Washington Area Women's Foundation

Girls in Wards 7 and 8 pose tough questions for DC Council candidates.

In a new report released last week by the D.C. Women’s Agenda, ninth grade girls residing in Hillcrest, Naylor Gardens and Woodland Terrace challenged DC Council candidates for Wards 7 and 8 and At-Large positions to answer questions about daily hardships they must confront.

The girls’ questions included issues related to lack of concentration in schools due to no walls; rats and mice in the school; the need for extra tutoring and teachers; unsanitary bathrooms in schools; security on metro buses; surveillance cameras at street intersections; neighborhood watch programs; curfews for youth; and, other questions relating to health insurance and affordable housing.

All of the candidates offered numerous proposed solutions to the many problems raised by the girls. In response to the problems of rats in the school, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander planned to work with Allen Lew, head of the new Office of Public Education School Modernization to “ensure that our schools are rodent free.” She encouraged students to “e-mail [her] every time a rodent is seen in a school.” Ward 8 Candidate Howard Brown offered a different solution: “I would recommend that the school include rodent and pest control in the curriculum. I would propose an educational program that teaches the science of why rodents dwell in our facilities, and how to eliminate the problem.” Ward 8 Candidate Charles Wilson said he, “will work with the District rodent task force to rid our schools of mice, rats and other rodents.”

I spoke up and noted that while it is important to examine the candidates’ responses to these problems, it is essential for the D.C. community—including all elected officials—to take note of what these girls are experiencing.  The D.C. Women’s Agenda believes that these questions go to the heart of the policy matters that must be addressed when the DC Council enacts legislation addressing problems of youth in our city.  We will continue to bring these concerns to all of the newly elected and sitting officials in the Council this fall, I explained.

The report, 2008 Election Guide/ Supplemental Questions and Candidates’ Responses from Girls in Wards 7 & 8, details candidates’ responses to questions that came directly from girls in Wards 7 and 8. The guide is designed to help voters understand candidates’ positions on girls issues related to schools and libraries, safety, health, and housing.

Debbie Billet-Roumell is the coordinator of the DC Women’s Agenda, a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation that is a coalition of advocacy organizations, service providers, and individuals working to promote the advancement of equality, safety and well-being for women and girls in the District. It is chaired by the DC Employment Justice Center and Wider Opportunities for Women.

The Election Guide is available online or by requesting a hard copy at DBRoumell@wowonline.org.