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Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools is establishing clearer ground rules for its employees’ use of social media.

Under a proposed new policy, FCPS workers will be prohibited from expressing their personal beliefs, disparaging other community members, and other actions on accounts affiliated with the school system.

A draft of the policy was discussed earlier today (Tuesday) by the Fairfax County School Board’s governance committee.

The policy will bring FCPS in line with other school divisions in the region, according to Executive Director of Communications & Community Relations Helen Lloyd.

“The goal of the proposed social media policy is…ensure we are providing clear guidance to staff around the need to make distinctions between personal social media (where they can express any view they like) and professional social media (FCPS use for work purposes) where there are professional expectations around use,” Lloyd told FFXnow by email.

Lloyd emphasized that the policy won’t limit what employees can say or do on their personal accounts, though it states that staff should include a disclaimer in their bio that the views expressed are their own, not those of their employer.

According to the draft policy, the official FCPS social media accounts and other accounts for specific schools, classes, or employees are barred from posting or sharing content that:

  1. expresses or disseminates any one person’s political or philosophical beliefs, interests, opinions, ideas, photos, videos, or other content.
  2. conducts private business or executes financial transactions.
  3. campaigns for or against any political candidate, including the account user.
  4. engages in arguments with other users.
  5. plagiarizes the work of others.
  6. is obscene or libelous.
  7. questions FCPS’ commitment to serve all students.
  8. disparages others, especially students, staff or families.

Other prohibited content includes information that could “jeopardize the privacy, safety, or well-being of students and staff,” violates local, state, or federal laws, or FCPS policies, or is “otherwise substantially disruptive to the educational environment of the school or school division operations or activities.”

A proposed regulation supporting the policy also addresses interactions with journalists and the news media, requiring that FCPS employees obtain permission from a principal or manager before providing information or participating in interviews.

The principal or program manager is then required to notify the FCPS Office of Communication and Community Relations in advance or as soon as possible, if “a circumstance makes it unrealistic” to provide notice ahead of time.

“In the same way that any large organization wants to ensure staff who are representing them in the public forum represent their values and mission, FCPS asks that staff asked to speak for FCPS reach out to their principal ahead of time,” Lloyd said.

The proposal comes as FCPS is also moving to establish new expectations for students’ social media use through Student Rights & Regulations revisions scheduled to be approved by the school board on May 26.

Earlier this year, the school system had banned students from accessing Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms when using the school’s network or school-issued laptops.

Under the proposed revisions, students could be allowed to use social media with administrators’ permission, but activity must be related to academic activities.

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Morning Notes

A woodpecker perches on a tree branch (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

FCPS Proposes Limiting Phone and Social Media Use — “Proposed updates to school policies in Fairfax County Public Schools would ban students from using social media sites for non-academic purposes during school hours and define when cellphones can be used during the school day.” The phone policy has already been implemented at Herndon middle and high schools. [WTOP]

Falls Church Development Under Construction — Developer Insight Property Group will break ground today (Friday) on its 2.7-acre Broad and Washington project, which has been in the works since 2015. The mixed-use development will eventually include a 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods, 339 residential units, space for the theater nonprofit Creative Cauldron, a public plaza, and ground-floor retail. [Falls Church News-Press]

Police Officer Saves Glued Snake — “This little snake is alive and free tonight thanks to @FairfaxCountyPD’s Animal Protection Police Officer McLemore! The snake was caught in a glue trap, and it took time, care, and mineral oil to free him. Thank you for rescuing this little guy!” [Fairfax Animals/Twitter]

Metro Police to Increase Presence — “The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) says they are increasing their visibility on trains, buses, and in stations to help deter crime…Crime has not spiked on Metro recently, but it certainly has not dropped at the same proportion that ridership has.” [DCist]

Vienna Plants Tree for Arbor Day — “Help Vienna celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day by planting a tree with us tomorrow, Friday, April 29! We’ll plant a white Dogwood with the help of local Girl Scout Troops 1489, 50056, and 50157. The event starts at 5 p.m. next to the Vienna Community Center front entrance.” [Vienna Happenings]

Meeting Planned on Mount Vernon RECenter Project — The Fairfax County Park Authority will update the public at a meeting on Wednesday (May 4) on its expansion plan, which will require a two-year closure starting early 2023. Staff will explain the project schedule, including the timing of the recently approved facility closure due to supply chain issues and key infrastructure system failures. [FCPA]

Tornados Becoming More of a Risk in D.C. Area — “While it has been 20 years since the La Plata disaster, its occurrence is a reminder that the D.C. region is vulnerable to devastating whirlwinds on par with those of famed tornado alleys in the Great Plains and Deep South. The D.C. region also sees much more frequent tornadoes of lesser strength.” [The Washington Post]

Consulting Firm Workers Help Clean Reston — “As part of Earth Day last week, employees from Virtual, Inc. picked up trash and helped to beautify the area surrounding their offices at 11130 Sunrise Valley Drive in Reston…Virtual is a professional services firm that works with associations and technology standards groups that are forming, growing and changing, according [to CEO Andy] Freed.” [Patch]

Registration Open for Hunter Mill Bicycle Tour — “Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is hosting the 2nd annual Tour de Hunter Mill on Saturday, May 14, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event, including a five-mile family route and a 18-mile route, begins in the Town of Vienna at the Town Green, located at 144 Maple Ave. East.” [Hunter Mill District Office]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 62 and low of 38. Sunrise at 6:14 am and sunset at 8:01 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A phrase that started as a basketball trick has translated into a social media empire and a restaurant for two Fairfax County natives.

Halal Wrist began as a clever maneuver of the hand that enabled Soufiane Bernoukh to make a perfect basketball shot. The trick shot was caught on video and soon went viral on TikTok and was coined “Halal Wrist.” Halal is an Islamic term that denotes permissibility.

A resident of the county’s Alexandria area, Bernoukh always dreamed of playing basketball in the NBA, and he played college ball at Ferrum College. His shot caught the eyes of major brands like the NBA, Foot Locker, Nike, and Reebok.

@soufs_videos

Comment or Tag your TOP 5 Most Clutch NBA Players of all time‼️ @halal_wrist #fyp #for #halalwrist #basketball #clutch #nba

♬ original sound – soufs_videos

“It’s kind of always been the story of my life. I feel like I’ve always been the underdog, but I always use it as a positive thing because it pushed me to get to where I am today,” said Bernoukh, who aspires to become an actor and comedian.

In an unpredictable step, Bernoukh and Ayman Beshir, who used to play basketball together at recreation centers in the county, teamed up with a college friend to bring Halal Wrist into a different public space: a restaurant.

Halal Wrist, which offers bowls, wraps, wings, gyro and other items, opened at 3019 Georgia Avenue NW in D.C. in February.

“The restaurant is something we always talked about,” Bernoukh told FFXnow. “Having the name ‘Halal Wrist’ started off as a basketball brand but we always thought it would be really dope to have a halal restaurant one day, halal being the food and the wrist being a metaphor to cooking. It honestly happened way faster than we expected and we’re extremely blessed to be able to see it all come into fruition.”

The restaurant business is new to both men as well as a college friend who manages e-commerce for the brand.

Beshir wears “so many hats,” including Bernoukh’s manager and videographer, he says.

The friends hope to launch other locations once they establish their flagship site.

“We’re constantly thinking of ways to expand the brand and we’re really excited to announce a few other business ventures we plan on launching soon,” Beshir said.

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Lake Braddock Secondary School (via Google Maps)

An anonymous Instagram account that attacked LGBTQ students at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke has been shut down and the perpetrator identified, Principal Daniel W. Smith said in a message to the school community yesterday (Tuesday).

The now-deleted account surfaced Monday afternoon (March 7) with photos of students identified as members of the LGBTQ community and demeaning captions, screenshots show.

The bio said that the account was “owned and operated by the Lake Braddock Gimmick Association” and contained homophobic and transphobic language.

According to Smith, administrators worked with Lake Braddock’s cybersecurity team to get the account taken down and identify its creator, apparently a student.

“I am deeply troubled that any student at Lake Braddock feels that this is acceptable behavior. This is not the kind of school community we seek to cultivate,” Smith said, stating that “appropriate disciplinary action” will be taken in accordance with Fairfax County Public Schools policies.

While screenshots suggest the account had limited reach, it contributed to an unsafe school environment for LGBTQIA+ students, including intersex and asexual and agender individuals, the Pride Liberation Project — an advocacy group of queer and allied FCPS students — said in a statement released yesterday morning.

The group urged FCPS to take action by investigating the account, condemning it and making the consequences for harassment clear, and ensuring access to mental health supports for all students, particularly those at Lake Braddock.

FCPS has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity since 2015. The school board adopted a regulation in July affirming transgender and gender-expansive students’ right to be identified by their chosen name and pronouns, and to use facilities that match their identity.

Even with those supportive policies, though, LGBTQIA+ students in FCPS continue to report “elevated” levels of harassment and bullying, Pride Liberation Project student leader Aaryan told FFXnow.

Fairfax County’s most recent annual youth survey, published in October 2020, found that of the 17% of teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning, 21% reported experiencing bullying and 11% said they experienced cyberbullying — higher rates than those reported by non-LGBQ students.

“In general, FCPS LGBTQIA+ students have reported experiencing high levels of harassment at school, such as the frequent use of slurs,” the Pride Liberation Project said. “However, this is one of the most targeted attack[s] that has occurred against LGBTQIA+ students.”

Aaryan says the Instagram account also appeared at a time of “elevated rates of anxiety and stress” for many students amid a national wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation, from Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and bans on transgender youth participating in sports to efforts to prohibit and criminalize gender confirmation surgery.

In his message, Smith said he will meet with LGBTQIA+ student groups this week “to listen, learn and continue the dialogue around their experiences in our school community.”

“I ask you to engage in a conversation with your student about our expectations for behavior that contributes to our shared vision here at Lake Braddock, and to continue these critical conversations about respect, kindness and acceptance in our community,” Smith said. “Our students can make a difference in this world by learning to embrace our differences instead of using them to divide us.”

Photo via Google Maps

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