The Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution on inclusive education at its meeting Thursday (Oct. 20), leaving aside an earlier version that included references to social justice, equity and antiracism.
The 7-4 vote came with much back and forth about topics including board procedure and the resolution’s timeline.
The four members who voted against the amended resolution — Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson, Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren and members-at-large Abrar Omeish and Karen Keys-Gamarra — had expressed support for its original iteration. Providence District Representative Karl Frisch was not at the meeting.
As passed, the resolution affirms the county’s support for teachers and administrators when it comes to “inclusive curriculum and instruction.” The resolution is symbolic and does not change county policy.
“….the School Board commits to protect and support teachers and administrators as they deliver FCPS-approved curriculum and classroom resources that are inclusive, and meet the high aspirations of our students, families, and the Fairfax County community.”
Amendments also left out a reference to “recent events” that have “caused many FCPS educators and school-based administrators to fear that implementing these necessary curricular improvements could lead to personal or professional harm,” according to the text of the original resolution.
Anderson, who introduced the original resolution, said the amended version would not adequately support teachers and cited the removal of the words truth, antiracist, equity and justice as among the reasons she would not support it.
“There are some essential components that are missing from the version being provided that I just cannot support not including in this kind of resolution,” she said.
The school board’s student representative, Michele Togbe, opposed the amendments.
“Amending it to the weak and hollow statements and words, where originally it was strong and clear, it doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t see the progress that can be made by going forward with it,” Togbe said.
Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen, who brought the amendment with Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin, said she believed the amended version was “more inclusive of our board member views and less divisive for our broad community.”
Tholen added that she thought the message of support for educators should have been conveyed with “a simple statement,” but maintained the resolution format.
While the resolution is symbolic, the board has a controversial issues policy that outlines guidelines for administrators, teachers and students dealing with controversial topics. That policy, mentioned in the amended resolution, has been discussed at multiple governance committee meetings this calendar year, according to minutes from those meetings.
After the revision passed, several people spoke about the resolution during the community participation portion of the meeting. These included representatives from Free and Antiracist Minds (FAM) and the Fairfax County Council PTA, two of the many advocacy organizations Anderson said had been involved with the original resolution.
The amended resolution “was a great way of not having to vote no but also completely undermining the substance of the actual message,” said Kweli Zukeri, representing FAM. FAM called the vote a “craven display of systemic racism” in an Oct. 21 press release.
In a video testimony, Kara Danner, a member of the FCCPTA’s executive board, said the organization supported the original resolution for the sake of students’ mental health.
Other speakers accused the board of having political motivations and questioned its priorities.
Board chair and member-at-large Rachna Sizemore Heizer said she was glad to have the resolution to support teachers, but looked ahead before adjourning the meeting.
“At the end of the day I’m excited to get into budget season and looking at our strategic plan, because that’s really where we show our values,” she said.
The Fairfax County Police Department could begin using cameras to catch speeders in nine school crossing zones and one highway work zone as soon as early 2023.
The work zone included in the pilot would be on Route 28, while the school placements have not been finalized, FCPD Capt. Alan L. Hanson, the police department’s traffic division commander, said.
Drivers caught going at least 10 mph over the speed limit would receive civil penalties, according to the presentation. A maximum penalty of $100 could be incurred for exceeding the limit by at least 20 mph.
A working group including several county departments recommended a six-month pilot program, Hanson said. Their work came after a 2020 state law passed permitting jurisdictions to use speed cameras in school and construction zones.
The draft ordinance authorizes FCPD use of the devices and outlines the fine structure. Photo speed enforcement would aim to reduce the number of people speeding and bring down the number of crashes in and around school areas, Hanson said.
“We’re not trying to entrap people, what we’re trying to do is maintain or gain voluntary compliance,” he said.
Multiple supervisors emphasized that the initiative is not designed to bring in revenue. Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said he doesn’t believe residents will see the program as a money grab, but the board could also avoid this perception by making a plan for what to do with any excess revenue.
“I say plow them back into pedestrian and bicycle safety in and around our schools,” he said.
The state law only enables cameras in designated school crossing and highway work zones. This limits the county’s ability to use them around Blake Lane, where safety concerns have been particularly urgent after an allegedly speeding driver struck and killed two Oakton High School students in June.
With opioids topping the list of causes of non-natural death in Fairfax County, local health officials have launched a new resource to give residents a better understanding of the situation.
A public-facing dashboard went live Monday (Oct. 3) with data about opioid overdoses and overdose deaths in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
The Fairfax County Health Department worked with the county’s Opioid and Substance Use Task Force to put the dashboard together, according to the announcement.
“The goal of the dashboard is to ensure that Fairfax County residents understand the threat that opioid drugs pose in our community and recognize that overdoses and overdose deaths affect a wide range of ages, people of both sexes, and all racial and ethnic groups,” Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, the county’s director of epidemiology and population health, said in the release.
The dashboard provides information about overdoses broken down by age, race and ethnicity. It will be updated in the first week of every month, according to the announcement.
As of press time, the dashboard counted 205 non-fatal opioid overdoses from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 in the Fairfax Health District. There were 237 non-fatal overdoses at this point in 2021.
The dashboard also noted that the first quarter of 2022 saw 20 fatal opioid overdoses, compared to 31 during the first quarter of 2021.
“We want the public to be aware of overdose trends, which reflect the impacts of social factors, the types and availability of drugs, and the effect of mitigation measures including law enforcement, treatment and harm reduction measures,” Schwartz said.
The data comes from two main places: A system managed by the state health department that keeps track of emergency room and urgent care visits for overdoses, and the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Earlier this year, county medical officials worked to step up their response to the opioid epidemic after emergency care statistics showed an increase in overdoses, particularly cases involving teenagers.
The county provides services to assist people struggling with opioid use, including the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board Peer Outreach Response Team and the Fairfax Detoxification Center.
Visitors will have a chance to step into an assortment of Reston lifestyles at the Reston Home Tour this November.
A ticket unlocks self-guided tours of eight homes, according to a press release from the tour’s host, the Reston Museum. These include the new Lake Anne House and a home close to Lake Audubon that is filled with art.
The event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5.
Though the home tours are self-guided, attendees can keep an eye out for docents equipped with information about particular rooms and home features.
The tour is a little bigger this year to recognize the event’s 20th anniversary, Reston Museum Executive Director Alex Campbell told FFXnow in an email. Typically, there are six or seven homes on display, compared to the eight featured this year:
From the press release:
This year’s featured homes include an award-winning modern masterpiece tucked back in a wooded oasis, a beautifully-landscaped personal “club house” offering amazing views of the golf course, a newly-renovated Reston Town Center townhouse with a water view, and an art-filled home near Lake Audubon with soaring ceilings and a delightful garden pond. Highlighted homes also include a renovated colonial near North Point with lots of unique personal touches, brand new EYA model townhouses with elevators near the Wiehle Avenue Metro and the newly-constructed Lake Anne House for seniors.
Tickets are available on the Reston Museum website or in-person at the museum. In addition, The Wine Cabinet, Chesapeake Chocolates and the Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art will sell paper tickets, according to the press release.
Tickets cost $30 until Oct. 17. After that, the price increases to $35.
In addition to the Reston Home Tour, the Reston Museum hosts the Lake Anne Cardboard Regatta and Reston Founder’s Day, among other events. The home tour continues to be the Reston Museum’s biggest fundraiser, Campbell wrote.