themail.gif (3487 bytes)

November 26, 2008

School Violence

Dear Shoppers:

In the last issue of themail, I wrote about Black Friday sales, and asked for recommendations of good Black Friday deals at local and specialty stores. I expected to be criticized for this by anti-consumerist, anti-consumption activists who view shopping and buying as secular sins, but I didn’t get those complaints. Nobody wrote that all Christmas presents should be either made at home out of construction paper or home-baked (with whole grains and without sugar, eggs, and milk, of course).

I did get two unexpected complaints, however. Tom Sherwood writes, below, that Black Friday is not normally the busiest shopping day of the year (although it sometimes has been). He’s right, but I never called it the busiest. I called it the “biggest” sale day. It is, in the sense that it has the biggest sales — the biggest discounts and the best prices. This is a recent development; it’s only in the past few decades that the day after Thanksgiving has displaced the day after Christmas as the single biggest (again, not busiest) sale day, and only over the past decade that it has become so popular and so publicized.

Vincint Thomas wrote to complain that I shouldn’t call the day “Black” Friday, and should find another name for it. Just to clarify, the meaning of “black” in “Black Friday” is that it is the approximate date on which retailers get out of the red and into the black; that is, that they begin to turn a profit. That’s a good thing, and nothing at which to take offense, unless you believe that the word “black” should never be used.

Suggestions for local shopping outlets did come from the Brookland and Mid-City (U Street) neighborhoods. Please look for them in this issue and consider them if you’re looking for something that can’t be found in large and chain stores.

Transitions: it’s not news to themail’s readers, but on Monday Mayor Adrian Fenty and Michelle Fenty had their third child, Aerin Alexandria Fenty. Also on Monday, Jonathan Rees, a frequent contributor to themail who both created and was the subject of a lot of controversy here, died after a long illness.

Gary Imhoff


Construction Blocking Streets and Taxicab Gas Charges
Jim Champagne,

Really, I am not trying to beat a dead horse. But what happened to the supposed law designed to prevent construction firms from taking over sidewalk space, as well as street lanes? One such company is in the process of building a “green hotel” at the northwest corner of 22nd and M Streets, NW, and it has with impunity closed the sidewalks, as well as street lanes on both 22nd and M. Who can I talk to if I want to file a complaint and to get relief from this ridiculous practice?

Am I the only one puzzled and perturbed that cab-riders are still subject to the $1.00 add-on for each and every ride, even though the cost of gas has dropped from over $4.00 in July to its current below $2.00 level? I did not agree with the surcharge when “they” imposed it. And I sure do not agree with it now. What is our recourse other than to complain?


Rival Neighborhood Fights at Spingarn and Dunbar High Schools
Carolyn C. Steptoe, Ward 5,

It is my understanding massive and intense gang fights (and arrests) occurred all day Monday at Spingarn and Dunbar High Schools. I was told the level and range of today’s violence at both schools was horrific: I understand students were jumped, simultaneous gang fights occurred on different levels of the schools, guns were confiscated, and the principal, teachers, and staff were afraid to intervene. Apparently the fights occurred as a result of the increased mix of different citywide neighborhood gangs and rival neighborhood populations under one roof.

Given what I was told, coupled with the recent school violence at Anacostia High School, it appears the mayoral takeover and mass school closings have escalated the already deadly neighborhood rivalry to powder keg status in our local DCPS schools. The safety of our DCPS children, teachers and employees is even more unstable than before, given the increased forced mix of rival neighborhood gangs and factions. Any substantive learning and teaching is not likely to be occurring in such environments.

I hope the mayor and Chancellor will do something tangible — besides conducting national interviews and propagandizing artificial education reform — to abate the heightened safety concerns and dangers resulting from the executives decisions involving takeover, mass school closings and NCLB restructurings.


School Violence
Clyde Howard,

I am in total disagreement with those who advocate that, “it takes a whole village to raise a child.” This cliche went out with high-button shoes. Disciplining a child that is not yours will wind you up in trouble with the parent or the law; therefore, an unruly child is the responsibility of the parent, not the school or the whole village. The whole village’s responsibility is to see if the law can take charge of this uncivilized child.

The community can no longer tolerate the misbehavior of someone else’s children or turn a blind eye to their unlawful ways. We must demand that civility exist in our schools or send these incorrigibles to a training school or a school, like Bundy was in the old days before some of you got here, that accepts such students. We need schools that have teachers trained in discipline that can bring these students under control. Until we stop trying to correct the behavior of children who are set in their ways of destruction and creating mayhem, only then will we have school rooms conducive for educating those who want to learn. We either take control of the students or they will take control of us.

[“It takes a whole village to raise a child,” couldn’t have gone out with high-button shoes, since that “ancient African proverb” has been traced back only as far as Chicago, Illinois, in the late 1970’s. Maybe it went out with platform shoes. — Gary Imhoff]


Washington Post on DYRS
Brian Robertson,

After reading the Colbert King articles in the Washington Post on the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (,, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the Fenty administration and the city council have made a political decision to tolerate a high level of violent juvenile crime. Otherwise, they would devote sufficient resources to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, without which police efforts to do something about juvenile crime are completely ineffective. If there is no place to keep young offenders and they are let back out on the street to terrorize citizens, any pledges made by the mayor or the council to do something about juvenile crime are a joke and a fraud. King’s articles in the Post have identified the problem; we should not be diverted by any other considerations until we demand and receive some resolution from the mayor’s office and the council to the crisis of juvenile detention facilities and administration of DYRS.


School Violence and Compulsory Education Age
Ralph J. Chittams, Sr.,

That “compulsory education age” phrase has also been perverted, in my humble opinion. Compliance with “compulsory education age” should not be the responsibility of any school system, it should be the responsibility of the parents. It should be the responsibility of parents to see that their children are educated until the age of majority. Placing that burden on the school system absolves parents of any responsibility for regulating their children’s behavior. The message parents have received, and continue to receive, is that, we, the so-called professional educators, know what is best for your children. Turn them over to us and we will handle it. School systems have been complicit in spreading this message.

After more than forty years of this failed policy, we now see a push for “parental involvement.” If the parents hadn’t been pushed out of the schools in the first place, there would be no need for policies and programs to lure them back. If parents had not been stripped of their responsibility to parent, perhaps they would not have abandoned their involvement in the public school system. Perhaps that is why parents at private and parochial schools stay involved. They have a vested interest in their children’s education. It is their money on the line. If little junior cuts his butt, mommy and daddy pay a price. What is the cost to public school parents when little junior acts up? Do-gooder, PC-types start yelling and screaming. It is now not junior’s fault that he or she stabbed someone; the child is not held accountable, and nothing happens! Now the school is held hostage by these repeat offenders, the teachers can’t teach, and the good kids can’t learn.

The law (from the Feds down to the local level) needs to change. We need a paradigm shift in thinking as it relates to public education in this country. Why is the right to an education deemed an absolute when no other right rises to that level? Murderers and rapists are executed. Did they not have the right to life? Yes. However, they lost that right based upon their actions. The right to a free public education should be no different. Everyone has a right to it. However, if you act in such a manner as to become a danger or a disruptive influence, you should lose that right. When is someone going to stand up and advocate for the thousands of children who are on the right path?


School Violence
Kaitlin Dunne,

Violence and disorder in schools threaten learning and should be dealt with promptly and appropriately. But schools also teach important lessons about just and fair decisions. DCPS is responsible for enforcing all of the District’s regulations regarding discipline in public schools. Those regulations outline both the offenses for which students can be disciplined and the process that the school and the Chancellor’s office must follow in order to suspend or expel students.

Before a student can be suspended for any length of time or expelled, the school must provide notice to the student’s parents and an opportunity for a conference or hearing that allows the student to explain his or her side of the story. Notice and hearing are required by both DCPS regulations and the Constitution. DCPS has a long history of ignoring these important procedural safeguards and unlawfully kicking students out of school. Students and parents tell us that, too often, notices come late or not in parents’ native languages, as DC law requires. Notices that are sent often include incorrect information (for example, recent notices list, as places where students and parents can seek assistance, the names of organizations that no longer provide such assistance). Conferences and hearings are often not convened, meaning students have no chance to present a defense.

When students are kicked out of school, they become more susceptible to disengaging from school, dropping out, and starting down a path that has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This is not to say that no student should ever be suspended or expelled, but such actions can have grave consequences and should not be taken lightly or without lawful procedures. For these reasons, the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area is committed to combating unlawful, excessive, and arbitrary removal of students from school. For more information, please contact Kaitlin Dunne, Equal Justice Works Fellow, at


A Bureaucracy of Dunces
Peter Orvetti,

On Friday, November 21, I received a large packet in the mail from the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Office of Civil Infractions. It said my wife and I would be required to pay a fine of two thousand dollars for work illegally done without permit on our property at 3526 11th Street, NW, in May 2008. This seemed odd, since we had not done any work on our property in May. At the back of the packet was a series of pictures, with notations by DCRA Inspector Kevin Smith, of a property that was clearly not ours. Smith noted “illeagle” work, including a fence that was “to high” and a post that went “overe” a property line. He initialed and signed the documents. We thought perhaps this was just a minor error, that maybe the property was in NE, not NW. After a while, I realized the front door of the house in one of Smith’s photographs looked familiar, so I went over to 10th Street, NW. Sure enough, the property in question on 10th Street, NW, not 11th Street. By my count, Smith’s incorrect listing of our address occurs at least fifteen times in the DCRA packet we were sent.

We contacted DCRA by phone and got an answering machine. We E-mailed DCRA, as well as Councilmember Jim Graham, his staff, and several DCRA officials whose names appear on the document. As usual, Councilmember Graham’s staff got to work on the matter immediately. DCRA did not reply at all. On Monday, I E-mailed again around midday, and received no reply, save for an E-mail from James McKay, who was listed on the DCRA document as General Counsel of DCRA. The signed document says McKay received the document by intra-office mail on November 19. McKay informed me that he has not worked for DCRA since September.

Today I heard back from Timothy Handy of DCRA saying he had just “signed and filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) a Notice of Summary Dismissal which dismisses the Notice of Infraction I701004 which you received in error.” I appreciate his response. However, I then received a message from CM Graham’s office, helpful throughout this nonsense, that included this earlier response from Edries Jamal of DCRA, which for some reason Mr. Jamal did not send to me: “Our investigation shows that this case was forwarded to the Office of Administrative Hearing (OAH), and if the complainant feels that he was wrongly cited, he has to go the hearing to challenge this matter.” I do not “feel that I was wrongly cited” — I was wrongly cited. I know where I live. I also do not see why I should have been required “to go the hearing to challenge this matter” — the error lies with the city, not with me. I live here and pay taxes here. I do not appreciate the suggestion that the government has the right to force me to defend myself against its own ineptitude. It is also not my concern which subset of which division of the massive DC bureaucracy one government employee chose to refer the matter to. That’s their affair, not mine. If the city screws up, it is the city’s obligation to make it right. As of now, to my knowledge Kevin Smith has not been reprimanded for his incompetence.


It’s That Time of the Year
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

Folks are raking their fallen leaves out onto the street adjacent to the curb here in northwest DC, and that poses a potential hazard to cars parking along the curb. If you should park your car atop a pile of leaves you may come back to a burned out wreck. The catalytic converter under the car is blistering hot and will ignite any dry leaves that come in contact with it. Be advised.


DC Vote Promotes “Taxation Without Representation” Street
Jaline Quinto, DC Vote,

Today, DC Vote urged the DC city council to approve a bill introduced to rename a portion of South Capitol Street, SE, as “Taxation Without Representation Street.” The council will consider Bill 17-909 to designate the portion of South Capitol Street, SE, between N Street, SE, and Potomac Avenue, SE as “Taxation Without Representation Street, SE.” The street name refers to the fact that DC residents pay the second highest per capita federal income taxes in the nation but are denied voting representation in Congress.

“‘Taxation Without Representation’ has become the battle cry for DC Vote and thousands of DC voting rights supporters. The license plates with this phrase have educated millions about our issue,” said Ilir Zherka, DC Vote Executive Director. “The renaming of a street in the District to reflect DC’s status would go a long way to educate even more.” Zherka added that the councilmembers have long been advocates for the DC voting rights movement. “We have great allies in the council in our fight for DC voting rights,” he said. “DC Vote applauds the efforts of the DC government to highlight the plight of DC’s residents who are denied a vote in the governing body that taxes them at the second highest rate in the country.”


Teaching the Easier Levels of
Phil Shapiro,

The web site called is a useful tool for boosting English language skills, but the easier levels of the web site are not so accessible. So I’ve started creating some free learning resources to help youth and adults become more comfortable with the easier levels. Here is a screencast video I recently uploaded to YouTube: Within the description of this YouTube video is a link to downloadable versions of this video that run well on older computers (as far back as 1995) and a version of the video that runs on iPods and iPhones. If you know any youth or adults who could benefit from this video, thanks for alerting them to it. This video is in the public domain and may be freely redistributed for any purpose.

On this Thanksgiving day meet John Breen, the Indiana computer programmer who created He will remind you that a single person’s ingenuity can alleviate the suffering of many. You can meet him in this YouTube video: Our society is not so good at the ingenuity thing, although we sometimes delude ourselves into thinking we are. Ingenious we are as individuals, but are we ingenious yet as a society? Not so much. How do we become more ingenious as a society? You tell me.


Black Friday in the Mid-City Neighborhood
Natalie Avery,

In response to the request for Black Friday shopping tips, particularly at independent and small shops in town, see the Mid-City Black Friday promotion for shops and restaurants in the U and 14th Streets, NW, neighborhood at


Brookland Heartbeat “Think Local First” Holiday Shopping Guide
Abigail Padou,

The November/December issue of Brookland Heartbeat is now available. Articles and features in this issue include: “Think Local First” Holiday Shopping Guide; Bubba’s Muscogee Restaurant to Close Doors on Dec. 24th; Council Votes to Bury 12th Street Power Lines; Plan for Rhode Island Avenue Gets Underway, and more. Brookland Heartbeat is mailed to more than 9,500 homes in the greater Brookland area. Brookland Heartbeat is also on the web at Brookland Heartbeat is a nonprofit, all-volunteer community newspaper. To be added to the E-mail distribution list, send your E-mail address to


Black Friday
Vincint Thomas,

Please stop calling this day Black Friday and think of another word. Signed, a concerned African-American male.


Black Friday
Tom Sherwood,

Black Friday is not — not — the “biggest sale day of the year.” Although it is popularly said to be so, it’s actually only one of the busiest days of the year. While there are a lot of shoppers out looking and doing some buying, the busiest shopping day of the year in terms of sales is normally the Saturday before Christmas. This from the shopping center executives. You could Google for more definitive backup, but I have this battle with TV types every year. It’s similar to my battle over the word “factoid.” While many think it is a little-known or minor fact, it is — in fact — something that appears to be true but isn’t. Like Black Friday being the busiest shopping day of the year.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, November 27-28
John Stokes,

Thursday, November 27, 8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m., Fort Davis Recreation Center, 1400 41st Street, SE. Tenth Annual Feed the Homeless Program, ages 13-19. Volunteers and teen club members will meet at Fort Davis recreation center to prepare sandwiches, fruit, and drinks to distribute to homeless residents of the District of Columbia. The teens will visit several sites throughout the city. For more information, call Elijah Fagan, Ward 7 manager, at 645-9212.

Friday, November 28, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., Fort Davis Community Center, 1400 41st Street, SE; Riggs LaSalle Community Center, 501 Riggs Road, NE; and Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th Street, NE. 2008 Girls Volleyball, ages 9-15. Beginning November 28, the 2008 Girls Volleyball Season will kick off at three centers. The season will consist of six games, with a one game elimination playoff, and a Citywide Championship Game.


National Building Museum Events, December 2, 4
Jazmine Zick,

Tuesday, December 2, 6:30-8:00 p.m., 2008 L’Enfant Lecture on City Planning and Design: Revisiting Learning from Las Vegas. Thirty-six years after its release, Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, revisits Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s seminal book Learning from Las Vegas and asks whether we can still learn from Las Vegas.

Thursday, December 4, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Divorce Your Car. While public transportation use continues to rise in America, the overall number of people served is fairly small. What will it take to get Americans out of their cars? A panel of experts discuss how to encourage more energy efficient travel for the future. Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Board of Education Hearing on Improving Education, December 3
Sean Greene,

The District of Columbia State Board of Education will hold a public hearing Wednesday, December 3. At the hearing, the State Board will receive public input on ideas, recommendations, and initiatives to improve education in the twenty-first century. The hearing will begin at 5:30 p.m. at 441 4th Street, NW, in the District of Columbia State Board of Education Chambers, located on the lobby level of the building.

Constituents who wish to comment at the hearing are required to notify the State Board in advance by contacting the Executive Director, Beverley Wheeler, by phone at 741-0884 or by E-mail at before the close of business Monday, December 1. Please provide one electronic copy in advance, and bring fifteen hard copies to the hearing for the State Board members to view. The meeting will air live on DSTV Comcast Channel 99 and RCN Channel 18.


Historical Society of Washington, DC, December 6
Ed Bruske,

Saturday, December 6, 1:00 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW. Free admission. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dir. Ron Howard, 1 hr. 45 minutes, 2000. Director Ron Howard casts comedian Jim Carrey in the title role in this live-action adaptation of the famous Christmas tale by Dr. Seuss, giving this rendition of How the Grinch Stole Christmas a delightfully magical spin. In the land of Whoville everyone loves Christmas and count down the whole year until that wonderful time. However just outside Whoville lives the Grinch (Jim Carey), a green hairy twisted creature that hates, and always has hated, Christmas and was rejected by the Who’s as a child. A young girl from Whoville sets out to befriend the Grinch and help him find his love of Christmas but, when it goes wrong early on, the Grinch becomes even more rotten and plans to ruin it for everyone. or 383-1828.

Saturday, December 6, 3:00-4:30 p.m., Historical Society of Washington, DC, 801 K Street, NW. Free admission. Sacred Music Series: Mitchell Ringers and Jubilee Ringers, “Ringing in Christmas.” The Mitchell Ringers, fourteen adults, and the Jubilee Ringers, fourteen children, are two of ten handbell ensembles from St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church. The ringers perform on a seven-octave set of Schulmerich Handbells and a six-octave set of Malmark choir chimes. With a growing reputation for excellence over the years, the Mitchell Ringers have performed at the Mormon Temple Visitor’s Center at Christmas for the last 25 years. The Jubilee Ringers are all in the seventh grade and they have participated in our Children’s Melody Madness Handbell Festival for three years. St. Matthew’s handbells group’s most recent CD, recorded in June of 2008, is “Who Let the Bells Out?” Nancy Cappel, founder and director of these ensembles, is beginning her fortieth year as Director of Music at St. Matthew’s. She directs four vocal choirs and eight of the ten handbell ensembles. Nancy has published several articles in Overtones, the bimonthly publication of the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers, Inc. Her book on “Children and Beginning Handbells” is widely used by handbell directors. or 383-1828.


Holiday Cocktails in the Nation’s Capital, December 9
Philip Greene,

The Museum of the American Cocktail presents a holiday cocktails seminar by Derek Brown and Phil Greene. Tuesday, December 9, 6:00-7:30 p.m., at Bourbon, 2321 18th Street, NW, the heart of Adams-Morgan. $35.00 per person pre-registered; $40 at the door. Get ready for the holidays in style!

Join renowned DC mixologists Derek Brown, Justin Guthrie (of Central Michel Richard,, Owen Thomson of Bourbon, and Museum cofounder Phil Greene as they prepare their favorite holiday cocktails and tell you the stories behind them. Drinks will include the Tom and Jerry, Baltimore egg nog, hot buttered rum, glogg, plus many others. Entertain in style this year with great recipes and new twists on the classics. Light appetizers will be served, along with sample-sized holiday cocktails.

Please RSVP in advance, so we know what quantities of food and cheer to have on hand. Must be 21 or older to attend. Please don’t drink and drive! How to register:


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To change the E-mail address for your subscription to themail, use the Update Profile/Email address link below in the E-mail edition. To unsubscribe, use the Safe Unsubscribe link in the E-mail edition. An archive of all past issues is available at


Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)