In Alexandria, Even Egging Is Shrugged Off
By Marc Fisher
Tuesday, July 20, 2004; Page B01
The phone rang at that time of night when you assume it can only be word that a loved one has died. But the voice was that of a stranger, a teenage boy, asking, "Is this Jim Boissonnault?"
At 3:28 in the morning, the Alexandria man made out his own name, and then heard another question: "Are you affiliated with Lyles-Crouch?" (the elementary school that serves Boissonnault's neighborhood).
"Who is this?"
The caller claimed to be Alexandria's next city manager. Fifteen minutes later, Boissonnault heard quick, harsh slaps against his house. He jumped up to see three teenagers hurling eggs at his 7-year-old daughter's window. He called 911, but the attackers were gone when police arrived.
When Boissonnault first told me about the incident later that morning, I was skeptical of the notion that this was raw political intimidation, retaliation against the 45-year-old consultant for daring to question the Alexandria School Board's handling of Superintendent Rebecca Perry's drunken driving arrest in April.
But now it turns out that two of those allegedly involved in the egging were the sons of prominent Alexandria politicians. Jimmy Luby, 19-year-old son of Melissa Luby, who is a School Board member and was Perry's drinking partner that night; and Samuel Woodson IV, 18-year-old son of City Council member Joyce Woodson, were charged last week with destruction of property in the egging case.
Jimmy Luby, a college student and recent graduate of T.C. Williams High School, visited Boissonnault last week with his parents to apologize for the July 2 egging. "He gave me that monotone apology that kids do, with that dead look in his eyes, like he was reading from a script," Boissonnault says.
When I called seeking the family's account, Melissa Luby cut me off with a cool "I'm not available for comment, okay? Thank you," and she was gone.
Boissonnault has always been an involved parent, but not in the political sense. He was the dad who brought his accordion over to school to play for the kids, not the guy who shows up at every School Board meeting to rip politicians for their latest misdeeds.
All that changed after Perry decided to transfer the beloved principal of Lyles-Crouch, which Boissonnault's daughter attends, to a troubled school. Many parents were upset, and it was after a meeting at Lyles-Crouch with those perturbed parents that Perry retired to Joe Theismann's restaurant and began drinking.
If the principal transfer ticked off Boissonnault, the board's decision to let Perry off with a little spell of alcohol counseling propelled him into activism. Then, when the board followed up by giving Perry a raise, the activist turned into a crusader. He writes letters, appears at meetings, has a Web site and has launched a petition drive seeking Luby's removal from office.
"She hasn't owned up to her own lack of leadership," he says. In his view, she should have refused to let Perry drive that night, should have reported to the public on her midnight conversation with Alexandria's mayor after the arrest, should have recused herself from voting on Perry's raise (Luby supported it) and should resign from office.
Somehow, the School Board never quite got the idea that a superintendent ought to be a role model, that a violation that would get a teenager into huge trouble is not a joke. Yet Melissa Luby's public comment about the Perry arrest was, "I think a lot of people drive after having a few drinks."
Now, board Vice Chairman Mollie Danforth says Boissonnault should simply accept Luby's apology and drop the charges. "It's really sad that it got elevated to this stage," Danforth told The Washington Post's Elaine Rivera.
No, what's sad is that even after teaching Alexandria's children to "Do as we say, not as we do," the School Board wasn't satisfied. Now, the board would send an even more cynical message. As Boissonnault puts it, "You can get away with stuff, period."
I was going to ask Melissa Luby if there was any connection between her own casual attitude toward drunken driving and her son's idea of the proper way to express a disagreement. I was going to ask if she thought the Alexandria schools had helped her family develop their ideals of public behavior.
But she didn't want to talk about that. Maybe she figures it's not the schools' business.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company