The June 16 School Board Meeting: A Small Turning Point?

Introduction

Several proposals to amend the student conduct handbook were on the agenda for the June 16 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board.  What mostly drew the attention of parents was a provision making it an offense for any student, from the 4th grade on, to maliciously “deadname” or “misgender” another student, with punishment ranging up to suspension from school.

It’s hard to keep up with all the new definitions in today’s gender dictionary.  For those of you who aren’t in the know, “deadnaming” refers to using a previous name for a person who has decided to use a new name, e.g., if George now wants to be called Sue but is still called George by another student.  “Misgendering” refers to labelling a person with a gender that “does not match their ‘gender identity’,” e.g., if a biological boy who now identifies as a girl is referred to by others as being a boy (either directly or by using pronouns that the transgender student rejects).

The School Board meeting was reported on by several news organizations, including the Bret Baier Fox News evening broadcast on June 17.  Here is why it was noteworthy.

Pro-Parent Rally, and Parent Comments at the Meeting

Prior to the meeting, concerned parents rallied outside the auditorium.  Several speakers opposed the pronoun-policing measure, and they also spoke more generally about the School Board’s perpetual injection of new social-engineering ideas into classrooms.  Ralliers stood along the busy street with their posters, and many drivers honked their support.  This undoubtedly attracted the attention of the School Board members and staff as they entered the building.  Many of the protesters then attended the meeting, changing the usual atmosphere in the auditorium.

Typically, the majority of attendees are supporters of Board policies.  One reason for this is that left-leaning groups have been active on education issues for some time, while most parents have naively assumed the schools were focusing on the 3 R’s of traditional education.  Another reason is that the Board’s agenda usually includes items that will attract its activist supporters to attend.  Thursday night’s meeting was no exception.  The agenda began with a “LGBTQIA+ Pride Recognition” (dictionary again, please), a “Juneteenth Recognition,” and an “Immigration Heritage Month Resolution.”  These items allowed Board members to spend the first 75 minutes of the meeting with virtue-signaling speeches, and to have photo ops with their supporters.

What made Thursday night’s meeting different is that the pro-Board attendees were outnumbered by concerned parents.  The speakers at the meeting were mainly citizens who were upset by the Board’s direction.

A portion of every School Board meeting is devoted to “community participation.”  Citizens can speak for two minutes on issues of concern.  At Thursday’s meeting, several of the speakers focused on the Board’s ideological program and its seeming lack of respect for the views of most parents.  The comments were respectful but powerful.

A complete video of the meeting is HEREIt is well worth the time to listen to the remarks of Robert Whearty (beginning at 1:17:30 on the video), Laura Hanford (1:22:15), Geoffrey Akey (1:26:45), Harry Jackson (1:29:15), Jen Hans (1:31:20), Jeffrey Shapiro (1:33:35), Barbara Eckman (1:36:00), and Tyler Willis (1:39:45).

Comments by Board Members

At most Board meetings, the auditorium empties after the “community participation” segment (except for a handful of gluttons for punishment).  Thursday night’s meeting was different in that a substantial number of citizens remained to hear how the Board might react to their concerns.

To the surprise of those who remained, the Board acted as if the deadnaming/misgendering ban should be a non-issue.  Some Board members expressed their “surprise” about the citizen comments, noting that a slightly different version of the deadnaming/misgendering provision had been included in last year’s edition of the student handbook, as if that should put an end to any controversy.  The Board wanted to focus the evening’s discussion on a different issue, namely, how to prohibit or minimize student use of cellphones during school hours.  And they did, in fact, spend the next two hours of the meeting talking about that issue, although none of the citizen speakers had opposed the Board’s proposal.

Nevertheless, it was clear that the citizen comments made an impression on the School Board.  Immediately following the last citizen speaker, the school Superintendent, Scott Braband, commented that “we need to find a way to bring people together in public schools and sort through all these values, these ideas, and try to find common ground.  I believe we still can.”  Several of the Board members, while avoiding any direct discussion of the merits of the deadnaming/misgendering ban, echoed the Superintendent’s comments.  While sometimes claiming that the Board does, in fact, listen to and care about the views of regular parents, many of them acknowledged that a better job needs to be done in paying attention to those who don’t support social and political activism in the schools.

The notable exception was Board member Abrar Omeish.  She chastised those who had spoken at the meeting, saying “this is not a constructive path forward,” and “what we’ve been seeing for weeks and months in our country and right here in this auditorium is not conducive to anything productive.”  So, you parents out there, keep your mouths shut unless you support what the Board is doing.

Conclusion

It’s unclear whether the comments about doing a better job of listening to parents were anything other than a momentary effort to mollify the crowd.  This remains to be seen, and all of us should watch closely.

My principal take-away from the evening’s events is that it’s a big mistake for non-activists to remain on the sidelines of the ongoing debate about politics, ideology and social engineering in classrooms.  The School Board can’t be allowed to think that the speakers at Thursday’s meeting represent an insignificant minority of their constituents.  Social activists have been working the system for several years.  It will take a concerted and persistent effort by the majority to turn things around.

Rallies like the one this week get noticed by the press, by other citizens, and by the School Board members.  And so do speeches during the “community participation” segment of the Board meetings, assuming that concerned citizens show up in significant numbers to voice their opinions in respectful but powerful ways.

If you find this post to be informative and useful, please share it with others, and urge them to register to receive notice of future articles on this site.

 

 

 

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11 Comments

  1. Glenda Stephens on June 18, 2022 at 11:28 pm

    Your summaries of issues and events are so very welcomed and useful! Thank you!

    My husband and I were there Thursday (late for the rally, only stayed through the comments). It was our first time. We are retired and have no children of our own but care what is happening to our country. We volunteer with FCRC and I actually met you there and suggested you post on some of the social media pages. Glad to see you doing that!

    Again, thank you so much and please continue!

  2. Beth on June 19, 2022 at 7:22 am

    I didn’t know Abrar said that. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. J Hans on June 19, 2022 at 8:22 am

    Thank you for writing this article and for pointing out how out of touch the school board is with regular, taxpaying Americans. Thank you Glenda for showing support!!!!

  4. Sandy Ivy on June 19, 2022 at 7:53 pm

    We need to find out who is running for school board and the beliefs of each so we can campaign accordingly.

  5. Mike on June 19, 2022 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks so much for that informative summary.
    I was wondering if anyone had heard or read Christopher Rufo’s speech at Hillsdale College back about two months ago ? (Late April)
    If you’re able to find it online, it would be well worth listening to, or reading about.
    it’s not just about public schools, but our institutions, including the schools, which promote CRT and gender theory, that need to be aggressively challenged from the outside because they are entrenched structurally.
    It was fantastic to read Mark’s summary of the most recent school board meeting, and the parents/people outside with their signs and making their voices heard at the meeting.

    • Mark Spooner on June 19, 2022 at 9:15 pm

      Mike: Christopher Rufo is a clear and effective opponent of Critical Race Theory. Our school system, despite its denials, has incorporated elements of CRT into its basic philosophy and curricula. I posted one of Rufo’s videos on this website. It is well worth watching. See “Excellent Video on Critical Race Theory,” Feb. 8, 2022, on fairfaxschoolsmonitor.com.

      • Mike on June 21, 2022 at 8:20 am

        Hello Mark,
        Thanks!
        I will go back and check it out.

  6. BMC on June 20, 2022 at 8:37 am

    Excellent summary, Mark! Ms. Omeish’s criticism of community members and parents stick out in my mind out of all board member comments, and I too thought it peculiar the focus was on the away for the day policy rather than the deadnaming/malicious misgendering issue.

    Another concern that stuck out to me, perhaps from my scientist lens, is passing what appears to be a cell phone policy in an SR&R, and only after had numerous voting members requested data (quantitative and qualitative) to support the approved policy. I tuned in late, though saw my son’s middle school principal as the only FCPS representative to provide an anecdote about Away for the Day. The board would have better served the community, and would have been better informed, had they considered consulting a data scientist to design a staff survey or study gathering data from all schools, to glean information in advance of such a policy.

    Follow-on motions to explore gathering such data after the fact were voted/agreed upon, but without data, upon what did the board base the motion and vote to institute a cell phone use policy if not hearsay and anecdotes? I more or less agree with the premise of the policy (save for it takes away a principal’s say as to what’s best/how to best implement a policy for their school), but the process of instituting this policy seems backward!

    • Mark Spooner on June 20, 2022 at 8:54 am

      Brooke: Good comments. It drove me crazy at the meeting to sit through two hours of back-and-forth discussion of one subissue of the cellphone issue, when citizens were sitting there, waiting to hear what, if anything, they’d say and do about the objections to the pronoun regulation. I almost felt they were intentionally trying to wear us down so we’d leave the meeting before they had to deal with the issue.

  7. Harry Jackson on June 20, 2022 at 10:05 am

    Excellent article Mark! The School Board, and it’s small band of sycophants, do not represent the majority opinion. There are brave parents out there that will not be bullied into silence by the school boards’ activists.

  8. alerie Waddelove on June 21, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    This is my first time on this site, and the first time I’ve seen it referenced in an email (perhaps I wasn’t reading carefully enough). It’s very clear, concise, and even if it is biased (against CRT etc.) it’s balanced. Thanks.

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