Fairfax County Public Schools is proposing some notable updates to its student policies.
At last week’s school board meeting, school officials laid out a number of proposed revisions to its Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, including how cases of bullying are handled, what’s interpreted as appropriate clothing, and the potential for increased punishment for substance misuse.
The presentation from FCPS Assistant Auperintendent Michelle Boyd was relatively brief due a planned school board work session next week (May 23), which will likely be spent discussing the proposed dress codes updates, Providence District School Board Representative Karl Frisch noted.
Essentially, FCPS is looking to update verbiage around the dress code, which was last reviewed in 2016. The update will not include a ban on pajamas that was initially proposed earlier this year but has since been reconsidered.
Proposed language includes the dress code supporting “equitable educational access” while not reinforcing stereotypes or increasing marginalization:
FCPS’ student dress code supports equitable educational access and is written in a manner that does not reinforce stereotypes or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, color, national origin, caste, religion, sex, pregnancy, childbirth, medical condition, household income, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, disability, age, or genetic information.
It also clarifies that the same rules apply “regardless of the student’s age or gender” while providing examples of what isn’t allowed, including clothing that depicts or promotes use of weapons, alcohol, tobacco, or drugs.
Any violation and enforcement of the dress code will continue to be addressed in a “discreet” manner, showing respect to the student, and “minimizes loss of instructional time.”
“Violations of the dress code should generally be treated as minor infractions unless they are repeated or egregious in nature (e.g., streaking, hate speech),” the current code says.
However, this can leave much open to interpretation for school staff and administration. Several school board members noted that some language could be included to ensure a more standardized interpertation across the school system.
“I know we are trying to thread a needle here between what kids recognize as appropriate dress and not,” Springfield District School Board member Laura Jane Cohen said.
Also being proposed is a shift in what happens when there are alleged acts of bullying. The school system is now seeking to require that a principal or staff member notify a parent or guardian of every student involved in an alleged act of bullying within 24 hours of learning about the incident.
The update would also better define that bullying involves a “power imbalance” and what that could look like.
“Examples of a power imbalance include, but are not limited to, greater physical strength or size, access to embarrassing information, or greater popularity or social connectedness,” reads the updated definition.
Also proposed are updated definitions of harassment, hate speech, and hazing, along with potentially more severe punishments. For example, hazing could become a Level 5 infraction, which is the most severe and could result in law enforcement getting involved.
In addition, students with a first-time hate speech infraction would be required to participate in “culturally responsive intervention.”
FCPS is also tweaking its handling of substance misuse in response to recent incidents. While incidents involving alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants customarily result in a two-day suspension, the school principal can decide to levy even more disciplinary action if the conduct has “substantially disrupted the instructional program [or] endangered the well-being of others.”
This could mean a referral to the superintendent and a suspension of up to 10 days. There are number of other changes being asked for, including rewordings and clarity in terms of verbiage, but as Boyd said, those are “relatively minor in nature.”
After next week’s work session, a revised draft is set to be presented to the school board at the end of the month. The school board is expected to vote and adopt the updated students’ rights and responsibilities by the end of June.
Fairfax County Public Schools will require all workers to undergo “regular” background checks after a now-terminated counselor remained employed at Lincolnia’s Glasgow Middle School despite being convicted of a sex crime.
The new policy is one of several changes announced yesterday (Tuesday) by FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid in response to an independent investigation into why the school system continued to employ Darren Thornton after he was convicted on March 11 of soliciting prostitution from a minor in Chesterfield County.
Conducted by outside legal counsel, the investigation found that Chesterfield officials didn’t notify FCPS of Thornton’s arrest on Nov. 19 or about his subsequent conviction, according to a summary of the report.
The Chesterfield Police Department has said that its emails to FCPS bounced back as undeliverable after ending up in a spam folder.
Once informed about the conviction, the Fairfax County School Board “acted without delay,” FCPS says. Reid told the community on Aug. 18 that she and the board had ordered an outside, independent investigation into what happened.
The investigation found systematic human resources issues related to hiring, licensure, leave, dismissal, and resignations, according to FCPS. Among the issues are a pattern of suspending employees without pay after felony convictions, rather than “consistently and promptly dismissing” them.
“These have been exacerbated by factors such as significant leadership churn,” FCPS wrote in the summary. “As we plan to work with identifying and implementing strong systems of accountability, it will be important that we implement these actions with fidelity and have frequent accountability checks.”
Reid said in her message to families that she has “begun to take appropriate disciplinary actions” but didn’t detail which personnel are being disciplined or how.
Reid shared results of the investigation with Glasgow parents at a community meeting yesterday, but said that the full report won’t be made public “because parts of it are protected by attorney-client privilege,” WTOP reported.
In addition to requiring regular background checks of current employees, Reid said FCPS will add more steps to the hiring process, including reference checks with former employers and more timely verifications of their licensure status. It will also seek to dismiss and get licenses revoked for any employees convicted of “barrier crimes.”
The school system is also looking at joining the FBI’s Rap Back program, which notifies employers if a worker’s fingerprints are entered into its database in connection with criminal activity. However, FCPS says it won’t be able to enroll in the program until it’s made available in Virginia.
Reid says FCPS is working with state lawmakers and federal, state and local law enforcement “to ensure timely and robust information sharing and notice regarding employee arrests and convictions.” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer sent a letter to the county’s General Assembly delegation in August proposing a centralized, statewide notification system. Read More
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Body, Possibly of Missing Man, Found in Newington — “Fairfax County Police say they found a body inside a car thought to belong to a man missing since May. According to officials, 53-year-old Juan Ward from Woodbridge, Virginia, was last seen on May 24…Police said Ward disappeared under unusual circumstances.” [WUSA9]
Dulles Airport Lands Funding for New Concourse — “Dulles International Airport will receive $49.6 million to help fund a new regional airline concourse, among 85 airports receiving part of a nearly $1 billion grant stemming from last year’s infrastructure bill approved by Congress…The funding puts Dulles one step closer to construction of a new Concourse A, which serves United Airlines’ regional flights.” [WTOP]
Supervisors Approve Extra Taxi Surcharge — “As fuel prices remain high, the Fairfax Board of Supervisors in late June approved a temporary uncodified ordinance that provides an emergency $2-per-trip taxicab fuel surcharge through Dec. 29.” [Inside NoVA]
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Superintendent Michelle Reid Makes Introduction — “After several months of preparation and a six-day, cross-country drive, I wanted to reach out and share again how excited I am to be here in Fairfax County and to be part of the Fairfax County Public Schools family!” [FCPS]
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Frying Pan Fair Returns — Fairfax County’s 4-H Fair and Carnival will be back at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon on Aug. 7. The event will feature carnival rides, games, food trucks, a Big Truck Night and farm demonstrations. A list of food vendors and other details will be released in the coming weeks. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
It’s Friday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:52 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]
Springfield Motorcyclist Dies After Burke Crash — Becoming the sixth non-pedestrian killed in a vehicle crash this year, Nema Mirsaeedi, 31, of Springfield died yesterday after being thrown from his motorcycle in a crash with a car attempting to turn into a shopping center on Burke Center Parkway. The crash occurred at 6:39 p.m. on Sunday (July 3) and remains under investigation. [FCPD]
County Responds to Supreme Court Security Request — “Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley originally penned the letter, asking that state and local law enforce their respective picketing laws near the homes of Supreme Court justices…Fairfax County officials say they already received the letter and that their stance remained unchanged.” [WTOP]
FCPS Officially Has New Superintendent — “Michelle Reid, Ed.D. was sworn in as the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools on Thursday, June 30, at Luther Jackson Middle School. Her term begins Friday, July 1. ‘It’s important for me to remember that learning happens best in community, and this is an amazing community,’ said Dr. Reid.” [FCPS]
Hiker Injured Falling Off Great Falls Ledge — “On Saturday, at 2:31 p.m., units were dispatched to 9200 Old Dominion Drive for an injured hiker. Hiker fell 40 feet down a steep rocky ledge. Crews fully immobilized and carried person out via stokes basket to Fairfax County Police Department helicopter. Transported with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.” [FCFRD/Facebook]
Fairfax History Commission Seeks More Resources — “Commission Chairman Cheryl Repetti, who delivered the group’s annual report to the Board of Supervisors June 28, asked supervisors to finance a full-time staff member and allot extra county staff hours to help fulfill the board’s requests of the commission.” [Sun Gazette]
South Lakes HS Stadium Closed — “Hey Seahawks…Our stadium is CLOSED while we make some improvements to it. The turf is being replaced & the bleachers are getting a minor upgrade. Should take a month. Thanks for your patience.” [South Lakes Athletics & Activities/Twitter]
Longtime McLean Postal Workers Retire — “[Scott] Arnold and his best friend in the Postal Service, Rob Receveur, both had served McLean for years, and this past week, both were celebrated as they hung up their mailbags…It’s hard to quantify Arnold’s legacy, but you can sense his effect by how the neighborhood’s residents have shifted their lives to remain close to him.” [The Washington Post]
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Virginia Shares Data on Firearm Injuries — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) launched a new data dashboard on firearm injuries in Virginia showing the number and rate of emergency department (ED) visits from 2016 to 2022. The dashboard shows firearm injury data by year, health district, age group, sex, and race/ethnicity across Virginia.” [VDH]
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FCPS Expands FOIA Staffing and Budget — “Fairfax County Public School added half a million dollars in this year’s budget to keep up with public records requests, which have more than tripled since 2016 and gotten broader in scope. The increase comes as the school system finds itself the subject of political vitriol over COVID precautions and racial equity programs, among other issues.” [DCist]
Vermont Senator Falls at McLean Home — “U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont was set to undergo surgery Thursday after he broke his hip in a fall at his home, according to his spokesman. The 82-year-old Democrat fell Wednesday night in McLean, Virginia, a statement Thursday morning said.” [Associated Press]
Dr. Scott Brabrand on Tenure as FCPS Superintendent — “Brabrand, who was hired as superintendent in 2017, concludes his five-year stint Thursday, when Michelle Reid is scheduled to take the oath of office and serve as his successor…His tenure, which aimed at improving diversity among school staff and working to improve student outcomes, was interrupted by a pandemic that Brabrand called — next to school integration — the biggest event to impact public education in its history.” [WTOP]
DOJ Sues to Stop Merger of Tysons and Reston Companies — “The Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit to block Booz Allen Hamilton Inc.’s proposed acquisition of EverWatch Corp., a Reston cybersecurity contractor…alleging the deal would drive up prices for the government and stifle competition for some work with the National Security Agency.” [Washington Business Journal]
Expansion of Metrobus Student Program Approved — “Students from Annandale High School, Falls Church High School, Marshall High School and the Davis Center will join students at Justice High School in participating in the free student bus pass program using Metrobus. These expanded options for Metrobus will be available for the 2022-2023 school year.” [Patch]
Mantua House Fire Started by Car Engine — Firefighters extinguished a fire that started in the garage of a two-story house in the 3200 block of Barbara Lane on Tuesday (June 28). Started accidentally in a vehicle engine compartment, the fire displaced two residents and caused approximately $182,500 in damages, including the loss of the vehicle. [FCFRD]
County Offers to Help Residents Keep Cool — “Do you need help avoiding the heat this summer? Cooling Assistance is a program designed to help keep vulnerable Fairfax County residents cool during the summer months Applications are now being accepted through August 15.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]
It’s Friday — Humid and partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 88 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]
“Beltway Accord” Still a Mystery — More than two years after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and then-Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to rebuild the American Legion Bridge, an actual, documented agreement remains elusive. Conflict over Maryland’s Capital Beltway toll lanes project has been a source of anxiety in McLean, where officials broke ground on the I-495 widening last month. [Maryland Matters]
Advocacy Groups Meet Incoming FCPS Superintendent — “On Friday, April 15, representatives of several advocacy groups met with Dr. [Michelle] Reid, as well as Fairfax County School Board Chair Stella Pekarsky and Vice Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer, to discuss their concerns about the superintendent selection process.” [FCPS]
Registration Opens for Kids’ Summer Program — “The Fairfax County Park Authority is accepting registrations for Rec-PAC this summer at 30 elementary school locations across Fairfax County. Rec-PAC is an affordable, structured, six-week summer program for children in grades one through six featuring a different theme each week.” [FCPA]
New Concourse Planned at Dulles Airport — “A new 14-gate concourse at Dulles International Airport could open as soon as 2026 under plans outlined Wednesday…The $674.7 million project…would be the most significant upgrade to the airport in more than a decade. The planned 400,000-square-foot building would replace the single-story structure that handles regional and commuter flights at Dulles.” [The Washington Post]
Reston Station Adds Wealth Management Firm — Comstock announced on Tuesday (April 19) that the office and private investment firm Cresset Manager has signed a lease agreement for 11,500 square feet on the ninth floor of 1900 Reston Metro Plaza. The company is expected to relocate its D.C. area office, currently in Reston Town Center, to the new space in the third quarter of 2022. [Comstock]
Annandale Baseball Diamonds Renamed — “On Saturday, April 16, 2022, the Fairfax County Park Authority joined the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the Annandale-North Springfield Little League (ANSLL) to rename the Pine Ridge Park baseball facilities to the Kehrer Baseball Complex…The change was made to honor two longtime ANSLL volunteers Darryl and Dawn Kehrer.” [FCPA]
Design Update Coming on Richmond Highway Bus Service — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will host three in-person meetings this spring on Richmond Highway BRT. The first one is scheduled for April 28 at Bryant High School and will provide updates on the design and intersection improvements at North Kings Highway and Shields Avenue. [FCDOT]
It’s Thursday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 66 and low of 44. Sunrise at 6:25 am and sunset at 7:53 pm. [Weather.gov]