Undeveloped land in Mount Vernon near Richmond Highway that had been eyed for an elementary school is now being considered for an early childhood education center instead.
As part of its approval of the latest Capital Improvements Program (CIP) on Feb. 9, the Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously to reallocate $500,000 in bond funding to the proposed center, which will take the place of a planned Route 1/Pinewood Lakes elementary school.
The money will help Fairfax County Public Schools start planning and designing the facility earlier than previously anticipated in the spending plan, according to School Board Vice Chair Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who represents the Franconia District and proposed the amendment.
“Based on the current budget, this project would have available approximately 15,000 to 20,000 square feet for dedicated classroom use,” Derenak Kaufax said during the board meeting (at the 5:17:33 mark). “The space would allow for up to 400 pre-K, Early Head Start or preschool special education students to gain that critical, strong educational start.”
The center will be located in the Woodlawn neighborhood on 10 acres of land owned by the school board next to Buckman Road near Lakepark Drive. The board also has a smaller, adjacent site at 4300 Keswick Road, but only the larger parcel will be used, Derenak Kaufax told FFXnow.
FCPS first proposed building an elementary school to serve the northern Route 1 corridor in 2013. Voters approved a school bond referendum that November that included nearly $21.2 million for the project — funds still listed in the newly approved CIP for fiscal years 2024-2028 as “projected future project spending.”
However, after the referendum passed, the Department of Defense moved over 11,000 jobs in the area to Fort Belvoir, and FCPS got federal grant funds to build an elementary school on the military base, “alleviating the immediate capacity need” for the Route 1 school, Derenak Kaufax told the school board.
FCPS administrators wrote a report last spring recommending the site be used for a standalone pre-kindergarten center, and Superintendent Michelle Reid brought the proposal to the school board on Sept. 12.
While Fairfax County has seen a general dip in child care options during the pandemic, the need for more early childhood education capacity, particularly in the Richmond Highway corridor, was “significant” even before Covid, Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said. Read More
Fairfax County Public Schools has to adjust its budget outlook for the next two years after a miscalculation led the state to overestimate how much funding it will give local school districts.
The error means FCPS will get nearly $18 million less than it had anticipated, including $5.1 million for the current fiscal year 2023, which began on July 1, 2022. The remaining reduction of $12.7 million will affect the upcoming budget for FY 2024.
Overall, Fairfax County’s shortfall is the biggest of any district, Virginia Department of Education spokesperson Charles Pyle confirmed to FFXnow.
According to the Washington Post, an unidentified “someone” discovered last week that a calculator tool provided to help local school divisions determine their allocation from the state budget had failed to account for the elimination of the state’s grocery tax.
Virginia stopped imposing a 1.5% tax on groceries and personal hygiene products on Jan. 1, though a 1% local tax remains in effect. The legislation, which was incorporated into the state budget, directed the state to use its revenue to compensate localities for any lost education funding, starting Feb. 1.
“The tool released last month did not include recognition of the grocery tax hold harmless payment, which began in FY 2023,” State Superintendent Jillian Balow said in an email sent to local superintendents last Friday (Jan. 24).
Statewide, Virginia will provide $201 million less in aid than expected, including $58 million for the current school year, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Balow said the VDOE will release an updated calculation tool after the General Assembly votes on a new state budget on Feb. 9.
It’s unclear how the $18 million deficit will affect FCPS, though it’s a relatively small portion of the district’s $3.3 billion budget. FCPS said it didn’t have an immediate comment, as of press time.
As part of their legislative agenda for the General Assembly, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and school board are advocating for the state to increase its funding for FCPS, arguing that the current formulas used to calculate allocations for each district don’t adequately reflect the area’s high cost-of-living.
FCPS received a projected $869.7 million — or 26.4% of its operating budget — from the state for FY 2023.
A $3.5 billion budget that Superintendent Michelle Reid proposed last month projected $696.4 million in state aid. Items covered in the budget include the addition of middle school athletic programs, staff compensation increases, and expanded pre-kindergarten education.
“The average Virginia school division receives less than 50 percent of its financial support from its local government,” the budget overview says. “FCPS must rely on local funds for 68.8 percent of its revenue.”
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) The Virginia Attorney General’s office has launched an investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools, alleging that delays in notifying students of commendations for their preliminary SAT test scores may constitute civil rights violations.
Attorney General Jason Miyares announced yesterday that the entire school system will be subject to a review that began last week with a focus on Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ).
The expansion comes after principals at Westfield and Langley high schools reportedly informed families over the weekend that they also didn’t notify students designated as “commended students” by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) this fall.
“It’s concerning that multiple schools throughout Fairfax County withheld merit awards from students,” Miyares said in a press release. “My office will investigate the entire Fairfax County Public Schools system to find out if any students were discriminated against and if their rights were violated.”
In a letter to FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid, Miyares said his office is investigating whether the school system violated the Virginia Human Rights Act’s prohibitions of discrimination based on race, color and national origin.
Reid said she “proactively” alerted the attorney general’s office to the lack of “timely notification” for Westfield and Langley students after it was found by an independent review that the school system initiated last week, according to a message sent to the community yesterday.
“As soon as this new development was confirmed, Westfield and Langley high schools notified all impacted families and their broader respective school communities,” Reid wrote. “Please be aware that FCPS is committed to sharing information that impacts our communities as soon as possible.”
Reid said school staff have been contacting colleges where the affected students applied.
“We are sincerely sorry for this error. Each and every student, their experience and success, remain our priority,” she said.
Initially, the delay at TJ appeared to be “a unique situation due to human error,” Reid said on Wednesday (Jan. 4).
She said then that the attorney general’s investigation will include “a review” of TJ’s admissions policies, which were revised in 2020 in an effort to diversify the magnet school’s student body. A lawsuit arguing that the changes discriminate against Asian students is currently in a federal appeals court.
Notably, the delayed notifications for commended students at TJ were first reported by Asra Nomani, co-founder of the Coalition for TJ, which filed the lawsuit opposing the admissions changes.
The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes the top 50,000 scorers on the pSAT, a practice standardized test often considered by colleges. Though only a handful of actual scholarships are awarded each year, about 34,000 students get letters of commendations that go out in late September, per the website.
FCPS announced in mid-September that 238 of its students had advanced to the semi-finals. It didn’t mention how many students were commended.
In letters to the Washington Post, local public education advocate Holly Hazard and a former university admissions director argued that Miyares and Gov. Glenn Youngkin — both Republicans — have “wildly overreacted” to the delayed notices, a sentiment echoed by a couple Democratic elected officials.
Amen 👇👇👇👇👇👇👇👇 https://t.co/0anrFR1Gev
— Senator Scott Surovell (@ssurovell) January 5, 2023
“There is nothing to investigate,” state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36) told FFXnow, noting that information about pSAT scores is available online through the College Board website.
“Fairfax County has the best public schools in Virginia and the Governor and Attorney General are trying to bring their culture war to Fairfax because they’re not willing to invest in public schools or treat our teachers like licensed professionals,” he said in an emailed statement.
The investigation precedes a General Assembly session convening Wednesday (Jan. 11) that will see consideration of a voucher program allowing public funds to be used for private school expenses, among other education-related proposals.
It also kicks off a year where all 12 seats on the Fairfax County School Board — currently held entirely by Democrats — will be up for election.
As the Virginia General Assembly convenes this week for its 2023 session, local lawmakers hope to pass bills highlighting campaign finance reforms, raising teacher pay, paid sick leave, and other issues.
Members have been allowed to pre-file bills since November, and Fairfax County’s delegation held a public hearing on Saturday (Jan. 7) where community members shared their thoughts on what should be prioritized.
Members have until Wednesday morning to pre-file bills.
Facing a divided General Assembly, with Republicans controlling the House of Delegates and Democrats holding the Senate, local representatives likely won’t see all of their bills become law, but here are 12 proposals worth noting:
Campaign finance reform
- Limit political donations to $20,000: Introduced by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34), SB 803 would prohibit individuals from making a single donation to anyone vying for state office for more than $20,000.
- Prohibit contributions from public utilities: Also filed by Petersen, SB 804 would prohibit candidates from accepting contributions from any public utility company. Petersen has introduced versions of this bill before but hasn’t succeeded in getting it passed.
- Prohibit personal use of campaign funds: The potential new law HB 1552, introduced by Del. Marcus Simon (D-53), would ban candidates from using campaign funds for personal use, something that’s already prohibited in many other states.
- Alternative learning assessments in schools: SB 819, pre-filed by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), aims to allow each local school district “to use any nationally recognized, research-based assessment or screener” as an alternative to Virginia Department of Education-approved tests. This comes after new state-proposed history standards were rejected by the Board of Education in November. Revised draft standards were released Friday (Jan. 6).
- Higher teacher compensation: Del. Kaye Kory (D-38) is co-introducing HB 1497, which calls for state funding to be used to compensate public school teachers at or above the national average. Currently, the average pay for teachers in Virginia is about $7,000 below the national average.
- Unattended firearms in motor vehicles: SB 901, introduced by Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37), would make it illegal to leave a firearm unattended in a motor vehicle unless it’s locked up in its own compartment or container.
- Prohibit warrants for menstrual health data: SB 852 would prohibit the issuing of warrants for the search and seizure of any device containing digital information related to menstrual health data. Filed by Favola, the bill addresses fears from some that period-tracking apps could be used against someone considering an abortion.
- Paid sick leave for health care and grocery store workers: Introduced by Sen. Scott Surovell (D-36), SB 886 would require health care and grocery store employers to provide paid sick leave. As noted in the bill, current law only requires paid sick leave for some home health care workers. A version of this bill passed the Senate last year but failed in the House.
- Treatment for “problem gambling“: With sports gambling now legal in Virginia, Del. Paul Krizek (D-44) is proposing HB 1465, which would establish a committee to help “reduce the negative effects of problem gambling.”
- Bars insurrectionists from holding public official: Del. Dan Helmer (D-40) is introducing HB 1562 to bar those “convicted of participating in an insurrection” from ever holding a position of “public trust.”
- ASL interpreters in courtrooms: Surovell’s SB 814 lets the court appoint a certified American Sign Language interpreter itself for the courtroom.
- No arrest for assault on law enforcement in mental health emergency: HB 1561 from Del. Vivian Watts (D-39) exempts individuals from being arrested or prosecuted for assaulting a law enforcement officer if they’re experiencing a mental health emergency. A study done last year showed that about 10% of those charged with assault on law enforcement officers had a history of mental illness.
- Pedestrian signals apply to bicycles and scooters: Favola’s SB 847 calls for pedestrian control signals to also apply to those riding bicycles, mopeds, electric bikes, scooters, and all other forms of electric motor transportation. A companion bill is being filed by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) in the House.
Photo via Doug Kerr/Flickr
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) An outcry stoked by conservative activists over Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) allegedly failing to promptly announce a student academic honor has reached the Virginia governor’s office.
In a letter released this morning (Tuesday), Gov. Glenn Youngkin urged Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate the Fairfax County magnet school after it reportedly didn’t notify students commended by the National Merit Scholarship Program until after early college applications were due.
“We need to get to the bottom of what appears to be an egregious, deliberate attempt to disadvantage high-performing students at one of the best schools in the country,” Youngkin said. “Parents and students deserve answers and Attorney General Miyares will initiate a full investigation.”
Fairfax County Public Schools says it has initiated a third-party, independent investigation of its own but “stands ready to work with our partners at the state level,” should Miyares decide to pursue a review.
“Our preliminary understanding is that the delay this fall was a unique situation due to human error,” an FCPS spokesperson said. “The investigation will continue to examine our records in further detail and we will share key findings with our community.”
The school system said in a statement on Friday (Dec. 30) that families were notified as soon as the lapse “came to light.” Staff also sent emails and made follow-up calls to each college where the affected students had applied.
“FCPS understands the hard work and dedication of each and every student who competes for college acceptance and scholarship opportunities,” FCPS said. “We remain committed to supporting every student in reaching their full potential.”
The National Merit Scholarship Program recognizes students who receive the highest scores in the country on the preliminary SAT, essentially a practice for the main standardized test considered by most colleges and universities for admissions.
According to the National Merit website, about 50,000 students qualify for the program every year based on an index score calculated by doubling the sum of their reading, writing and math scores.
Notifications are sent out in late September, with about two-thirds of those students being commended and one-third advancing as semi-finalists. Only about 7,250 students win actual scholarships each year.
However, FCPS only announced the school’s semi-finalists in September. Commended students at TJ didn’t learn they had gotten the honor until teachers handed out certificates on Nov. 14, Coalition for TJ co-founder Asra Nomani said in the Fairfax County Times.
The Coalition for TJ sued Fairfax County Public Schools in 2021 over changes to the admissions system that were designed to boost diversity at the magnet school. The lawsuit is currently in a federal appeals court.
Nomani said she learned about the issue from Shawnna Yashar, a member of the Fairfax County Parents Association, which was incorporated in June 2021 by leaders of the Open FCPS campaign that urged schools to reopen early in the pandemic.
Since publishing last Thursday (Dec. 29), Nomani’s story has gotten picked up by several, mostly conservative outlets, including Fox News and the Daily Mail. Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears tweeted on Saturday (Dec. 31) that she had “reached out” to Youngkin and Miyares about a possible investigation.
The Fairfax County Parents Association and other groups have called for TJ principal Ann Bonitatibus to be fired and are planning to hold a rally outside the school this afternoon, according to WUSA9.
FCPS confirmed that Superintendent Michelle Reid is scheduled to meet with families this evening “to listen to their concerns.”
Parent and 11th District Republican Committee Vice Chair Srilekha Palle told WUSA9 she considers the delayed notifications “a criminal act.” Harry Jackson, another Coalition for TJ founder and brief GOP school board candidate hopeful, claimed administrators “wanted to downplay the significance of these awards to students in the name of equity.”
“I believe this failure may have caused material harm to those students and their parents, and that this failure may have violated the Virginia Human Rights Act,” Youngkin said in his letter to Miyares.
The letter doesn’t say how the lack of merit scholarship notifications might violate the Virginia Human Rights Act, which protects individuals from discrimination based on race, religion, sex and other characteristics.
A Texas-based technology education company has branched out into Vienna.
The school iCode launched its first Virginia franchise in the town earlier this month and is now hosting camps on game building, robotics and other tech skills for students out on break for the winter.
Located in a former Apple Federal Credit Union at 419A Maple Avenue East, iCode Vienna will get a grand opening at 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 10.
“As parents living and working in Fairfax County, we saw a need to provide our children earlier exposure to technical education,” franchise co-owner David Dilly said in a statement. “…We realize children love gaming, so why not provide a positive outlet for their desires by learning to understand how their favorite games work?”
Founded in 2015 by Abid Abedi, iCode has close to 50 franchises around the U.S., along with two in Asia. All of the locations follow a curriculum developed by the company’s corporate office in Frisco, Texas.
The Vienna campus is the first of several planned for Virginia, specifically in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Next up, a school in Burke will open in spring 2023, according to Dilly.
In addition to camps, the school offers three tiers of programs, from one designed for flexibility where students build their own video game to classes focused on specific science, technology, engineering and math topics.
The most popular is a “Belt” program, which is intended to provide a “comprehensive” education in STEM subjects and the arts, iCode Vienna Director Toni Escobedo says. Covering ages 5 through 15, the program teaches a total of seven programming languages with each course building on the previous one.
Escobedo says iCode tailors its class and camp offerings to students’ interests, grouping classes based on age and skill level. The school is equipped with tablets, desktops, drones, robotics, 3D printers, an e-sports gaming lounge and more, with no outside technology needed.
She says the school distinguishes itself from other coding programs by emphasizing the full-time involvement of instructors in all classes and incorporating “soft skills” like project management and collaboration into the curriculum.
“These skills help students succeed not only academically but in their relationships and future careers,” she told FFXnow.
Fairfax County is seeking more state support for education, a return of $39 million for regional transportation projects and more in its recently approved legislative priorities for next year.
At a meeting last week, the Board of Supervisors approved the adoption of the county’s 2023 legislative programs for both state and federal lawmakers. It passed by a 9-1 vote with only Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity opposing.
The approval on Dec. 6 was, more or less, a formality with most of the discussion and debate happening in legislative committee meetings throughout the fall.
In addition to trash collection changes, here are a few of the most notable priorities in this year’s agenda:
Increase state support for education
Jointly with Fairfax County Public Schools, the county wants the state to better address the differences between “high cost-of-living jurisdictions like Fairfax County” and other Virginia localities when funding public education.
State education funding is based on complex formulas and varies from year to year. The county has long argued that the formulas don’t adequately account for its higher cost of living compared to other areas.
“Public education funding in the Commonwealth is enshrined in the Virginia Constitution as a joint responsibility of both state and local governments, so it is essential that the state fully and appropriately meet its Constitutional responsibility to adequately fund K-12 education,” the state legislative program says.
Also, both boards oppose “budget cuts that disproportionately target or affect Northern Virginia” and “policies which divert K-12 education funding away from local public schools and toward non-public options.”
Allow traffic safety measures
As crash fatalities mount, the county is advocating for General Assembly legislation that lets localities create and post signage requiring motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Legislation is also needed to clarify that counties can reduce speed limits below 25 miles per hour on state-maintained roads that lie in residential districts, according to the program. Without that authority, the county’s options for addressing speeding are limited.
Restore regional transportation project funding
The state diverted $102 million away from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) in 2018 to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to cover Virginia’s share of Metro funding.
In the several years since, $63.5 million has been restored, but the NVTA is still looking for the remaining nearly $39 million to support road repairs, facility maintenance, and other transportation projects in Northern Virginia.
“This [money] will ensure that transportation projects continue to advance in Northern Virginia after decades of state underfunding,” Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, who chairs the board’s legislative committee, said in his motion at the Dec. 6 meeting. Read More
Fairfax County Public Schools could require parental notifications for class materials deemed sexually explicit, but in a deviation from the state, the proposed policy directly addresses concerns about censorship, specifically for LGBTQ-related content.
Introduced at the Fairfax County School Board meeting last night, the policy requires teachers to maintain lists of books, videos, and other instructional materials with “sexually explicit content.” Schools must notify parents at least 30 days before the materials are used and provide alternatives if sought by a parent or student.
“Schools shall defer to parents to determine whether the use of an instructional material with sexually explicit content is appropriate for their child,” the policy states.
As noted by staff, FCPS already has a policy and regulations governing selections of print and electronic materials, including guidance for notifying parents and fulfilling requests for access to the materials or alternatives.
The draft policy generally incorporates a model developed by the Virginia Department of Education, as dictated by Senate Bill 656, which requires school boards to adopt rules specifically for sexually explicit content by Jan. 1, 2023. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin on April 6.
However, FCPS has added one clause stating that:
This policy shall not be construed to require or provide for (1) the censoring of books in public elementary and secondary schools, or (2) the designation of instructional material as sexually explicit based solely upon the sexual orientation of the characters contained therein.
The school system told FFXnow it has no comment on the proposal “at this stage,” but the clause seems intended to quell fears that the new requirements could be used to limit access to materials that feature or deal with issues related to LGBTQ people.
Unveiled in early August, the VDOE model policy defines “sexually explicit content” in accordance with the state code:
(i) any description of or (ii) any picture, photograph, drawing, motion picture film, digital image or similar visual representation depicting sexual bestiality, a lewd exhibition of nudity, as nudity is defined in § 18.2-390, sexual excitement, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse, as also defined in § 18.2-390, coprophilia, urophilia, or fetishism.
Virginia Code section 18.2-390 includes “homosexuality” in its definition of sexual conduct, raising concerns that LGBTQ people will be treated as inherently sexual and not suitable for students. The 1,750 public comments submitted on the policy also included praise for it as a step forward for “parental rights.”
“We are grateful to see FCPS clarify that our existence is not sexually explicit,” the group told FFXnow. “Nothing about our existence as Queer students is inherently sexual, but SB 656 threatens to mislabel our community. We hope other school districts follow FCPS’ lead and protect the limited Queer representation in our classrooms from censorship attacks.”
Still, the proposed FCPS policy doesn’t go as far as ones adopted by neighboring districts in warding off potential attacks on LGBTQ materials.
Loudoun County’s school board approved a policy on Wednesday (Nov. 30) that protects materials based on the gender identity of characters, as well as sexual orientation. A policy that went before the Arlington school board last night removes references to section 18.2-390 from its definition of “sexually explicit content.”
FCPS faced questions about material selection last year, when parents complained that there was graphic sexual content in the novel “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and Maia Kobabe’s memoir “Gender Queer,” which both have LGBTQ protagonists.
Initially pulled from library shelves, the books were restored after review committees determined the claims were unfounded and that their literary merits justified making them accessible to students.
A decade-old fight over Toni Morrison’s classic “Beloved” also became a talking point in Youngkin’s 2021 campaign to become governor. Legislation inspired by that attempted book ban got vetoed in 2016 but served as a precursor for the new state law.
FCPS Pride, an LGBTQ advocacy group for employees, expressed concern that teachers will “self-censor” material out of fear of complaints or harassment.
“No good can come from reducing our curriculum to a few books that make absolutely nobody uncomfortable,” FCPS Pride said in a statement. “Our hope is that, after enacting this policy, FCPS will take legal action on behalf of the right of all students to an education that includes and welcomes them.”
Fairfax County Public Schools failed to give needed educational services to “thousands” of students with disabilities when it pivoted to virtual learning due to COVID-19 in 2020, federal officials say.
FCPS must compensate all affected students for the lost services as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, which was investigating reports that the school system had violated students’ right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE).
“I am relieved that the more than 25,000 students with disabilities in Fairfax County will now receive services federal law promises to them, even during a pandemic, to ensure their equal access to education,” Education Department Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said in a news release announcing the agreement yesterday.
FCPS said in a statement that it will convene meetings with all current and former students who attended during the “pandemic period” from April 14, 2020 to June 16, 2022 to discuss their Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Section 504 plans.
IEPs are written plans that establish services and academic goals for students in special education. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in programs that get federal funding and requires public school districts to provide a FAPE.
The education department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) opened investigations into FCPS and districts in Indiana, Seattle and Los Angeles in January 2021, citing local news reports where parents said schools delayed or neglected to deliver the specialized services their kids need.
While acknowledging the pandemic’s “unique challenges,” which prompted widespread school closures in an effort to limit Covid’s spread, OCR says that doesn’t relieve schools of their responsibility to educate students in accordance with their specific needs.
Though FCPS attempted to address learning losses with expanded summer programs, OCR reports that the school system “inappropriately reduced and limited services” to students with disabilities, failed to “accurately or sufficiently” track the services it was providing, and “refused even to entertain compensatory education for services it did not or could not provide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The evidence strongly suggests that appropriate remedial services still remain unavailable, as a practical matter, to the many thousands of students with disabilities in the Division who may need them,” OCR said in a letter to Superintendent Michelle Reid.
As of this past February, FCPS had only provided recovery services to 1,070 students with IEPs and eight students with Section 504 plans, OCR said. 15.5% of the over 180,000 students who attend FCPS this school year have disabilities, according to state data.
Under the agreement, FCPS must get OCR’s approval for plans to compensate students, appoint an administrator to implement those plans, notify parents and guardians, and develop an electronic system by Jan. 17 to track which students need additional services and what accommodations are provided.
“As we emerge from the global pandemic, FCPS remains committed to working diligently to provide the support needed to ensure each and every student recovers from learning loss,” the school system said. “FCPS has and will continue to leverage resources to ensure students with the greatest need receive prioritized support for enhanced outcomes.” Read More
(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) The Virginia Department of Education has no clear timeline for when its new policies on the treatment of transgender students will take effect, leaving Fairfax County Public Schools and other local school districts waiting to see if the state makes any changes in response to vocal opposition to the proposal.
It has now been over a month since the state closed its public comment period for the draft “model” policies, which would require schools to identify students based on their sex assigned at birth and prohibit discipline for deadnaming or misgendering a student even if they get their official school records changed.
“The model policies document has not been finalized. The department is still in the process of reviewing public comment,” VDOE communications director Charles Pyle told FFXnow.
The department received more than 71,000 comments on the policies — some supportive, some critical — while the forum was open from Sept. 26 to Oct. 26.
The policies could’ve taken effect as soon as the comment period ended, but the VDOE said last month that the implementation would be delayed by 30 days under a state code provision that requires a delay if a guidance document might contradict state law.
Opponents of the proposed policies have argued that they would violate the Virginia Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. A section on student participation in athletics also goes against the state law that directed VDOE to create the model policies, which explicitly excluded sports from consideration.
Though the additional 30-day deadline has now passed, Pyle says VDOE has no sense of when its public comments review might finish, citing the volume of comments. The department’s staff can make revisions to the draft guidelines, which must be approved by the state superintendent.
“We have more than 71,000 comments to sort through and the department is exploring options for completing the review,” Pyle said in a statement. “Even after the comments are reviewed, the department will take the time necessary to identify and make any edits identified and warranted by the review.”
The Fairfax County School Board has indicated it won’t adopt the model policies, which contradict its existing policies supporting LGBT students. The Board of Supervisors issued a formal statement opposing them, arguing that they would defy legal precedent and harm transgender and other gender-nonconforming students.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has championed the policies as “protecting parents’ fundamental rights to make decisions for their children,” will be in Fairfax County tomorrow to celebrate last week’s opening of the extended I-66 Express Lanes.
According to a media advisory, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay will also attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Fairfax Corner, but no policy discussions are expected between the Democratic chair and Republican governor.
“We are guessing the Governor is already well aware of Chairman McKay’s on-the-record staunch opposition to the proposed change in model policies and its impact on Fairfax County families,” McKay’s office said.
After the ribbon-cutting, Youngkin is scheduled to appear in Arlington for an unspecified economic development announcement.