Strategic Plan and “Equity Policy,” Part 3

The last post reported on the drafting of a new Strategic Plan for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS); this one summarizes the status of a separate, but related, “Equity Policy.”


The “equity policy” process dates back to September 2020, when the  FCPS equity team made a presentation to the School Board, proposing an “anti-racism, anti-bias” policy.  Its purpose was to create a framework for educating/indoctrinating our kids about concepts of “systemic racism,” “white privilege,” “social justice” and the like.

The sponsors of the policy recognized that FCPS’s long-standing Controversial Issues Policy (Regulation No. 3280.4) was an impediment to its plans.  It requires teachers to be neutral when addressing controversial issues in classrooms, and the sponsors conceded that their intent was not neutral.  Therefore, the School Board directed the staff to prepare amendments to the Controversial Issues Policy.  That process got bogged down, however, and the idea of adopting an “anti-racism, anti-bias” policy languished with it.

Revival of the Proposal

In July 2022 the FCPS “equity” staff restarted the process, this time calling it an “Equity Policy.”

The School Board recognized that the the term “equity” has taken on many meanings, some of which are ideological and controversial.  At a Board work session on July 12, Ricardy Anderson stated that each of her fellow Board members might come up with a different definition of “equity,” and she emphasized the need for a common understanding.  Others reiterated the point and stated that “equity” need not be contentious if it is defined carefully.  Mr. Frisch said that “equity” occurs when FCPS provides extra resources to students who need to catch up, advanced placement courses to faster learners, etc.  Mss. Cohen and Pekarsky said “equity” means giving each child what he or she needs to feel successful.  And Ms. Sizemore-Heizer stated that “equity” should focus on “removing barriers and providing opportunities.”

The Board members also agreed that the process of developing an equity policy needed to be inclusive, getting input from all segments of the community.  Ms. Derenak-Kaufax emphasized that the public needed to be fully engaged; Ms. Pekarsky said people who have been critical of the Board should be included; and the staff gave assurances that this would be done.

Development of the Policy to Date

I was invited to serve on the “Equity Policy Steering Committee.”  I mistakenly took this as a favorable sign.  The group hasn’t been a real committee, and it hasn’t done any steering.  Nor has the process been widely inclusive so far.

At the first meeting, the committee members were divided into several subgroups for Zoom sessions.  In mine, everyone except me was a hard-core “equity” activist, so much so that one member felt comfortable in asserting that I shouldn’t have been included at all, because I was not fully on board with what the rest of them wanted to do.  I learned during the Zoom call that there had been several focus group sessions prior to our meeting, but no information was provided about what the results of them had been.  I also learned that a definition of “equity” had already been formulated; its language was very troublesome (see next section).

After the meeting I asked for a list of the steering committee members and focus group participants, as well as for a copy of the slides that were used in FCPS’s presentation.  Both requests were refused, which forced me to submit a Freedom of Information Act request, for which I was charged $385.

I complained  to FCPS about the process, including the fact that the focus groups only included representatives from special interests, not ordinary parents and citizens of Fairfax County.  On a positive note, I was then invited to assemble a focus group of parents and other citizens.  Its Zoom session will occur in the near future and, hopefully, it is not coming too late in the process to make a difference.

Definition of Equity

The FCPS staff uses a slide in its focus group meetings, comparing “equality” to “equity” via a bicycle analogy.  “Equality” is portrayed as giving the same size bike to a 6-foot man, a small child, and a person who would need a hand-propelled conveyance.  In contrast, “equity” is portrayed as giving each person a bicycle that fits his or her individual needs.

The analogy fits nicely with a limited definition of “equity, focusing on removing educational barriers where they exist and providing opportunities where they are lacking.  In that regard, It seems consistent with the direction of the Strategic Plan.  But the analogy doesn’t fit the equity team’s actual definition of “equity.”  Here is how the term is being defined in the current draft of the Equity Policy:

“Equity is the work required to redress and respond to the systems, practices and beliefs that have perpetuated disproportionate outcomes for communities that continue to be marginalized by our educational system(s).  By engaging in the work of equity we commit to redesigning and building systems that will interrogate and interrupt the inequitable policies, practices and beliefs that maintain the status quo of marginalization.”

This jumble of words is broad, vague and ideological.  It is a huge bait-and-switch from the reasonable-sounding analogy used to lure in the public.

This definition of “equity” would have dramatic implications for an “equity-based Strategic Plan.”  It would ensure that ideological culture wars would continue to dominate FCPS’s conduct for the next several years.

Neither the Strategic Plan nor the Equity Policy have been published to date, so there could still be time to rein in the equity team’s over-broad concepts and plans, if the Superintendent and School Board have the will to do so.

The process of finalizing the Plan and the Policy need to be carefully monitored, and Fairfax Schools Monitor will continue to do so.

If you find this article to be informative and helpful, please share it with others, and encourage them to register to receive notices of future postings on this site.


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  1. Cathy on March 9, 2023 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you. What is a better analogy for their approach, I wonder.

    • Tyrone Santos on March 11, 2023 at 7:21 pm

      “Equity is the work required to redress and respond to the systems, practices and beliefs that have perpetuated disproportionate outcomes for communities that continue to be marginalized by our education system(s)…”.

      After participating in a community forum, it is clear to me that FCPS is hyper focused on a narrative where the “educational system” is responsible for the disproportionate outcomes of black and brown kids. See the community forum packet here –

      I believe the correct approach is to compare these outcomes by race and whether the kids are in a fatherless home or not. I would wager that the disparate outcomes by race would be much more normalized if you separated them by fatherless homes compared to homes with a father.

      I think the lack of fatherless-home metric needs to be front and center for input to FCPS about “equitable outcomes.” Thank you for your tireless work!

  2. Donna Casey on March 9, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    I find the Definition of Equity to be confusing, nebulous.

  3. Dick Fangman on March 11, 2023 at 8:07 am

    You are great soldier in this fight.
    I’m sure you feel it’s you against the world when in their domain. We’re praying for you.

    • Mark Spooner on March 11, 2023 at 10:39 am

      Dick: Thanks. I believe the majority of voters would oppose this School Board if they really knew what it has done and is doing. A big problem, though, is that when people vote for down-ballot positions, they reflexively vote “D” or “R” without examining what the candidates stand for. In a “D” area like Fairfax County, it’s very difficult to overcome that reality.

    • CB on March 12, 2023 at 11:32 pm

      Thank you once again Mark for following this and doing the research..

      Thank you for presenting the research so clearly.