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    Letters to the Editor
    Transportation policy puts children at risk

    A few weeks ago, Loudoun County Public School system decided to drop my 12-year-old daughter from the school bus. Since then I have been running pillar-to -post contacting Loudoun County School officials trying to make sense of this decision, see one of my emails below. Here are some sad highlights of what has happened:

    * LCPS board decided to implement a walk to school policy (under 1 mile) as a purely economic decision. No thought was given to the safety of the children.

    * Our zip code has 36 sex offenders per the national sex offenders registry.

    * There are six unmanned crossings between my home and the school, typical for other students as well.

    * There is heavy traffic during the morning rush hour.

    * The transportation coordinator decided to measure the distance between homes and the “outer most perimeter” of the school so that the economic problem of school bus overcrowding can be resolved. In my case, the door-to-door is 1 mile but based on the above it is less.

    * There is no provision to make any exceptions based on safety or other circumstances. I have written and spoken to various officials who point me to the letter of the law/rule not its spirit. The school officials have informed me of not having any authority, even though they sent the notification to parents.

    The transportation coordinator mentioned the existence of an appeal process but would not provide me any details via email. Also suggesting that this is widespread and that I need to accept it. So, if anything wrong is widespread enough, we should accept it or wait for bad events like the ones plaguing NFL players these days to happen, before we act. I, for one do not accept status quo, though my resources are meager in terms of time, energy and money, I have decided to get as much visibility as I can muster on this issue. This is the first step in this endeavor.

    We really need to think hard about these issues and invest in our children and not reduce them to simple economic decisions.

    Gundeep Ahluwalia

    Loudoun County

    REBUTTAL: Bad air is bad news for Loudoun

    “EPA’s rules lead to responsible leadership” rightfully takes issue with Del. David Ramadan’s misguided conclusions about EPA’s proposed limits on carbon pollution. One of the things the author points out is that climate change threatens human health. EPA’s proposed standards for existing power plants will address this, but there are even more health benefits to the proposal, and we’ll see them more quickly: fewer asthma attacks, hospitalizations and premature deaths due to a decrease in other types of dangerous air pollution.

    EPA’s proposal, called the Clean Power Plan, gives states a great deal of flexibility in reducing carbon emissions from their existing power plants. To meet their emissions reductions targets, states can improve energy efficiency inside the plant or out in the community. They can also use low-emitting sources or cleaner sources more in order to generate the power they need.

    In addition to reduce our carbon emissions, these measures would also reduce other dangerous power plant emissions, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and other air pollutants, some of which react in our atmosphere to form soot and smog. Burning fewer fossil means reducing illnesses and premature deaths due to several air pollutants, not just carbon.

    Residents of Loudoun are no strangers to dangerously polluted air. The county received a failing grade for its levels of smog in the American Lung Association’s 2014 State of the Air report.

    In 2030 alone, when EPA’s proposed standards are fully implemented, they’ll prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks. Those avoided missed days of work, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and deaths will not only save us an incalculable human cost, but also a real financial cost. Every $1 invested in cleaning up carbon pollution is expected to provide up to $7 in health and economic benefits.

    EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan is flexible, sensible and urgently needed. Climate change is the biggest public health threat of our time, and not only would the proposal address that threat, it would also keep other dangerous pollutants out of our air. Our health, and our children’s health, needs to be our top priority.

    Dennis Alexander

    Executive Director, American Lung Association in Virginia

    Domestic violence is our problem

    As the nation and our local community continue to talk about domestic violence in response to the recent media attention to this issue in the NFL, Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS) would like to shed some light on the impact of domestic violence in Loudoun County.

    Domestic violence is an issue that affects our entire community. In the last year alone, LAWS assisted 1,076 adult and child victims of domestic and sexual violence. We answered 714 crisis calls on our 24-hour emergency hotline. We served 218 child victims of domestic and sexual violence. In addition to the victims we helped, over 1,700 incidents of domestic violence were reported in Loudoun County. And many more victims, too afraid to report or ask for help, were surely affected.

    We want the community to know that LAWS provides free, confidential services to any victim of domestic or sexual violence in Loudoun County. As our name suggests, we provide safe, emergency shelter to adult and child victims fleeing violent homes. However, we also offer many services in addition to our shelter. We provide counseling, legal services, support groups, parenting classes, children’s services and prevention and outreach services. All of our services are confidential, free of charge and available to any victim in Loudoun. If you or somebody you know is in an abusive relationship, please call our 24-hour hotline at 703-777-6552. We are here to help.

    As we continue the dialogue about domestic violence, we also want to thank our Loudoun community for your continued support. Many of you have reached out to us, wanting to better understand this complex issue and offering your help. To learn more about LAWS, visit

    Nicole Acosta

    Executive Director, LAWS

    COMMUNITY VIEW: Is it OK to spank your child?

    When Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was recently arrested for beating his 4-year-old son with a tree branch, the response was passive and mixed.  Initially, the Vikings benched Peterson for a single game but then immediately reinstated him.  And it was only after further investigation and public outcry that the team placed Peterson on the exempt list until the completion of his legal case.

    The facts involving the incident as presented in the media, if true, are very concerning. The beating allegedly caused numerous injuries to the child, leaving cuts and bruises all over his body, including injury to his scrotum.

    Over the past week, there has been much commentary on the incident, and a lot of that commentary has passively excused Peterson for his actions.  Even retired NBA star and newscaster Charles Barkley has publically minimized Peterson’s actions stating, “…I’m from the South.  Whipping – we do that all the time.” And, “…Every black parent in my neighborhood in the South would be in trouble or in jail under those circumstances.” 

    Beyond the media and celebrity opinion, however, the Peterson incident has certainly reignited the old debate on spanking with many still supporting the right to spank as a form of punishment. More specifically, surveys have shown that two-thirds of Americans support parents spanking their children. 

    While corporal punishment is not a crime in Virginia, and while many parents today hold the view that spanking is an acceptable parenting technique, this view is not supported by the large body of research in this area that has repeatedly shown that spanking, and other forms of physical punishment, can lead to serous problems in children – mental health problems, increased aggression, antisocial behavior and physical injury.

    But most of us do not live life wholly off of research findings and none of us are perfect. As a psychologist, I know that overall spanking is an ineffective parenting technique with the potential for harm. However, as a parent, I have used it sparingly at times and with success. For example, I can recall a time when my 4-year-old son purposefully disregarded me and began to walk into the parking lot on his own. I quickly grabbed him, spoke to him firmly about the danger of his actions and also gave him a couple of taps on the bottom to send my point home. In that moment, I do not believe that my firm voice or the spanking itself was harmful; rather, I believe it helped to make my point, and it worked. My son did not walk in a parking lot alone again after that exchange.

    But an occasional spanking in support of good parenting does not seem to be what occurred between Mr. Peterson and his son.  Fear-based parenting as a practice is wholly unacceptable. I suppose Mr. Barkley’s point that environmental differences can influence behavior is valid as an explanation, but I do not agree that it can be offered up as an excuse when it comes to beating a child to the point of injury. This is 2014, and regardless of where you are raised, regardless of the color of your skin and regardless of your socioeconomic status, parents should not beat their children. 

    Dr. Michael Oberschneider

    Ashburn psychologist

    Citizens denied input in judicial selection process

    The recent conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell has aptly displayed the lack of transparency in the day-to-day operations of the state government.

    The way Virginia conducts business is flawed; it is more akin to the “good ole boy” system. This is no more apparent than in the judicial selection process in Virginia. If there is a more secretive process, I am not aware of it. The citizens have miniscule input into who becomes a judge.

    The local bar in Loudoun does not accept any input from the public. Most citizens are not aware of the name of the candidate, as there is no announcement. To further this secrecy, V, the notes of any interview with a candidate is not subject to FOIA.

    Virginia is in the dark ages as pertains to judicial selection. The recent conviction makes one wonder; can we trust our leaders to select the most qualified judge?


    Gentry Nalley


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    Loudoun Business Journal - Summer 2014

    Loudoun Business Journal - Spring 2014