After only five days of in-person instruction so far, Fairfax County Public Schools has reported 620 COVID-19 cases and quarantined 1,534 students this month.

FCPS has paused 11 classes since schools reopened after winter break on Monday (Jan. 10), spokesperson Julie Moult said in an email, meaning in-person learning was suspended to enable contact tracing.

Virtual classes kick in after three days of absences at the latest, Moult says.

Students with COVID-19 must isolate for 10 days, while those exposed must quarantine for five days, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent guidelines.

There have been 470 cases involving students, about half the number seen in all of December, according to a FCPS COVID-19 dashboard. For staff, there have been 143 COVID-19 cases and 247 quarantines this month.

The cases come after only one week of in-person classes for FCPS. Students’ two-week winter break in December was essentially extended by another week earlier this month due to winter weather, using the district’s entire allotment of traditional snow days for the school year.

Coronavirus cases have surged in the region and country, with an average case peaking at least three times as high as any other surge, which previously had been last winter.

This week, FCPS saw cases involving over five people at the following schools:

  • 11 students at Cub Run Elementary
  • Nine students and a staff member at Lake Braddock Secondary School
  • 24 students and one staff member at Madison High
  • 16 students at Oakton High
  • 13 students at Robinson Secondary School
  • Eight students and one staff member at Whitman Middle School
  • 10 students at South Lakes High

Last year, FCPS quarantined 47 staff and 1,411 students in November, and 324 staff and 3,603 students in December.

The slew of coronavirus cases are part of an ongoing surge in infections fueled by the omicron variant, with Fairfax County currently averaging over 2,400 cases a day.

In anticipation of an uptick in cases, FCPS shared a plan last week for handling faculty absences, even as officials reiterated a commitment to keeping classes in person.

The surge has affected other county government services as well. Citing a high number of staff vacancies due to COVID-19 cases, Fairfax County Public Library announced earlier this week that, starting on Jan. 17, all branches will be temporarily closed on Sundays and Mondays until April 1.

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The U.S. Supreme Court (via Geoff Livingston/Flickr)

(Updated on 1/14/2022 at 4:30 p.m.) The Fairfax County School Board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a former student’s sexual assault lawsuit, a move that could reshape how the federal law against sexual violence in schools is interpreted.

A petition filed by the school board on Dec. 30 argues that public school systems can’t be held liable for sexual harassment and assault unless officials knew an assault took place and could have prevented it.

The lawsuit was initiated in May 2018 by a former Oakton High School student, identified as Jane Doe, who says Fairfax County Public Schools mishandled her report of being sexually assaulted by another student on a school band trip in 2017.

The school board is now seeking to reverse an appeals court’s order of a new trial in the case.

“Funding recipients are rightly held liable when their own conduct intentionally causes harassment,” the petition says. “But Title IX liability rightfully does not, under this Court’s precedents, extend to situations where a recipient does not actually know of harassment or when its actions cause no harassment.”

Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in public education programs and activities. Doe’s lawsuit argues that FCPS violated the law by ignoring reports of her assault, discouraging her from taking legal action, and failing to ensure her safety.

A U.S. District Court jury found in August 2019 that a sexual assault took place and harmed Doe’s educational experience, but the school board couldn’t be held liable under Title IX, because officials didn’t have “actual knowledge” that the assault had occurred.

Jury members’ reported confusion over the term “actual knowledge” — whether school officials need direct evidence of an assault or just a report of one — led Public Justice, the nonprofit representing Jane Doe, to appeal the case to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

A three-judge panel ruled in June that a sexual assault report meets the legal standard and ordered a retrial.

However, FCPS asked the appeals court to stay its order for a new trial in September, signaling that it planned to petition the Supreme Court.

In a statement to FFXnow, FCPS maintained that the school board “could not have foreseen the assault, did not cause it, and could not have prevented it”:

Fairfax County Public Schools is committed to upholding Title IX and firmly believes that every student deserves an education free from harassment or discrimination. The decision to pursue this legal avenue has nothing to do with challenging this critical civil rights law.

The question in this case is only about whether Congress intended America’s public schools, and the teachers that work in them, to be held financially responsible for student-on-student misconduct that they had no way to foresee and did not cause.  We believe the law should be applied the same way nationwide, and only the Supreme Court has the power to restore that uniformity.

To fail to challenge the Fourth Circuit’s ruling would be to let down public school educators the length and breadth of the U.S., and especially in Virginia, during a time when they need support more than ever. In addition, to roll over in the face of costly and unfair lawsuits would be an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and would set a worrying precedent for school divisions facing similar lawsuits now and in the future.

However, Public Justice says the school board’s position is at odds with its claims to support students’ safety and civil rights, essentially suggesting that schools can only be held liable for sexual violence if it reoccurs.

“[FCPS] has now asked the Supreme Court to gut crucial protections for Jane Doe, for Fairfax students, and for young survivors across the country, pushing a misinterpretation of Title IX that the U.S. Department of Justice has called ‘absurd,'” Public Justice staff attorney Alexandra Brodsky said by email. “We are confident, though, that the Court will deny the cert petition and Jane will have the chance to be heard by a jury.”

Brodsky added that Doe isn’t seeking to hold FCPS responsible for the assault itself, but rather, for how it responded to her report.

Public Justice has not filed a response to the school board’s petition yet. The Supreme Court docket shows that a motion to extend the deadline for a response to April 8 was granted on Tuesday (Jan. 11).

Shatter the Silence Fairfax County Public Schools, a nonprofit that says it was founded by survivors, parents, and FCPS students, has launched a petition demanding that the school board drop its appeal.

“We the citizens demand that FCPS withdraw the baseless appeal in Doe v. Fairfax County School Board and appropriately respond to sexual assault in school,” the petition says. “Since FCPS continues its culture of cover-up and indifference, we ask the Virginia Attorney General and the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into FCPS and bring accountability once and for all.”

Photo via Geoff Livingston/Flickr

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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand discusses plans to manage potential surges in COVID-19 infections when schools reopen (via FCPS/YouTube)

Updated at 4:05 p.m. — Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed again tomorrow (Friday) due to tonight’s anticipated snowfall, using its last allotted traditional snow day.

Fairfax County Public Schools reiterated its commitment to in-person instruction today (Thursday), even as it acknowledges that surging COVID-19 cases will likely result in staffing shortages.

In a message sent to families and staff, Superintendent Scott Brabrand shared a plan for managing the anticipated strain on teachers and other staff and minimizing potential disruptions once classes resume after winter break, which has now been extended by four days due to the snowy weather.

“These weeks ahead will challenge us all and we need to work together,” Brabrand said in a video. “We must expect that things will change often and we must be flexible. Most importantly, we must be understanding, patient, and come from a common expectation that this is not business as usual.”

With classroom supervision as a priority, FCPS plans to fill teacher vacancies with substitutes, other faculty or staff members, and volunteers with teaching experience from its central office and management staff.

However, if no one is available to cover for an absent teacher, schools could have one teacher lead two classes or combine multiple classes under a supervisor for asynchronous learning, where students work on assignments independently.

If as many as 11 to 25% of classrooms at a particular school have no dedicated teacher, the entire school would shift to asynchronous instruction, with students getting the option to access lessons in person or from home.

FCPS notes that it may not always be possible to continue providing a livestreaming option that was introduced in the fall for students who are required to pause, quarantine, or isolate due to a COVID-19 exposure or positive test.

Staffing shortages are expected to affect other school operations as well, particularly transportation. An unusually high deficit in bus drivers resulted in delays of up to an hour when the 2021-2022 academic year started in September.

“Expect that there will be delays in bus routes with more double-backs that may mean students will arrive after the bell,” FCPS says. “Schools will adjust instruction to ensure that no child is missing important classroom time.”

FCPS advises parents to drive their children to school or have them walk or bicycle if possible. The school system now has an app that tracks bus delays.

FCPS says meal services have not been affected so far, but if there are increased staff absences, it could switch to bagged lunches, rather than the usual cafeteria menus.

FFXnow asked FCPS for the number of teacher and other staff vacancies it currently has, but did not receive a response by press time.

“We will reassess, adapt, and adjust if needed,” Brabrand said. “I have faith that our FCPS family can and will get through this together.”

Health protocols implemented last year, including mask requirements, will remain in place, but FCPS is not requiring COVID-19 testing or vaccinations for students, though the latter is strongly recommended for those who are eligible.

While FCPS reported relatively low COVID-19 infection rates last month, cases among students, staff, and visitors jumped from 631 in November to 1,312 in December. There have been 25 new cases reported this month, as of Jan. 5, including 13 staff infections and 11 among students.

Fairfax County as a whole is currently averaging more than 2,000 new cases a day.

Earlier this week, the fast-spreading omicron variant and still-limited availability of testing had some parents and teachers urging FCPS to postpone reopening and provide an option for students to learn virtually.

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Fairfax County students have already gotten a couple extra days of winter break, thanks to yesterday’s snowstorm, but some community members are calling on Fairfax County Public Schools to extend its closure further, citing concerns about rising COVID-19 cases.

A Change.org petition started over the weekend urges FCPS to utilize some of its built-in snow days to either delay an in-person return in the hopes of mitigating a post-holiday surge or establish an online option for students who would prefer to remain at home.

As of 9 p.m. today (Monday), the petition was nearing 5,000 signatures. Supporters cited fear of the omicron variant’s transmissibility and the challenges with getting tested among their reasons.

FCPS’s designated testing sites have been closed to students the past two days, though the system tentatively expects to open them for staff today (Tuesday). Testing is only required for employees who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, a union that represents faculty and non-administrative staff, also argued yesterday that FCPS should extend winter break another week, stating that staff absences and a rush to roll out Virginia’s planned test-to-stay pilot program would create “stress, chaos and inequity.”

“Our biggest concern has always been the health and safety of our students and teachers, we know that there are ways to better communicate and ensure that safety is prioritized,” the FCFT said in a series of tweets.

As acknowledged by the petition writer, FCPS is required by Virginia law to provide in-person instruction, but it could provide a virtual option or go fully remote if it’s deemed necessary to address high COVID-19 transmission levels in a school.

So far, FCPS has maintained that in-person learning is best for students, though a message sent to families on Sunday (Jan. 2) noted that “it is possible that short-term closures of classrooms will be necessary.”

The Fairfax County Parents Association, an organization that grew out of the Open FCPS movement in the summer of 2020, released a statement yesterday urging the school system to keep its commitment to providing in-person learning.

“We cannot let this hysteria lead us to more disruptions, where students in Fairfax County are on their third school year of educational disruption,” the group said. “Exacerbating that disruption only adds to the damage already done to students.”

FCPS reported 759 COVID-19 cases among students, staff, and visitors for the month of December — fewer than the 850 cases seen in September — but with schools closed for winter break, its data hasn’t been updated since Dec. 17.

How do you think FCPS should handle the current COVID-19 surge? Should students have the option to learn remotely, or should they all return in person? Would your comfort level change if testing was required?

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Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams speaks in support of collective bargaining for general county government workers in October (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County Public Schools is moving to give its workers collective bargaining powers.

An FCPS webpage launched Friday (Dec. 17) explains that the school system is developing an ordinance establishing the scope and rules of collective bargaining, which will enable labor unions to negotiate pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members.

Work on the proposed draft ordinance is expected to continue until the end of January. The text could be released for public comment in February or March, Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams told FFXnow.

A union representing FCPS teachers and support staff, including bus drivers, custodians, nurses, and cafeteria workers, the FEA says it is confident that the school board will adopt an ordinance allowing collective bargaining.

“We have waited for 44 years, and the time is now to pass a strong ordinance,” Adams said in a statement. “Our students’ learning conditions are our working conditions and we want to remain the school district that people love to work and learn in.”

Local government workers in Virginia had been prohibited from collective bargaining since 1977 until the General Assembly passed legislation allowing localities to authorize the practice during its spring 2020 session.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance for general county government employees on Oct. 19, but FCPS needs to create a separate policy for its employees. The school system has 24,839 full-time workers, according to its website.

The state law still prohibits government workers from striking, and even if FCPS adopts a collective bargaining ordinance, union membership won’t be required for employees, since Virginia remains a right-to-work state.

FCPS says it’s unclear how the introduction of collective bargaining will affect current employees and their pay, but the process for negotiating agreements in the future will be aligned with the school system’s annual budget timeline.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, a union open to all FCPS teachers and other non-administrative, non-supervisory employees, says it has been working with FCPS to develop a resolution “that is inclusive and flexible for all members” since the 2020 Virginia law took effect on May 1.

“Throughout our sessions our bargaining team has fought for a broad and open bargaining scope that helps to establish school staff’s right to negotiate hours and scheduling, compensation, health, retirement, all working conditions and other benefits,” FCFT President Tina Williams said by email. “As we bargain to build power in our county, we will continue to fight to guarantee our members’ voices are included throughout  the entirety of the process.”

The FEA and FCFT are among several school employee organizations in a collective bargaining work group created by FCPS earlier this year. The group convened for the first time on Sept. 30 and is expected to continue meeting every few weeks through January.

“FEA has been at each session, ready to advocate for our member’s needs and build partnerships that achieve our interests,” Adams said. “We look forward to the final draft and a strong vote from our school board.”

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Rolling weekly average of COVID-19 vaccination and booster rates in Fairfax County (via Fairfax County)

(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) As Fairfax County prepares for a “likely” wave of omicron infections, officials are cautiously optimistic that vaccination rates and the potentially less-severe illness caused by the variant may prevent a surge like what was seen last winter.

Fairfax County Health Department Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu and epidemiologist Dr. Ben Schwartz lauded the county’s vaccination rates in a status update for the Board of Supervisors’ health and human services committee on Tuesday (Dec. 14).

At the same time, the officials urged residents to get their booster shots in anticipation of already-rising case rates getting accelerated by the omnicron variant that’s quickly spreading around the globe.

While early research suggests the variant is more transmissible and has an increased ability to infect those who are already vaccinated, officials remain hopeful that Fairfax County can avoid a winter surge as drastic as the one seen a year ago.

“We are likely to have an omicron wave here,” said Schwartz. “[But] what we are hearing so far about omicron is that there are fewer hospitalizations.”

The COVID-19 vaccines, particularly booster shots, help prevent severe illness, the experts note. Nearly 69% of all Fairfax Health District residents are considered fully vaccinated, one of the highest rates in the D.C. area.

But that doesn’t mean residents no longer need to be cautious or careful during the holiday season.

“Even if most infections are mild, a highly transmissible variant could result in enough cases to overwhelm the health care systems,” Schwartz said.

Booster shots are being highly recommended as well as continuing to mask indoors, even if it’s technically no longer required.

“We’ve got to stay with the mitigation efforts,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “I know everyone is exhausted with them, but now is no time to let our guard down.”

Omicron aside, hospitalizations and deaths are currently down across the county, with officials crediting vaccinations.

In addition, while infections were once higher among communities of color compared to the county’s white population, those rates have since more or less evened out.

“This is…a consequence of vaccination, where Hispanics in Fairfax County have a higher vaccination coverage rate than other racial and ethnic groups,” Schwartz said.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 currently have the highest rate of infection, likely due to that age group just being approved for vaccines a little over a month ago.

Cases within Fairfax County Public Schools, though, have remained very low, according to county health department statistics. Just 0.76% of all students have contracted COVID-19 since late September. The rate is highest among elementary school students, likely due to the delay in vaccination approval.

To this point, 40 school outbreaks have occurred, which are classified as three or more cases within a class or group, but no schools have had to close due to COVID-19.

“This should be proclaimed very widely to the community. These school numbers…are a massive success,” McKay said.

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Herndon Middle School (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County police are investigating two threats of violence reported at schools in the county earlier this week.

Both threats concerned schools in the Herndon area and were determined to be unfounded, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The first incident involved a threat of violence written inside a bathroom at Rachel Carson Middle School. School officials notified a school resource officer at the site about the discovery around 2:10 p.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 7), according to police.

The FCPD says it provided additional officers who conducted extra patrols of the area around the school on Wednesday “out of an abundance of caution.”

“FCPD takes these threats serious and continues to investigate the case with the assistance of FCPS administrators,” the police department said. “…We encourage anyone with information about this threat to please share it with either school officials or our officers.”

At approximately 6:15 a.m. yesterday (Wednesday), Herndon Middle School officials notified a school resource officer that they came across “a vague threat of violence made over social media,” according to police.

Fairfax County police investigated the threat with support from the Herndon Police Department and Fairfax County Public School administrators. Investigators identifed the person behind the post and determined they did not have access to any weapons.

“Officers are continuing to investigate further and charges are pending,” the FCPD said.

FCPS confirmed to FFXnow that there were two threats involving local schools, but the school system opted to share details only with the affected schools.

“We are not proactively sharing details to those outside the immediate school community to avoid encouraging copycat threats,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said.

The two FCPS threats came at the same time that the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 18-year-old Fairfax resident Shane D. Lucas, who allegedly made threatening statements toward Farmwell Station Middle School in Ashburn in a social media post that included a photo of a firearm.

Detectives determined that the photo came from the internet and did not find any firearms in Lucas’s house, but he has been charged with threats of bodily injury or death to persons on school property.

FCPS says students, parents, and other community members can report concerns through its safety tip line at 571-423-2020. Tips can also be sent by text to 88-777 with the keyword TIP FCPS.

Photo via Google Maps

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LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual/agender, and other gender and sexual minority identities (via Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash)

Students and staff in the LGBTQIA+ community expressed relief yesterday (Tuesday) after Fairfax County Public Schools announced that it will return a pair of challenged, queer-centered books to library shelves.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe and Jonathan Evison’s “Lawn Boy” — a coming-of-age story about a Mexican American man that deals with race, class, and sexual identity — were pulled from circulation in late September after parents complained that they contained graphic sexual content unsuitable for children.

Two committees convened to review the books determined the complaints were without merit and that the books have literary merit in line with FCPS’ goal of supporting a diverse student body, including through its library materials, the school system said.

The Pride Liberation Project, a student-led LGBTQIA+ advocacy group, praised the decision as an affirmation of its argument that the books are “valuable sources of support” for vulnerable students, not pornography or pedophelia as alleged by the complaints.

“I am relieved that our libraries will continue to have books that depict people like me,” a Westfield High School student said in a news release. “It is isolating when LGBTQIA+ students are singled out and already limited Queer representation is taken away.”

FCPS Pride, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy group for employees, said its members were pleased that “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” will be returned to circulation.

Kobabe’s memoir will be reinstated at the 12 high schools that currently own it, and Evison’s novel will be available at seven high schools, according to FCPS.

“Having read the the books and knowing that FCPS has a commitment to including and welcoming all students, we had faith that the process would be followed and literature that allows LGBTQIA+ students to see themselves, and which allows their peers to see that they exist, would be returned to circulation,” FCPS Pride said in a statement.

With book challenges cropping up across the country in recent months, many of them targeting books about gender and sexual identity or race, FCPS Pride co-president Robert Rigby Jr. tied the complaints against “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” to a larger political backlash to LGBTQIA+ inclusion, pointing to a blog post accusing teachers of using Gay-Straight Alliances to “recruit” children that was shared by the Fairfax County Republican Committee as an example.

FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Department Noel Klimenko confirmed to FFXnow that formal complaints were filed against the two books, but the issue gained attention when conservative-leaning media outlets and advocates shared mother Stacy Langton’s remarks from a contentious school board meeting on Sept. 23.

“LGBTQ students and their peaceful existence in classes and schools have become ‘collateral damage,’ with uncaring people exploiting their existence for other purposes,” Rigby said.

Langton wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner that her complaint stemmed from concern about pornographic materials in schools, not as an objection to LGBTQ characters, stating that she’s aware of the discrimination that community faces because her mother was lesbian.

Klimenko, who made the final decision to reinstate “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy,” says book challenges tend to get politicized since they deal with free speech issues and people’s subjective opinions about what constitutes objectionable art.

The publicity around Langton’s complaint and claims that the books depicted pedophelia, which turned out to be unfounded, prompted FCPS to remove the books from circulation — a departure from past practices, as the school system has historically left books on shelves while they’re under review.

“We decided we needed to have an abundance of caution and go ahead and remove those books,” Klimenko said. “But now that this decision has been made, the books will be returned to the libraries that had them prior to the challenge.”

FCPS’ regulation on handling book challenges doesn’t explicitly state whether books should remain available while being reviewed.

Klimenko says staff will consult with school board members and other stakeholders to see if there were any concerns with how the two-month-long process played out, but overall, FCPS upheld its established policies, which had not been tested since the last library material challenge in 2015.

“I think it’s really important that Fairfax County Public Schools has a procedure for both identifying books to put in our libraries and also for challenging them,” she said. “I feel like we’ve taken great care and deliberation with this decision.”

Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky, who represents Sully District, says there have not been any conversations so far about reexamining the challenged materials regulation, which was last updated on Feb. 16.

She expressed support for parents playing “a robust and active role in their children’s education.”

Langton told the Washington Examiner earlier this month that she was barred from the Fairfax High School library after visiting with her son to check out a book.

FCPS doesn’t accommodate unscheduled visits to school libraries or other instructional spaces during class hours, but it allows pre-arranged visits before and after the school day. Its library catalogs can also be viewed online.

“I encourage parents to be involved in conversations with their students about all aspects of their school experience, including their literary choices,” Pekarsky said in a statement. “I continue to trust the professionalism of our school librarians and appreciate the time and care they devote to procuring collections that will serve a diverse student body.”

Photo via Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash

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With Thanksgiving on the horizon, many local entities and organizations will be closed.

Fairfax County government offices and Fairfax County Public Schools will be closed for Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 25) and Black Friday (Nov. 26). County libraries are also closed both days.

Fairfax County Circuit Court, General District Court, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court close at noon today (Wednesday) through Friday.

The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is open for services by appointment only. For emergencies, contact Animal Protection Police at 703-691-2131.

All Department of Motor Vehicle service centers will be closed from Nov. 25 through Nov. 27.

While the Fairfax Connector has regular service today, riders can expect Sunday service on Thursday and holiday weekday service on Friday. More details on specific routes are available online.

Metrorail and Metrobus will also operate on a Sunday school tomorrow and offer week day service on Friday.

All recreation centers will open Thursday from 5 a.m. to noon with the exception of George Washington Recreation Center. All centers reopen on Friday.

The Fairfax County Government Center and South County Government Center vaccine clinic and the Tysons Community Vaccination center will be closed Thursday through Sunday for Thanksgiving. More locations are available online.

For trash and recycling collection, residents should contact their trash and recycling collector directly for any schedule changes due to the holiday.

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(Updated at 10:55 a.m. on 11/24/2021) Fairfax County Public Schools has reinstated two books that were recently pulled from library shelves after some parents took issue with their sexual content.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison — both books that center on LGBTQIA+ individuals exploring their identities — will be returned to shelves based on recommendations from committees formed to review the materials, FCPS announced today (Monday).

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the school system said in a news release. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys.”

FCPS pulled the two books from circulation in late September after local mother Stacy Langton complained at a school board meeting that they contained graphic sexual content akin to pornography, including depictions of pedophelia.

Langston said her complaint was inspired by similar protests at a school board meeting in Texas. Since then, protests of books have proliferated across the country, with a nearly decade-old challenge of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in Fairfax County even figuring into Virginia’s recent gubernatorial race.

Langston’s challenge prompted FCPS to form two committees to review the books, led by its library services coordinator.

According to FCPS, each committee consisted of two teachers, two parents, a school-based administrator, a member of its Equity and Cultural Responsiveness team, and two high school students.

The committees were formed by FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Department Noel Klimenko, who randomly selected members from “a pool of stakeholder representatives” submitted by schools.

FCPS says both committees determined that the pedophelia claims were unfounded and that the books both have literary value that justifies keeping them in schools.

Klimenko made the final decision to reinstate the books after receiving the committees’ recommendations, in accordinace with the school system’s regulation for handling challenges of school materials.

“I am satisfied that the books were selected according to FCPS regulations and are appropriate to include in libraries that serve high school students,” Klimenko said. “Both books have value beyond their pages for students who may struggle to find relatable stories.”

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