Karl Frisch will run for a second term representing the Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board.
Frisch announced today that his qualifying paperwork has been approved, and he will seek an endorsement from the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, which can endorse candidates but not officially campaign them in the nonpartisan school board races.
Areas in the Providence District include Tysons, Dunn Loring, Idylwood, Merrifield, Mantua, and Oakton, along with parts of Fairfax, Falls Church, and Vienna.
A formal campaign launch will come later this year, ahead of the Nov. 7 general election.
“I am seeking reelection to help protect public education and local control,” Frisch said. “I will never stop fighting to give every student safe and inclusive public schools with exceptional educators and equitable access to the rigorous academics and other opportunities they need to be successful after graduation.”
When first elected in 2019, a year that ushered in a historically diverse, all-Democratic board, Frisch became the first openly gay person to ever serve on the county’s school board. He is the only out gay man currently on any school board in Virginia, according to his press release.
While the school board has often been occupied with responding to the pandemic over the past couple of years, Frisch’s work so far has included the Mosaic Elementary School naming, planning for a future Dunn Loring Elementary School, and a rerouting of school buses away from Blake Lane after two Oakton High School students were killed in June.
Last fall, he sought to join the General Assembly as the new 35th District delegate, but the Democratic nomination went to nonprofit leader Holly Seibold, who was elected to fill the vacated seat yesterday.
In his announcement, Frisch says he decided to seek reelection in response to state actions that would “compromise curriculum quality and jeopardize student safety.”
Fairfax County Public Schools has clashed on occasion with state leaders, most recently over a delay in merit award notifications. The school board sued Gov. Glenn Youngkin over his elimination of universal masking, and the governor has sided with opponents of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology’s admissions process.
Last year, Frisch criticized the widely protested draft state policies that would prevent schools from supporting transgender students as “putting the lives of young Virginians in jeopardy to score political points.”
Education is expected to be a key focus of this year’s General Assembly session, which convened today. Filed bills include a prohibition on students from joining athletic teams based on their gender identity, the creation of a statewide policy on library materials, and a voucher program that allow public funds to be used for private schools and services.
“This is a pivotal election year for Fairfax County,” Frisch said. “Will we abandon our world-class public schools in favor of risky Richmond political experiments, or will we continue our critical work to address every student by name and by need?”
All 12 school board seats will be up for election this November.
Frisch joins Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren as the only incumbents so far to confirm they will seek another term. Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen said she won’t seek reelection, while other members have yet to announce their intentions.
(Updated at 10:40 a.m. on 12/5/2022) Even with one month left, 2022 is the deadliest year for Fairfax County pedestrians in more than a decade.
Through October, vehicle crashes have killed 22 people on streets and highways in the county — the most since at least 2010, the earliest year in Virginia’s Traffic Records Electronic Data System (TREDS). The previous high came in 2018 and 2019, when there were 17 fatalities each.
The state data doesn’t appear to include the teen who died last Wednesday (Nov. 16) after being hit while crossing Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.
The teen was among the almost two dozen people represented at Oakton High School on Sunday (Nov. 20) by electronic candles and empty chairs covered by shroud-like white sheets. A Fairfax Families for Safe Streets (Fairfax FSS) volunteer read their names in a hushed cafeteria for the community group’s World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims ceremony.
“We have experienced many more tragedies than we are able to name individually today,” Fairfax FSS volunteer and board member Chris French said, noting that the list didn’t include 18 non-pedestrians killed on county roads or people who survived crashes but still suffered physically, financially and emotionally.
One life lost is too many. All of us need to work together to make sure our streets are safe and I am grateful for the continued collaboration with our community in keeping this a priority.@JeffreyCMcKay @fcpsnews @FairfaxCountyPD @ffxconnector @VaDOTNOVA @OaktonHS
— Dalia Palchik (@SupvPalchik) November 20, 2022
Started by European nonprofits in 1995, World Day of Remembrance is commemorated on the third Sunday of every November as an occasion to mourn those lost and a call to take action to prevent future losses. FFS also had events in Alexandria and Arlington.
Fairfax FSS urged local and state officials to make safety improvements throughout the area, especially in corridors known to be dangerous to pedestrians like Columbia Pike and Blake Lane — where two Oakton High School students were killed and a third was seriously injured in June.
- Installing automated speed enforcement at all schools
- Deploying proven safety measures around schools and activity centers, such as rapid flashing beacons, HAWK or pedestrian hybrid beacons, and lighting at unsignalized crossings
- Implementing a dedicated safe routes infrastructure plan for all Fairfax County schools
- Implementing speed management solutions on all high injury and multilane arterials, for example, speed feedback signs, road diets
- Improvements to pedestrian signals and timing for pedestrians to cross high traffic streets safely
- Installing crosswalks and accessible ramps to all approaches at signalized crossings
Speed cameras likely coming
Fairfax County is moving to make that first demand at least a reality. Spurred in part by the fatal Oakton crash, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a speed camera pilot program after a public hearing on Dec. 6. Read More
The Fairfax County School Board reaffirmed its support for transgender students last week as community members spoke out against policies proposed by the state that would limit their rights.
At a meeting on Thursday (Oct. 6), members issued a statement reiterating Fairfax County Public School’s commitment to policies that “will continue supporting our transgender and gender-expansive students, staff, and families”:
The Fairfax County School Board understands that our LGBTQIA+ students, staff, and families are worried about the impact of Governor Youngkin’s proposed model policies for transgender and gender-expansive students. Nearly one in five transgender and non-binary youth attempted suicide in the last year. LGBTQIA+ youth who found their school to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. It is necessary to ensure our school community is a place where all students can live without fear of prejudice, discrimination, harassment, or violence.
The statement followed walkouts in late September by thousands of students who opposed the draft policies from Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Virginia Department of Education. Prior to the school board meeting, the LGBTQ staff advocacy group FCPS Pride led a protest in front of Luther Jackson Middle School.
Released on Sept. 16 and open for public comment through Oct. 26, the state’s draft policies direct schools to treat transgender and gender-expansive students according to their sex assigned at birth unless they present legal documentation of a change to their name or sex.
Even if a student changes their official school records, the policies say they must still use facilities based on their sex assigned at birth and prohibit schools from disciplining staff or students who misgender or deadname a student, citing free speech protections.
In its statement, the school board says FCPS will continue to adhere to its existing policy and regulation, which prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and promise acceptance of “a student or parent’s assertion of a student’s gender-expansive or transgender status.”
The policies allow students to use “a locker room or restroom consistent with the student’s gender identity,” which run opposed to the state’s new proposed policies.
When asked for a response to the school board’s statement, Youngkin’s office told FFXnow that the guidelines are not for the local school system to decide.
“Children belong to families not bureaucrats and school board members,” Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter wrote in an email. “Virginians spoke clearly last year and they continue to say that parents matter. Parents deserve to be involved in all critical discussions about their children. School boards should bring them into the conversation, not cut them out of it.”
Noting that most school districts in Virginia never adopted model policies under former governor Ralph Northam, Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told FFXnow last month that he believes the county would be on “safe legal ground” if FCPS sticks with its own policies. Read More
Fairfax County Public Schools has made several bus stop changes in the Oakton area after conducting a safety review of the Blake Lane corridor.
Announced today (Friday), the school system has moved 22 stops away from Blake Lane in response to safety concerns after a driver hit three Oakton High School students at the Five Oaks Road intersection on June 7 — one of the last days of the 2021-2022 school year.
Two of the students died, while the third was hospitalized with significant injuries.
The changes will be in effect when the 2022-2023 school year launches on Monday (Aug. 22).
“Our community cares deeply about student safety, and we are grateful for their continued advocacy for increased precautions along the Blake Lane corridor,” said Karl Frisch, who represents Providence District on the Fairfax County School Board. “Moving these bus stops will enhance student safety while local and state partners continue working together to mitigate speeding and other traffic concerns in the area.”
Frisch says the stops have been relocated so that no students will have to wait on Blake Lane, but six stops will still be on the roadway, where side streets lack the capacity for the bus to turn around:
In the past, these students have waited on Blake Lane until the bus stops 50 feet from the intersection. Beginning the first day of school, August 22, students will assemble and wait for the bus on the side street and at least 50 feet away from Blake Lane, not on Blake Lane itself. When the bus arrives, the driver will ensure all traffic is stopped and motion the students to approach the stopped bus to board. In addition, the Office of Safety and Security (OSS) will recommend the installation of marked crosswalks on the intersecting side streets of Blake Lane as part of a VDOT safety review.
Fairfax resident Usman Shahid, the alleged driver in the June crash, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter. A new graduate of Oakton High School, he was driving 81 mph in the 35 mph zone when he hit the students, who were on a sidewalk, police said.
With residents pointing out longstanding safety issues on Blake Lane, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this month to expand the area where drivers face an additional $200 fine for speeding. The county is also looking at acquiring more “Know Your Speed” devices and introducing speed cameras near schools.
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik plans to assemble a Blake Lane Safety Community Advisory Group, Frisch says.
A list of the bus stop changes for this year can be found below. Read More
Fairfax County Public Schools intends to prohibit guns from all properties that it owns or leases amid heightened concerns about the safety of students, staff, and elected officials.
The Fairfax County School Board agreed unanimously at a work session yesterday (Tuesday) to direct Superintendent Scott Brabrand and his staff to develop a draft policy for its governance committee to consider at its March 1 meeting.
Firearms are already banned from public and private school grounds in Virginia, but this policy would take advantage of a measure approved by the General Assembly in 2021 giving local school boards the authority to also designate administrative buildings as “gun-free zones.”
Laura Jane Cohen, who represents Springfield District on the school board, proposed adopting the ban with Providence District Representative Karl Frisch, saying at the work session that she believes it should “happen sooner rather than later” in light of “some of the threats many of us have gotten.”
“We’ve seen a huge uptick in the last year and a half of people who are targeting elected officials and threatening violence,” Cohen told FFXnow. “So, that’s certainly part of the impetus, to make sure that people are not allowed to bring firearms into the places where we’re having our meetings.”
While narrow in scope, the potential ban would include the Gatehouse Administration Center, which houses FCPS central offices and other facilities used by the school board and division staff.
Public school officials across the country have reported encountering increased hostility over the past couple of years, as topics like pandemic-related health protocols and critical race theory have become hot-button political issues.
The Justice Department moved in October to create a task force focused on threats of violence against school boards and administrators.
Cohen is one of five Fairfax County School Board members targeted for recall over the decision to close schools for much of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she doesn’t believe the threats she’s received are related to that campaign.
“It seems to really span the gamut…CRT or masks or…any number of things, just the fact that there are Democrats on the board,” Cohen said, noting that she often sees an uptick in harassment whenever she expresses support for the LGBTQ community or discusses gun violence prevention.
She says the threats have come over email, social media, voicemail, and even by letter. Most of them get sent to the FCPS Safety and Security Office, though a few have risen to the level of getting reported to the police.
“I wouldn’t say I’m by any means the only board member targeted, but it’s definitely made a real impact in my life and my family’s lives for sure,” she said.
The proposed gun prohibition is similar to an ordinance that Fairfax County adopted in 2020 after the General Assembly granted local governments the option to ban the possession of firearms on their public properties.
In accordance with state law, the policy will have exceptions for current and “qualified” retired law enforcement officers.
The school board also directed Brabrand and his staff to evaluate FCPS’ curriculum, safety protocols, and professional development practices related to gun violence and suicide prevention, building off of an effort to notify families about Virginia’s secure firearm storage laws.
Board members said a review is needed to ensure the school system’s security threat assessments, staff training on procedures for reporting concerns, and other policies are updated and effective in the wake of surging gun violence in schools, citing the Nov. 30 school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan as a relevant example.
“It’s always been an issue, but it is frankly coming back to the top of the list of concerns in our community,” Brabrand said. “What can we do beyond what we’ve done in the years past to be more proactive in getting the awareness out to families and students?”