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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 at Reston Station during a recent sunset (photo by Wil Villatoro-Reyes)

Fairfax County Man Dies in Alexandria Jail — “Alexandria law enforcement is investigating the death of Anthony Mouf, a 25-year-old Fairfax County man in Alexandria’s William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center. According to a city release, Mouf was found suffering from an apparent medical emergency alone in his cell in the jail’s booking area.” [ALXnow]

Fort Belvoir Housing Contractors Hit with Lawsuit — “After bouncing around houses near Fort Belvoir, pleading with Michaels for repairs and remediation and asking officials on the base for help, Roman filed a lawsuit on March 16 of this year, alleging the owner and manager of thousands of housing units on the base allowed safety hazards and other substandard conditions to persist for years.” [Bisnow]

Fairfax Diner Plans Comeback — After being destroyed by a fire before Thanksgiving last year, the 29 Diner will reopen on Oct. 10, owner John Wood announced earlier this month. Still serving “the thick slices of applewood-smoked bacon, milkshakes, and Texas-style barbecue patrons know and love,” the restaurant will have an updated, open kitchen and restored furnishings that pay homage to its 1947 opening. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Tips for Handling the Baby Formula Shortage — “As the nationwide infant formula shortage continues due to a temporary shutdown of the plant that manufactures about half of the U.S. supply, local families are impacted, too. Our Health Department advises if you have any questions, check with your baby’s physician or healthcare provider, especially if your baby is on a restricted diet or has any medical conditions.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna Burger Joint Expands to Arlington — “HQ2 will be home to Arlington’s second Conte’s Bike Shop, a South Block, the second location of Vienna-based Social Burger and the first brick-and-mortar location of HUSTLE — a high intensity cycling workout business.” [ARLnow]

Capital One Sets Timeline for Office Return — The Tysons-based financial company announced that it will fully reopen all U.S. offices under a hybrid work model on Sept. 6, almost exactly a year later than previously planned. Capital One is one of the D.C. area’s largest employers, with 11,530 associates and contractors just for its headquarters, according to a spokesperson. [Capital One]

McLean Tennis Court Project Approved — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board “approved $650,000 in funding for court improvements at Lewinsville Park in McLean…FCPA anticipates the courts to be closed for up to four months, while these renovations and repairs are made.” [FCPA]

Reston Shop Hosts “Bike to Work Day” Stop — “National Bike Week happens to be this week with the 21st anniversary of Bike to Work Day in the National Capital Region falling on May 20…In Reston, bicyclists can head to a pit stop just off the Washington & Old Dominion Trail at The Bike Lane, 11150 Sunset Hills Reston, VA, 7 a.m.-9 a.m.” [Patch]

Annandale Food Festival Seeks Sponsors — “Now that planning is underway for the 2022 Taste of Annandale, the top priority is securing sponsors. The family-friendly community festival scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1 in the center of Annandale, is likely to draw at least 6,000 people.” [Annandale Today]

It’s Thursday — Rain in the morning. High of 79 and low of 61. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A guard tower on the former Lorton Prison grounds, now turned into the Workhouse Arts Center (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Man Dies After Crash in Oakton — “A 78-year-old man has died from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle crash that occurred at 2:01 p.m. on March 30 in Oakton. Thomas Peregoy of Alexandria was driving eastbound on Lawyers Road near Kedge Drive when his 2014 Toyota Tacoma drifted off the roadway to the right, striking a tree head on.” [FCPD]

Genomic Sequencing Could Help ID “Christmas Tree Lady” — “For 25 years, the Fairfax County police have tried and failed to identify ‘the Christmas Tree Lady,’ so named because she placed an 8-inch Christmas tree with gold balls and red ribbons on the clear plastic sheet she put on the ground…She is the only person to die by suicide in Fairfax whom authorities have been unable to identify, before or since.” [The Washington Post]

County Launches Month-Long Solar Energy Campaign — “Fairfax County is pleased and proud to participate in the annual Solarize campaign, which brings residents and businesses bulk discounts on solar systems…Through the program, you can receive a free satellite assessment of your property to determine if it is suitable for solar.” [Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination]

Fort Belvoir Hospital Trauma Center Verified — “Fort Belvoir Community Hospital has received Level lll Trauma Center verification after demonstrating its ability to provide prompt assessment, surgery, intensive care and emergency operations…The only other verified trauma center in Northern Virginia is Inova Fairfax Hospital, a Level I facility.” [Inside NoVA]

Carjacking Reported in Mount Vernon — A man was driving in the 3700 block of Rolling Hills Avenue on March 26 when four men in a brown Nissan Altima blocked his vehicle. “The men then got out of the Altima, displayed a firearm and assaulted the victim,” police say. “The men then left the area in the victim’s car. The victim was treated for injuries not considered life threatening.” [FCPD]

McLean Arts Nonprofit Plans Spring Shows — The McLean Project for the Arts will host its first-ever “Spring Solo” exhibitions starting on April 14. The nonprofit received over 130 proposals, according to its artistic director and curator. Work from three artists, two from D.C. and one from Arlington, will be on display through June 11. [Sun Gazette]

Reston Community Center Announces Spring Programming — “Some of RCC’s most popular seasonal experiences are already sold out (Eggnormous Egg Hunt, Crafternoons), so don’t wait to enroll in the activities that still have space for children and their families!” [RCC]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 56 and low of 34. Sunrise at 6:50 a.m. and sunset at 7:36 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Looking south to Falls Church over Washington Blvd. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Health Department Updates Covid Data — The county’s dashboard for COVID-19 data will report the 7-day average number of daily cases instead of the number of new cases, and two other metrics were added to the dashboard. The additions are the 7-day average number of daily new deaths, and the current community level, including the metrics that determine the level (hospitalizations, hospital capacity and cases within a community). [Fairfax County Government]

FBI Relaunches New HQ Search — “President Joe Biden’s administration made it clear that the federal government would be consolidating the FBI’s headquarters outside of D.C. in the General Services Administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget request…The move has been in limbo for years. During then-President Barack Obama’s administration, the GSA had narrowed down potential locations to Greenbelt, Landover and Springfield.” [Bisnow]

Three Fort Belvoir Firefighters Have Babies in 24 Hours — “They were all expecting their sons to be born soon, and they joked at the fire station that they would run into each other at the hospital. None of them thought it would actually happen.” [Washington Post]

Food for Fines Adapts to Read and Feed — “As of Jan. 1, FCPL no longer charges overdue fines on most materials. To continue its partnership with Food for Others, FCPL is now hosting ‘Read and Feed’ in April. Those who wish to give may simply drop off donations at any FCPL branch during its regular hours throughout the month of April.” [Fairfax County Government]

Vienna School Renovation Progresses — “Fairfax County Public Schools’ plan to renovate and expand Louise Archer Elementary School got some necessary boxes ticked March 21 when the Vienna Town Council unanimously approved a series of site modifications.” [Sun Gazette]

McLean Little League Opens Season — “McLean Little League players are busy scurrying around the baseball and softball diamonds these days, following the opening of the 2022 season. Enjoy these photos from the annual opening-day ceremonies, held March 26, as captured by Dave Facinoli.” [Sun Gazette]

Bluebells Festival Returns in Great Falls — “After a two-year hiatus, Bluebells at the Bend Festival is BACK! The day’s highlight features the emergence of the iconic Virginia Bluebells, native wildflowers that bloom in the moist woodlands of eastern North America and can create a bit of their spring magic in your own garden.” [Visit Fairfax]

Enjoy Cherry Blossoms at the PARC at Tysons — “#Spring is in #fullbloom at the PARC! Stop by next week, April 4-9 from 9 AM – 5 PM, to check out our @cherryblossfest decorations and enjoy #free fun-filled spring #activities and #treats from @tysons.creamery. You won’t want to miss this spring celebration! #spring2022” [Twitter]

Herndon Middle Schooler Earns Honors — “Jada Elfar, a seventh-grade student in Shawn Ratliff’s civics class at the King Abdullah Academy in Herndon, recently was named the winner in several levels of the American Legion Department of Virginia Middle School Essay Contest.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 64 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:56 a.m. and sunset at 7:32 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

A puddle on the path along Kingstowne Lake after a day of rain (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Stuff the Bus Drive Returns Tomorrow — “Since inception, Stuff the Bus has collected over 220 tons of food to feed people experiencing food insecurity in Fairfax County. Donate to Stuff the Bus at any of these locations on Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.” [Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services]

Reston Cooking Class Raises Funds for Ukraine — A borscht-making class raised nearly $179,000 to become one of the top fundraisers in World Central Kitchen “Cook for Ukraine” campaign, Reston Patch reported. Radhika Murari, the founder of Reston-based OmMade peanut butter, came up with the idea by helping two Ukrainian sisters promote their class. [Fairfax County EDA]

Fort Belvoir’s Name to Remain for Now — “The Naming Commission, tasked with choosing new names for Army installations that had been named for Confederate generals, has removed Fort Belvoir from consideration, according to a commission announcement this morning.” [Inside NoVA]

WeWork to Subsidize Rent for Local Startups — “Companies must commit to a six or 12-month lease in one of four WeWork D.C.-area locations — Metropolitan Square at 655 15th St. NW, the program’s hub, 1775 Tysons Blvd., 200 Massachusetts Ave. NW and Midtown Center — between now and the end of August, according to the terms and conditions.” [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Community Center Board Candidates Announced — “Early voting has started for the annual McLean Community Center governing board election. There are 12 candidates running for seats in 2022. The candidates include nine adults and three teens running for three adult positions and two youth positions.” [Patch]

British Consulting Firm Opens Tysons Office — “Buro Happold, a global engineering consultancy firm, has set up shop in the Washington, D.C. area, among five new cities the firm has entered. Roger Chang has been named principal and will head up the D.C. office, which is currently at 1775 Greensboro Station Place in Tysons, Va., with plans to operate space in the District as well.” [Commercial Observer]

Herndon Police Officers and Volunteers Recognized — “With community spread of COVID-19 remaining at low levels, the Herndon Police Department decided it was safe to finally host a public ceremony to recognize all of the officers and volunteers who’d received awards from 2019-2021.” [Patch]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 69 and low of 48. Sunrise at 7:16 a.m. and sunset at 7:20 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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