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Beware, D.C. graffiti artists: Legislation being considered by the D.C. Council could increase the penalty for illegal spray painting to at least $2,500, up from just a few hundred dollars.

Co-introduced this morning by Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd and Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May, the “Anti-Graffiti Amendment Act of 2016” would fine those who willfully place graffiti on property without an owner’s permission “not less than $2,500” and possibly lead to imprisonment “for a period not to exceed 180 days, or both.” If passed as drafted, the bill would also ratchet up the penalty for intent to graffiti a property without an owner’s consent from between $100 and $1,000 to between $500 and $2,500.

“Widespread graffiti in our neighborhoods and business corridors is driving down property values, contributing to public safety concerns, and costing taxpayers,” Todd said, adding that the bill represents “a proactive approach.”

At the same session Tuesday morning, At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, who chairs the Committee on Education, proposed a bill designed to protect students’ privacy rights from outside parties. The legislation would require providers of student-information systems such as software applications and cloud-based services to “establish, implement, and maintain appropriate security measures to protect student data and personally identifiable student information” in addition to complying with “certain procedures with regard to assessing, analyzing, storing, or sharing student information.” Moreover, the bill would bar schools from making a student share their user name or password to “a personal social media account” and from altering the settings of such an account to allow third-parties to view it. Finally, the legislation as drafted would prohibit school officials from “accessing or compelling a student to produce, display, share, or provide access to” content on their devices.

Grosso’s bill comes as educators across the country weigh the value of using student data to drive best practices for teaching and learning against potential privacy concerns regarding the misuse, selling, or adulteration of that data. It also follows breaches of student data reported last year, wherein D.C. administrators released kids’ personally identifiable information to the public, including names, birth dates, and, in some cases, special-education status.

The graffiti bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary; the privacy bill, the Committee on Education.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery