(UPDATE 6:36 pm: I hear that School Board members still haven’t figured out what they’re doing to do tomorrow. I also hear that there’s some confusion/consternation over which specific items should be included in the FLE (which parents can opt their kids out of) and which specific items are in health education mandated by the state (which can’t be opted out of). – promoted by lowkell)
If you live in Fairfax County and somehow missed the heated debate on May 7 over transgender rights in the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) system, it was basically a couple hours of bigotry, rage, vitriol, disrespect, ignorance and lunacy by a howling mob of parents opposed to…god knows. But if you listen to them, allowing a few kids to pee in the relevant bathroom apparently constitutes The End Of All That Is Good and Sacred/America As We Know It.
Fortunately, the School Board did not back down to the bullies, but instead voted overwhelmingly (all Democrats in favor) to protect FCPS teachers and udents and teachers from being discriminated against on the basis of their gender identity. The only “no” vote was, predictably, by rabid right-winger Elizabeth Schultz, and the only abstention by Republican Patricia Reed. So…issue settled, right? Well, no. Actually, this Thursday, another FCPS Board meeting is scheduled, at which the Board will debate and vote on “Family Life Education Annual Curriculum Recommendations and Lesson Objectives.” Sounds innocuous enough – you can read an FLE fact sheet here – but of course it probably won’t be, sad to say. Instead, it’s likely that the meeting will be packed yet again with the same folks who disrupted and disrespected the May 7 meeting. So it’s not surprise that Board members (other than Schultz) might not exactly be looking forward to this.
In addition, I’ve heard concerns expressed the past couple months that this if this issue riles up right wingers into the fall, they could turn out in droves and possibly defeat Democratic School Board members and even Democratic County Board members/candidates (e.g., Dan Storck, who as a School Board member voted yes on transgender protections at the May 7 meeting). So it’s not surprise, in a way, that School Board member Ted Velkoff, a Democrat, would be thinking about trying to kick this proverbial can down the road until after November’s elections. The problem is – aside from the policy failure this would represent – such a strategy won’t work even on purely political grounds. Why not? Because, very simply, it won’t assuage anger on the right. Instead, it’s far more likely those folks will – like sharks – smell blood in the water, become even more frenzied, and head in for the kill. I ran this past a few Fairfax County Dems, and their reaction was unanimous agreement with that analysis.
Bottom line: Ted Velkoff and other Democrats have reason to be concerned about right wingers turning out in droves this November, but the answer isn’t to show weakness. Instead, it’s to proceed with doing the right thing, and in persuading Democrats to turn out in droves as well this November to counter the feared right-wing surge. As Joshua Israel, who presented powerful testimony at the May 7 meeting in support of transgender protections, wrote on Ben Tribbett’s Facebook wall: “After months of study by the FLE committee and plenty of time public comment, I hope you will not delay lifesaving information for LGBT and questioning kids based on a small and loud minority of our community.” I couldn’t agree more.