reported seeing a man shopping for a handgun at Vienna Arsenal (386 Maple Avenue East) between noon and 1 p.m. that same day. The shopper allegedly left the gun store in a vehicle with two other men.

The report doesn’t specify whether the citizen is the same person who was robbed, but it does say that the person “thought the men may be related to the robbery.”

“Unfortunately, this is an active case and we can’t comment on it at this time,” a VPD spokesperson told FFXnow when asked if the “citizen” referenced in both incidents is the same person.

Police say anyone with information or video related to the armed robbery can contact Detective Herrera at 703-255-7821 or mherrera@viennava.gov.

A chore and errand take alarming turns

In other Vienna crime news, a resident of the Park Terrace Condominiums (200 block of Park Terrace Court) told police that a verbal argument with another woman in the complex’s communal laundry room escalated into a physical assault.

“The resident reported that during the dispute, the woman punched her,” Vienna police said of the incident, which occurred at 10 a.m. on April 10. “The resident was advised of the warrant process should she wish to pursue charges against the other resident.”

For a different Vienna woman, a visit to the post office on Lawyers Road became an occasion for distress when a man followed her “for several blocks,” according to the police summary:

Suspicious Event 22-003436
Post Office
200 Lawyers Road, NW
April 12 11:30 a.m.
A resident reported that she was at the Post Office when she observed a man who was trying to get her attention. The man followed the resident for several blocks. When the woman tried to take a picture of the man’s license plate, he became angry and got out of his vehicle. The woman drove immediately to the police station to report the incident.

The VPD says an officer tried to speak to the owner of the vehicle that the man reportedly drove, and those attempts “were unsuccessful.”

Photo via Vienna Police Department/Facebook

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A school bus in Vienna (file photo)

A fight broke out between a school bus driver and three teenagers, escalating into an assault, the bus driver told Vienna police last week.

According to the Vienna Police Department’s report for the week of March 11-17, the bus driver started following the teens’ vehicle after he observed them “driving erratically, running stop signs, and tailgating the bus.”

“The bus driver followed their vehicle and stopped to record the license plate,” the report said. “The juveniles were trying to block him from recording the license plate when he was thrown to the ground and they began assaulting him.”

Police officers responded to the scene in the 300 block of Kingsley Road SW around 5:10 p.m. on March 14. They explained the warrant process to the bus driver in case he decided to pursue charges.

Officers were also recently called to the 700 block of Talahi Court SE to help rescue personnel with two youths who required medical assistance after consuming “an edible laced with an unknown drug,” according to the police report.

Found near the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at 6:28 p.m. on March 11, the juveniles were transported to a local hospital in a condition not considered life-threatening.

Also included in the most recent Vienna crime recap was a report of a customer harassing local food service workers over a pizza delivery:

Paisano’s
312 Maple Avenue West
March 12 9:52 p.m.
An employee reported that a customer called the restaurant, upset that their delivery was taking too long, used vulgar language, and threatened the employees.

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Morning Notes

With March 20 as the first official day of spring, cherry blossom season has arrived (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax Station Doctor Sentenced for Fraud — Physician Leonard Rosen was sentenced on Friday (March 18) to two years of probation, with six months of at-home confinement for his involvement in an $8 million fraud scheme where doctors prescribed expensive drugs to patients in exchange for bribes from pharmacists. [The Washington Post]

Connolly Announces Reelection Bid — “On Thursday, March 17, during his 28th annual St. Patrick’s Day Fete, held online, [Rep. Gerry] Connolly announced he would seek reelection to represent Virginia’s 11th Congressional District…The newly-drawn 11th District lies within the boundaries of Fairfax County…and includes Tysons, Fairfax City, Chantilly, and Reston.” [Potomac Local News]

Georgetown Pike Lane Closure Starts Today — “Great Falls: On Mon 3/21-Fri 3/25 for several hours beginning at 9AM daily, Georgetown Pike (Rt 193) will be down to one lane on the Difficult Run bridge for ongoing pedestrian crossing work. Crews will continue to stage in the @fairfaxparks lot.” [VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter]

McLean Neighborhood Installs License Plate Readers — “Due to the fact that some high-profile people live in the area, FOX 5 is not disclosing the location to respect their privacy. Residents like Phil Horvitz, who is also an HOA board member, have been rattled after seeing an increase in crime, so they installed three high-tech license plate reader cameras.” [FOX5]

Person Assaulted with Pipe in Lincolnia —  A person waiting for a rideshare vehicle in the 6200 block of Little River Turnpike on March 14 was assaulted with a metal pipe by a man who got out of an unknown vehicle. The victim was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and police say it doesn’t appear to have been a random act. [FCPD]

Fairfax County Firefighter Develops Behavioral Health Program — “A daily routine immersed in life-or-death situations can take a mental toll on first responders, and ‘The Mental Mayday’ program teaches members of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in Virginia how to ask for help. It was developed by 10-year veteran of the department Lt. Adam Bartman.” [WTOP]

Fairfax Station Park to Get New Playground — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will soon begin the Popes Head Park playground replacement project, which will require closure of the playground during the construction period. Contractors will be mobilizing on site shortly, with active construction activities beginning at the end of March 2022.” [FCPA]

McLean Citizens Association Changes Presidents — “Scott Spitzer, who has served as MCA First Vice President, was elected President to replace Rob Jackson.  He said, ‘Rob Jackson’s deep knowledge of community issues, his wisdom and guidance, and his repeatedly answering the call to serve MCA and our community will be missed by all of us.  We thank him for his exceptional public service.'” [MCA]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 40. Sunrise at 7:12 am and sunset at 7:23 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Town of Herndon police (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

Local police are seeking the public’s help to identify two persons of interests in a Herndon assault on the 700 block of Elden Street.

According to the Herndon Police Department, the individuals may have been involved in an aggravated assault that happened on March 13. The department tweeted a video that shows the two men.

Anyone with more information is encouraged to contact HPD at 703-435-6846.

The police department did not immediately return a request for comment from FFXnow.

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Town of Herndon police (courtesy Herndon Police Department)

(Updated at 3:51 pm) Herndon Police officers have arrested a Herndon resident in connection with a malicious wounding earlier today (Thursday).

Police are in the 1100 block of Dublin Place and arrested Dimitri Pike, 23, of Herndon. He was charged with malicious wounding of a victim that was known to him.

The victim is being treated for injuries that are not life threatening, police said earlier this afternoon.

Spokeswoman Lisa Herndon said around 9:15 a.m. the incident was still unfolding.

Fatimah Waseem contributed to this article.

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Morning Notes

Townhouses on Lake Audubon in Reston (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Man Charged With Assault on Police Officer — “Yesterday, Michael Vaughn, 34, was charged with five felonies and two misdemeanor charges stemming from the officer-involved shooting that occurred on Feb. 15 in 8300 block of Fitt Court in Lorton. He remains held at the Adult Detention Center without bond.” [FCPD/Twitter]

FCPS to End Virtual Learning This Year — With vaccines now available for school-age children, Fairfax County Public Schools will discontinue a limited virtual program for students with medical concerns due to the pandemic. At-home instruction will only be for students with significant health risks that prevent them from attending school in-person after this academic year. [FCPS]

Vienna Approves Police Body Cameras — “Vienna Town Council members on Feb. 28 unanimously agreed to allow the police department to use $223,732 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to implement the camera program.” [Sun Gazette]

Shake Shack Sets Sights on Smithsonian — Construction is underway on a new Shake Shack that will replace the McDonald’s at the the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. The burger chain is also adding a location at the Mosaic District in Merrifield. [The Burn]

Assaults Up, Drug Offenses Down in Mason Police District — “The assaults, including domestic violence, have mostly taken place in residences, which [Commander Capt. Sean] Adcock suspects could be due to stress caused by the Covid pandemic. The decrease in drug arrests is possibly due to the legalization of small amounts of marijuana.” [Annandale Today]

Private Foundation to Operate Historic Hall — “The Fairfax County Park Authority and the Great Falls Grange Foundation will ratify an agreement, which permits the Great Falls Grange Foundation to operate and maintain the historic property. The Grange will serve as a community meeting place, a potential location for classes and planned activities, and a venue for public and private special events.” [FCPA]

Transportation Group to Talk Route 7 Bus Project Tonight — The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) will discuss a timeline and financing for the Envision Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit project at its meeting tonight (Thursday). The planned bus service will run from Tysons to Mark Center in Alexandria, with stops at Seven Corners, Falls Church, and the East Falls Church Metro station. [ALXnow]

Community Outreach on Reston Comprehensive Plan Begins — “My office and Task Force members are beginning the first phase of community outreach of the Task Force’s interim recommendations on the 14 areas of the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study…Input by the county agencies is expected by spring/early summer and community outreach will continue through the summer.” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn]

It’s Thursday — The forecast indicates that it’ll be mostly sunny today, with a high temperature near 51 degrees and a low around 25. Wind gusts could reach 22 miles per hour during the day. The sun will rise at 6:37 a.m. and set at 6:04 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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