Fairfax School Board Continues Its One-Sided View of Transgender Issues


The Fairfax County School Board’s October 6 meeting focused largely on transgender issues.  The auditorium was packed with LGBT students and supporters.  The Board chairman opened the meeting with a prepared statement that left little doubt about the Board’s intent to challenge the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) new transgender policy (“the Model Policy”).  Another Board member then played to the crowd by attempting to add a new item to the agenda to show support for the LGBT community.  Each Board member then made a speech about transgender issues.  And almost all the two-minute presentations during the community-participation segment of the meeting were in opposition to the Model Policy.

This post reports on the highlights of the meeting.

A video of the entire meeting can be seen HERE.  Other developments on the transgender issue have been summarized in a series of six recent articles on this site.

Opening Remarks by the Board Chairman

The School Board meetings usually follow a set agenda, but the Board’s chairman, Rachna Sizemore Heizer, departed from it at the outset of this meeting.  She read a prepared statement expressing the Board’s strong support for transgender students.  She didn’t expressly state how the Board intends to act when the Model Policy becomes effective (it is currently in a 30-day period for public comment), but she outlined the probable grounds on which it will be challenged.  She cited the Virginia Human Rights Act, Title IX of the federal education statute, and a court of appeals decision regarding bathroom use by transgender students.  She also suggested that the Model Policy violates the Virginia statute that required VDOE to develop a transgender policy, because the Model Policy allegedly is not “evidence based” as required by the statute.

It is possible that the Model Policy will be amended somewhat after the 30-day public-comment period has passed.  Presumably, however, all or most of it will remain intact, particularly its recognition and protection of parental rights.  What will the Fairfax County School Board do then?  This isn’t yet clear, but one of two things seems likely.  The Board might simply defy the VDOE, forcing the Commonwealth to file suit to compel compliance.  Or, the Board might affirmatively challenge the Policy with its own lawsuit.  One thing is clear, however: A legal confrontation will occur.

Motion to Amend the Meeting Agenda

Immediately after the chairman’s speech, Board member Ricardy Anderson made a motion to amend the meeting’s agenda.  She asked the Board to vote on a measure she called the “Truth in Education and FCPS Support for Educators” resolution.  This motion was outrageous, because no such resolution had been disclosed to the public or formally discussed by the School Board.  Moreover, the content of the proposed resolution wasn’t even described during last night’s meeting.  The transgender-rights supporters in attendance knew its content, as indicated by their loud applause when Dr. Anderson and other Board members spoke in its favor, but the general public has not been given any information whatsoever about it.

Ultimately, after lengthy discussion, Dr. Anderson’s motion was defeated (it failed to get the required two-thirds vote for a last-minute addition to the agenda), but the Board did decide that the resolution will be voted on at its next meeting, scheduled for October 20.  Presumably, the content of the “Truth in Education” resolution will be revealed before that date, but by then its enactment will be a fait accompli.  The Board members who opposed its last-minute addition to last night’s agenda took pains to tell the audience that they supported all or most of its language and were only opposing it on procedural grounds.

A few facts about the “Truth in Education” resolution were revealed at last night’s meeting.  First, it was not drafted by the Board or its staff; rather, it was submitted by an advocacy group for the Board’s consideration.  One Board member said it came from one of “our advocates, our community.”  The group wasn’t identified, but it apparently is one of the LGBT groups.  Second, the resolution has been circulating within the Board since early September.  Third, while the content of the resolution has been kept from the general public, some have been clued in on it, as indicated by the vociferous applause of last night’s audience members.  Finally, the “truth” covered by the resolution seemingly relates to LGBT policy.  A couple of Board members referred to FCPS’s Controversial Issues Policy, which requires teachers to refrain from taking sides on controversial issues.  My guess is that the resolution is designed to exempt transgender issues from that policy so that teachers and other FCPS personnel will be able to (or perhaps be required to) promote one side of the debate.  In other words, the “truth” will be dictated within the school system, and dissent will be suppressed.

I am attempting to obtain a copy of the resolution that will be considered at the October 20 meeting.  I anticipate that its language will raise serious concerns.

Comments by Board Members

Each Board meeting includes several resolutions to recognize various groups.  All or most Board members make speeches in favor; this can consume an hour or more before the substantive part of the Board meeting begins.  Last night’s meeting included an overabundance of these resolutions, including a National School Principals Month Resolution, Custodian Appreciation Week Recognition, Dyslexia Awareness Month Resolution, Cooper Middle School Band Recognition, and LGBTQIA+ History Month Resolution.  The speeches on these issues were not completed until two hours into the meeting.

The last of these items provided an opportunity for Board members to express their solidarity with the goals of the transgender community.  For example, Ricardy Anderson said, “we’re here for you,” and she expressed dismay about what’s been happening in the last couple of weeks.  Karen Keys-Gamarra spoke about the need to cherish every student, and she claimed that recent statements about transgender policies have been harmful.  Abrar Omeish said the Board needed to be “fearless” in rejecting “efforts to harm” transgender students.  Rachna Sizemore-Heizer expressed amazement that there could be any controversy, stating, “I don’t understand … we’re all human.”  Other Board members made similar statements.

The speeches were notable for two things that weren’t mentioned at all: the rights of parents, and the rights of non-LGBT students.  The Board members seem to see the issues solely through the lens of the small fraction of students who identify as transgender, as if their interests are the only ones that matter.  Any perspective that attempts to balance those interests against the rights of others are regarded as prejudicial, discriminatory and harmful.  From the Board’s perspective, if a student is reluctant to tell his or her parents about gender-identity feelings, it is because the child’s parents won’t deal with the matter appropriately.  Thus, the school system must trust the student, assume that his or her feelings are permanent, affirm those feelings, and hide the matter from those awful, oppressive parents.

It is, of course, narrow-minded for the Board to adopt these attitudes.  Although a few parents might be abusive, the vast majority are not, and there are laws and procedures for dealing with the few who mistreat their children.  But there seems to be a “we know best” philosophy in this School Board, which assumes that government institutions need to supplant the traditional role of parents in raising their children.

Comments by Community Members

As noted, the auditorium was packed with LGBT students and supporters, and almost all the two-minute presentations during the citizen-participation segment of the meeting were in opposition to the Model Policy.  Many of the student speakers were articulate in expressing their point of view.

What was noteworthy to me was the organizational power of the LGBT advocates.  They did an excellent job of mobilizing opposition to the Model Policy, both in overwhelming the speaker list with their supporters and in getting others to attend the Board meeting.  One would think that the Board knows that this group doesn’t represent the majority of Fairfax County residents, but given their narrow point of view, perhaps they do.  Middle-of-the-road parents and other citizens need to take note and act accordingly.

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  1. Martina Foley on October 7, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you so much, Mark! Most of us are not willing to sit through those boring school board meetings to see what is really going on. You are doing a great service to the community. All of your posts are informative and objective. I hope that parents and all citizens of Fairfax County will find this site and take advantage of all your hard work! Thank you, thank you!! Keep up the good work!

    • Mark Spooner on October 7, 2022 at 4:45 pm

      Tina: Thanks for your ongoing interest and support.

  2. Brooke C. on October 7, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for your concise summary and analysis of topics and discussions from last night’s meeting. Normally I watch virtually, but last night I attended and sat through the entire meeting, horrified at the alternate universe portrayed by the school board members and Superintendent, as well as the vast majority of in-person attendees. It was clear not one of them had read the updated proposed Model Policy, or if they did, their biases would not allow them to portray it truthfully.

    I was reminded of a past meeting in which Ms. McLaughlin asserted that the school board members are apolitical. As I listened last night to Dr. Reid close the community comment period by thanking each speaker for “speaking their truth,” she clearly signaled that their “truth” is her truth.

    • Mark Spooner on October 7, 2022 at 4:50 pm

      Brooke:: Thanks for your comment. I totally agree that the intent and effect of the new model policy are being distorted. The Board chairman said last night, “I don’t understand [the model policy] … We’re all human.” She couldn’t understand why anyone would disagree with existing FCPS policy. My reaction was the opposite: How can any good public servant think it’s good policy to keep parents in the dark about serious issues about their kids’ mental and emotional health??!!

  3. Valerie Waddelove on October 7, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Education Week states that there are about 0.7% transgender students aged 13-17 in the United States. There are approximately 15,000 students in Fairfax County High Schools, out of about 180,000 in all of the schools, PK-12. The FCPS website states “We serve a diverse student population of more than 180,000 students in grades prekindergarten through 12, speaking over 200 languages. Over 27 percent of our total student population is Economically Disadvantaged; 14.4 percent are reported as Students with Disabilities, and more than 20 percent of students are English Learners. Demographically, 36.8 percent of FCPS students are White, 27.1 percent are Hispanic, 19.8 percent are Asian, 10 percent are Black, 5.9 percent are two or more races, 0.3 are American Indian and 0.1 percent are Native Hawaiian.” Included in these numbers are “…27,000+ students with Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and their families…” e.g. students with special education needs, thus more teachers and smaller classes. Obviously with at least 27% of students being speakers of other languages, additional teachers are needed to teach English and help these student assimilate into school society. Please, tell me why, with all of these educational needs, plus keeping the quality of FCPS schools high, we need to cater to this tiny population of students, and fight the Virginia Department of Education and our governor over the needs of transgender students. We can assume there will be a couple, at most, transgender students in each high school, and surely the administrators of these schools can find a way to accommodate this tiny population.

  4. Christine B. on October 9, 2022 at 1:48 pm

    Hello Again Mark.

    They have taken the video down!! I cannot find it anywhere and your link, which was working a couple days ago is no longer working. I tried a couple of different ways to access it and I come up with ” this video is private”. This is OUTRAGEOUS!! These shenanigans are reprehensible!!

    • Mark Spooner on October 9, 2022 at 2:17 pm

      Christine: You’re right. The person(s) who posted the video of the October 6 School Board meeting on YouTube have now decided for some reason that they don’t want people to see it. I think the video I linked to must have been privately recorded. The recorded meeting is also supposed to be posted officially on the School Board’s website. It isn’t there yet, but I assume it will be within a few days.