The battle over transgender student rights has taken center stage in the race for the Fairfax County School Board’s Providence District seat.
Consultant and Vienna resident Jeff Hoffmann officially launched a campaign on Tuesday (Jan. 17) to challenge incumbent Karl Frisch, who announced last week that he’ll seek a second term in office this November.
“It really is time for change on the School Board in Fairfax County,” Hoffmann wrote in a statement on his decision to run. “The current incumbency has become too comfortable, and they choose to vote a Party line agenda versus listen to us, the parents and other taxpayers who invest a high percentage in education.”
Founder of the Virginia Parents First Coalition, a political action committee (PAC) that says it backs candidates “who believe in traditionally conservative education principles,” Hoffmann drew the local LGBTQ community’s attention this weekend with a stunt phone call to the Inova Pride Clinic, where he claimed to be the stepfather of a transgender kid.
Started last June to coincide with Pride Month, the clinic is the first health facility in Northern Virginia to provide primary care specifically for LGBTQ individuals. It serves patients 12 and older.
As reported by NBC4, Hoffmann told a receptionist at the Falls Church-based clinic on Saturday (Jan. 14) that he was looking to schedule a nurse visit for his transgender stepdaughter based on advice from Fairfax County Public Schools staff and a teacher.
Asking if the clinic works with FCPS Pride, an advocacy group for LGBTQ employees and families in the school system, he said his kid would be accompanied by a teacher but not her unsupportive biological father, an apparent attempt to see if a student could get medical services without their parent’s knowledge.
Admitting that the kid he described in the call doesn’t exist, Hoffmann says he wanted to raise “awareness” that gender-affirming care is available to local adolescents, who he claimed are being referred to the Pride Clinic by FCPS Pride.
FCPS Pride said in a statement on Saturday that some of its members obtain services from the clinic, but the group has no direct affiliation.
“FCPS Pride does not have a relationship with the Inova Pride Clinic, does not operate in schools, and does not give any medical advice or make medical referrals,” the group’s executive board said.
Though he says this is “not a priority issue in my campaign,” Hoffmann has a history of opposing FCPS’s policy supporting the right of trans and gender-expansive students to be treated in accordance with their gender identity, criticizing it as a distraction from issues like addressing learning loss and other impacts of the pandemic.
Hoffmann’s campaign for school board continues a trend of candidates for local and state offices in Virginia running on anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans platforms, according to FCPS Pride co-president Robert Rigby, Jr.
The General Assembly is currently considering bills that would ban “gender transition procedures” for people under 18, require schools to contact parents of gender-nonconforming students, and determine athletic participation based on “biological sex.” That last one aligns with a “model” policy proposed last year by the Virginia Department of Education that’s still under review.
“Hoffmann’s deceit is the abhorrent result of money and effort that targets vulnerable children in order to elect certain candidates,” Rigby told FFXnow.
Hoffmann says his concern about access to gender-affirming care is “not an anti-LGB position like FCPS Pride and my opponent, Karl Frisch would like to corner me,” though he left “transgender” out of the acronym.
The campaign for Frisch, who is the Fairfax County School Board’s first-ever openly gay member, suggested Hoffmann’s tactics may backfire with voters, describing Providence District as “a diverse and inclusive community filled with residents who love their schools and teachers.”
“Voters will not look kindly on candidates who prop themselves up by belittling children — real or imagined,” Matt Savage, Frisch’s campaign manager, said. “Parents know Karl Frisch will never stop fighting to give students safe and inclusive schools with exceptional teachers and equitable access to the rigorous academic and fulfilling enrichment opportunities they need to succeed in life after graduation.”
According to his official bio, Hoffmann has over 20 years of experience working in the federal government, starting with an internship for former U.S. senator for North Dakota, Byron Dorgan. He spent seven years as a senior intelligence officer and served in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.
He has been working at Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior consultant on cyber threats since 2015, his LinkedIn profile says.
A member of Heritage Action for America’s Sentinel program, which trains conservative activists and is partnered with The Heritage Foundation, Hoffmann is a member of the Fairfax County Republican Committee but is running as an independent, as required for the nonpartisan school board elections.
If elected, he says he would focus on improving student academic performance, seek “full accountability and transparency” around funding for capital projects, and advocate for the “ability to divert public funds to private-led programs to enhance career, technical, faith-based, and military education, such as scholarships provided to parents.”
Hoffmann says he is committed to supporting the rights “of all citizens regardless of race, sex, age, religion, creed, country of origin, or disability.” He was one of three prospective school board candidates recorded laughing at an autistic student who sang at a school board meeting last summer.
“Shortly after, I met personally with Dr Reid, whom I have high respect, to talk about multiple issues…emphasizing ‘parent rights.’ She received a personal note from me that apologized for any misperception of laughter,” Hoffmann told FFXnow, adding that FCPS has now included him on a team looking at updating its strategic plan.
All 12 school board seats will be on the ballot for this year’s Nov. 7 general election. Frisch and Hunter Mill District representative Melanie Meren are the only two incumbents so far to confirm that they will seek reelection.
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