Case Against Park Police Who Shot McLean Man Dropped — “Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) on Friday dropped the state’s federal appeal in the manslaughter case against two U.S. Park Police officers, effectively ending any attempt at criminal prosecution of the officers who fatally shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in a Fairfax County neighborhood in 2017.” [The Washington Post]
Hundreds Help Pack Ukrainian Refugee Donations — “Hundreds of volunteers gathered this weekend in Oakton to help pack approx. 1800 boxes with donations collected for displaced Ukrainians. Huge thanks to our community members for donating, these wonderful volunteers, and to Paxton Co. for generously shipping these items.” [Chairman Jeff McKay/Twitter]
Mount Vernon Fire Started by Hair Dryer — A house fire in the 3700 block of Nalls Road on Wednesday (April 20) was started accidentally by an electrical event involving a hair dryer in the basement bathroom, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. There were reported injuries or displacements, but the fire caused an estimated $37,500 in damages. [FCFRD]
Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers Critical to Covid Response — “Since February of 2020, over 1,400 MRC members volunteered more than 65,000 hours at vaccination clinics and testing events, and assisting with outreach, isolation and quarantine efforts, logistical support, and so much more.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Merrifield Nonprofit Gets Boost from Football Fans — “Wolf Trap Animal Rescue keeps receiving donations from the public in honor of Dwayne Haskins, the former Washington quarterback who died in an accident on a Florida highway on April 9. Haskins…selected Wolf Trap Animal Rescue as his organization to represent for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.” [Patch]
Turner Farm Observatory Seeks “Dark Sky” Designation — “To help reverse the trend of growing light pollution, the Great Falls observatory applied to become an Urban Night Sky Place with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)…If approved, the observatory would become the first IDA-designated place in the Washington region.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Construction Starts on Woodley Hills Park Playground — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will begin the installation of a new playground and removal of the existing playground the week of April 25, 2022. Construction access to the site will be from Old Mount Vernon Road. It is anticipated that the playground replacement will be completed by early June 2022.” [FCPA]
Reston Library Book Sale Starts Wednesday — The Friends of the Reston Regional Library will host its biggest book sale of the year, starting with a members-only night from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday (April 27). The sale will be open to all starting at 10 a.m. Thursday through Sunday (April 28-May 2) and include 35,000 to 40,000 books. [Friends of the Reston Regional Library]
It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 75 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:19 am and sunset at 7:57 pm. [Weather.gov]
The McLean Community Center is ready and willing to accept all your spare “Dog Man” and “Magic Tree House” books.
The facility at 1234 Ingleside Avenue is serving as a drop-off site for the latest donation drive by Give a Kid a Book, an initiative started by McLean teenager Alex Pomper to collect children’s books for kids in the D.C. area who might find them hard to come by.
“I grew up around books and realized how much I took that for granted,” said Pomper, a junior at Langley High School. “Many young kids in Fairfax don’t have access to books at home, and I think having books at home is especially important for helping kids get a good start reading, which will help them later in life.”
Launched in January, Give a Kid a Book has collected more than 4,500 books so far with monthly drives. The current effort at MCC started on Tuesday (April 19) and will last through May 20.
Driven by a passion for community service and education, Pomper has been conducting monthly book giveaways with the Arlington Food Assistance Center, a nonprofit food bank.
Research indicates that access to books has a significant effect on kids’ educational success, and disparities in literacy are largely a reflection of socioeconomic inequality, following racial and financial divides.
According to Scholastic’s most recent “Kids and Families Reading Report,” children in the U.S. aged 6 to 17 have 103 books at home on average, but that ranges from 125 books for families with incomes of $100,000 or more to 73 books for families with incomes under $35,000. Hispanic and Black children also generally have fewer books in their homes than white, Asian, and other children.
Pomper says the need for books in many communities “really hit home” when he started meeting Give a Kid a Book recipients in person, including through the Arlington Food Assistance Center giveaways.
“In-person distributions…showed me how much interest there was in the books I was donating, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’m going to be continuing to run this drive,” Pomper said by email.
Give a Kid a Book accepts donations of new and gently used books for a range of ages, from toddler-geared picture books to young adult books. Donations can be made at MCC or through the organization’s Amazon wishlist and website.
Pomper has seen a particular demand for board books and ones for early elementary school-aged readers, and books in Spanish and other languages outside of English are especially appreciated, according to his mother, Annie Kim.
Pomper, who often gets an assist from his younger brother in collecting and sorting donations, is currently focusing on the AFAC giveaways and obtaining books to give to elementary schools, but he is open to working with any organization that can help get books into kids’ hands.
“I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of organizations that need the books that I am collecting,” he said.
The next few months will be busy ones for Vienna’s local, independent bookshop.
After nearly five years, owner Jen Morrow still gets a kick out of seeing how the community has embraced Bards by lining up for new releases, forming book clubs that meet at the store, or just hearing a parent read to their child.
Bards Alley becoming not just a store, but a place where the local community would come and talk about books is a dream come true for Morrow.
“I missed having a place to browse books, talk about books, and foster my love of reading. My hometown has an indie bookstore and when I moved to Northern Virginia, I would frequent Olsson’s Books & Records,” Morrow told FFXnow, referring to the D.C. chain that folded in 2008.
“When I started a family of my own, I realized there really wasn’t a place where I could give them the same experience,” she said. “So, I decided to pursue the path of opening Bards Alley.”
Before Bards Alley opened, the closest thing Vienna had to a bookstore was the Used Book Cellar in the basement of the Freeman Store & Museum.
Knowing the challenges facing brick-and-mortar stores in the age of Amazon and online retail, Morrow incorporated a hybrid cafe and wine bar into Bards Alley to serve as another source of revenue and encourage communal gathering.
As it turns out, the books side of the business has done just fine even without the cafe as a supplement. Bards Alley still sells some snacks and drinks, including wine, but the food service operations have ceased, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like all other businesses, Bards has had to adapt to the realities of the pandemic to stay afloat. Morrow and her employees managed to come up with ways to bring books to their customers. It didn’t hurt that, when people retreated to their homes in the spring of 2020, they had more time to read books. Read More
Reston Museum is putting a spotlight on the community’s oldest village center with the release of its latest book.
Authors Cheryl Terio-Simon with Eric MacDicken introduced the book, “Community is what it is all about: an ode to lake anne,” at Reston Community Center’s Jo Anne Rose Gallery during Founder’s Day on Saturday (April 9).
The book charts the development of the Lake Anne Village Center since it was built in the early 1960s. It contains over 100 photos of modern and historic sites in the village as well as artwork by local painter Pat MacIntyre.
Proceeds from the sale of the books will go toward the repair and maintenance of Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca’s sculptures at Lake Anne Plaza and the Fonseca Underpass sculptures.
Terio-Smith is the widow of Reston founder Robert T. Simon Jr., who started the community on nearly 7,000 acres of land he purchased in 1961 after selling the performing arts venue Carnegie Hall to the New York City government for $5 million.
“People have been drawn to Lake Anne for various reasons…its strong modernist style paired with its romantic feeling, the beauty of the lake,” Terio-Simon said in a news release. “A community was created with this shared appreciation, a common bond enriching all.”
The book is currently on sale exclusively at Reston Museum, including online, for $40.
Franconia Townhouse Fire Under Investigation — Fairfax County fire investigators are still working to determine the cause of a townhouse fire that occurred in the 6500 block of Gildar Street on Saturday (April 2). The blaze didn’t cause any injuries, but four people have been displaced, and there was an estimated $93,750 in damages. [FCFRD]
Fairfax City Police Search for Missing Woman — “Fairfax City Police are still searching for information Tuesday on the disappearance of Amanda Childress, 43, who may have also been the victim of an assault…Investigators said the assault may have happened in the 10400 block of Eaton Place on March 6.” [ABC7]
GMU Dedicates Memorial to People Enslaved by Namesake — “The Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial is located on the campus’s recently renovated Wilkins Plaza, named for the late civil rights leader and George Mason University professor journalist Roger Wilkins. On Monday, several hundred people assembled in Wilkins Plaza for the monument’s dedication.” [Patch]
ACLU Lawsuit Over Mask-Optional Law Continues — A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss a challenge of Virginia’s law making masks optional in schools. The Fairfax County School Board filed a brief supporting the 12 families with immunocompromised children, while the Fairfax County Parents Association, a community group that grew out of the Open FCPS campaign, has backed the state. [WTOP]
Reston Woman Wins Cherry Blossom Race — “Sunday marked the first Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run since 2019, and with it, a local became champion for the first time since 1983, according to race officials. Susanna Sullivan of Reston, Virginia, won the elite women’s race.” [WTOP]
County Police Recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month — “Pinwheels will be displayed outside Public Safety Headquarters and at our district stations throughout April in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pinwheels are a reminder of the carefree spirit of children and symbolize the happy childhood every child should have.” [FCPD/Facebook]
It’s Also National Poetry Month — Fairfax County is celebrating National Poetry Month by having community members read poems “that showcase the diverse and compelling work of contemporary American poets” throughout April. The series kicked off with County Executive Bryan Hill reading “Crossing” by Jericho Brown. [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]
It’s Wednesday — Light rain in the morning and overnight. High of 65 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:46 a.m. and sunset at 7:38 p.m. [Weather.gov]
Students and staff in the LGBTQIA+ community expressed relief yesterday (Tuesday) after Fairfax County Public Schools announced that it will return a pair of challenged, queer-centered books to library shelves.
“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy” — a coming-of-age story about a Mexican American man that deals with race, class, and sexual identity — were pulled from circulation in late September after parents complained that they contained graphic sexual content unsuitable for children.
Two committees convened to review the books determined the complaints were without merit and that the books have literary merit in line with FCPS’ goal of supporting a diverse student body, including through its library materials, the school system said.
The Pride Liberation Project, a student-led LGBTQIA+ advocacy group, praised the decision as an affirmation of its argument that the books are “valuable sources of support” for vulnerable students, not pornography or pedophelia as alleged by the complaints.
“I am relieved that our libraries will continue to have books that depict people like me,” a Westfield High School student said in a news release. “It is isolating when LGBTQIA+ students are singled out and already limited Queer representation is taken away.”
FCPS Pride, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy group for employees, said its members were pleased that “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” will be returned to circulation.
Kobabe’s memoir will be reinstated at the 12 high schools that currently own it, and Evison’s novel will be available at seven high schools, according to FCPS.
“Having read the the books and knowing that FCPS has a commitment to including and welcoming all students, we had faith that the process would be followed and literature that allows LGBTQIA+ students to see themselves, and which allows their peers to see that they exist, would be returned to circulation,” FCPS Pride said in a statement.
With book challenges cropping up across the country in recent months, many of them targeting books about gender and sexual identity or race, FCPS Pride co-president Robert Rigby Jr. tied the complaints against “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” to a larger political backlash to LGBTQIA+ inclusion, pointing to a blog post accusing teachers of using Gay-Straight Alliances to “recruit” children that was shared by the Fairfax County Republican Committee as an example.
FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Department Noel Klimenko confirmed to FFXnow that formal complaints were filed against the two books, but the issue gained attention when conservative-leaning media outlets and advocates shared mother Stacy Langton’s remarks from a contentious school board meeting on Sept. 23.
“LGBTQ students and their peaceful existence in classes and schools have become ‘collateral damage,’ with uncaring people exploiting their existence for other purposes,” Rigby said.
Langton wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner that her complaint stemmed from concern about pornographic materials in schools, not as an objection to LGBTQ characters, stating that she’s aware of the discrimination that community faces because her mother was lesbian.
Klimenko, who made the final decision to reinstate “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy,” says book challenges tend to get politicized since they deal with free speech issues and people’s subjective opinions about what constitutes objectionable art.
The publicity around Langton’s complaint and claims that the books depicted pedophelia, which turned out to be unfounded, prompted FCPS to remove the books from circulation — a departure from past practices, as the school system has historically left books on shelves while they’re under review.
“We decided we needed to have an abundance of caution and go ahead and remove those books,” Klimenko said. “But now that this decision has been made, the books will be returned to the libraries that had them prior to the challenge.”
FCPS’ regulation on handling book challenges doesn’t explicitly state whether books should remain available while being reviewed.
Klimenko says staff will consult with school board members and other stakeholders to see if there were any concerns with how the two-month-long process played out, but overall, FCPS upheld its established policies, which had not been tested since the last library material challenge in 2015.
“I think it’s really important that Fairfax County Public Schools has a procedure for both identifying books to put in our libraries and also for challenging them,” she said. “I feel like we’ve taken great care and deliberation with this decision.”
Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky, who represents Sully District, says there have not been any conversations so far about reexamining the challenged materials regulation, which was last updated on Feb. 16.
She expressed support for parents playing “a robust and active role in their children’s education.”
Langton told the Washington Examiner earlier this month that she was barred from the Fairfax High School library after visiting with her son to check out a book.
FCPS doesn’t accommodate unscheduled visits to school libraries or other instructional spaces during class hours, but it allows pre-arranged visits before and after the school day. Its library catalogs can also be viewed online.
“I encourage parents to be involved in conversations with their students about all aspects of their school experience, including their literary choices,” Pekarsky said in a statement. “I continue to trust the professionalism of our school librarians and appreciate the time and care they devote to procuring collections that will serve a diverse student body.”
Photo via Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash
(Updated at 10:55 a.m. on 11/24/2021) Fairfax County Public Schools has reinstated two books that were recently pulled from library shelves after some parents took issue with their sexual content.
“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison — both books that center on LGBTQIA+ individuals exploring their identities — will be returned to shelves based on recommendations from committees formed to review the materials, FCPS announced today (Monday).
“The decision reaffirms FCPS’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the school system said in a news release. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys.”
FCPS pulled the two books from circulation in late September after local mother Stacy Langton complained at a school board meeting that they contained graphic sexual content akin to pornography, including depictions of pedophelia.
Langston said her complaint was inspired by similar protests at a school board meeting in Texas. Since then, protests of books have proliferated across the country, with a nearly decade-old challenge of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in Fairfax County even figuring into Virginia’s recent gubernatorial race.
Langston’s challenge prompted FCPS to form two committees to review the books, led by its library services coordinator.
According to FCPS, each committee consisted of two teachers, two parents, a school-based administrator, a member of its Equity and Cultural Responsiveness team, and two high school students.
The committees were formed by FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Department Noel Klimenko, who randomly selected members from “a pool of stakeholder representatives” submitted by schools.
FCPS says both committees determined that the pedophelia claims were unfounded and that the books both have literary value that justifies keeping them in schools.
Klimenko made the final decision to reinstate the books after receiving the committees’ recommendations, in accordinace with the school system’s regulation for handling challenges of school materials.
“I am satisfied that the books were selected according to FCPS regulations and are appropriate to include in libraries that serve high school students,” Klimenko said. “Both books have value beyond their pages for students who may struggle to find relatable stories.”
Fairfax County Public Schools has pulled two books from its shelves after a local mom complained to the school board that the titles contain graphic sexual content and pedophelia.
A spokesperson for FCPS confirmed to FFXnow that “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe have been temporarily pulled from shelves.
Two committees under the supervision of the school system’s library service coordinator will assess the suitability of both texts for high school libraries. The committee will include representation from staff, students, and parents, according to the spokesperson.
“The recommendation of the committees will be put forward to the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services who will make a final decision as to whether FCPS continues to provide access to these books in our high school libraries,” the spokesperson said.
Stacy Langton, a Fairfax County mother, held up content from the books at a heated Sept. 23 school board meeting. The material — which was blurred in a recording of the meeting — included details of a man having sex with a boy, oral sex, masturbation, and nudity.
“Pornography is offensive to all people,” Langston said. The recording also muted Langton’s descriptions of the books’ content, which she said includes a scene in which a 10-year-old boy recounts sucking an adult man’s penis.
A Patch review of the two books disputed that characterization, reporting that “Lawn Boy” — a coming-of-age novel about a Mexican landscaper — contains no scenes of adults having sex with minors and that the illustration that drew objections in “Gender Queer,” an autobiography, appears in the context of the author’s teenage fantasy.
Another county resident and former FCPS teacher — Adrienne Henzel — said she was appalled by what she described as “homo-erotic material” supported by county taxpayer dollars.
FCPS Pride, an employees’ group that represents the LGBTQIA+ community and formed in 2015, said the inclusion of books that represent “oft-excluded communities such as LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized groups” help feel students more welcome and safer. LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning, and asexual.
“These books are ‘mirrors and windows’ as they ‘tell a story’ to give a window on a community that a reader may not belong to, and they share a narrative with which a given student may identify,” said Robert Rigby, co-president of FCPS Pride and an FCPS high school teacher.
Rigby told FFXnow that FCPS Pride is thankful for librarians who have established catalogs and collections that include all communities — especially marginalized ones.
Langton’s comments drew several objections from Springfield District board member Laura Jane Cohen, who noted that there were children in the room and that the books are available only in high schools.
She was cut off when she went over the three-minute time limit for public comments and refused to leave the podium for the next speaker, prompting the school board to take a five-minute recess “to clear the room.”
The incident was picked up by several conservative-leaning national news outlets and flagged by Asra Nomani, vice president of strategy and investigations for Parents Defending Education, a recently formed nonprofit organization that fights what it calls “indoctrination” in education. Read More