Home GLBT Fairfax County School Board Dems About to Make Huge Mistake?

Fairfax County School Board Dems About to Make Huge Mistake?

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(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.

  • sonofkenny

    Is that once the rabid have vented their spleen they don’t really have the wherewithal to follow on and really organize an effective opposition.

    I agree, push forward…once they have yelled and screamed and whined they will retreat back into their holes. I really don’t think this will make the rabid right more rabid than it is at election time, unless you prolong the issue by trying to push it back.

  • GBrandon

    Dear Democratic School Board Members:

    Please follow through on your noble FLE vote tonight. Do not kick this thing down the road. With recent events surrounding the Mother Emanuel Massacre and that remnant from the South’s loss during the Civil War (which I will not name), I believe intolerance is on the run. Indeed, I believe that acceptance is well-rooted in Fairfax County.

    Yes, there is a vocal minority of intolerance who were ugly — to their detriment, I believe — at the meeting last month. Yes, Janie has two opponents who are firmly in Camp Intolerance (and will be rejected by Dranesville voters). But to play politics with LGBT rights is not right.

    Kicking the vote down the road at this point will do nothing to assuage the intolerant. This is hardly like the full day kindergarten issue from four years ago.

    Or, is it? I’ll go back to South Carolina for evidence that I think you should more fully embrace the FLE changes as an election issue this year. Intolerant voters are on their heels and lashing out, but to little effect. Even some of their favorite politicians are becoming more accepting, at least when it comes to removing symbols of slavery and bigotry. If anything, now is the time to keep the pressure up.

    Do the right thing. See you tonight.

    Greg Brandon

    For the record, it was Republican SBM Patty Reed who . . .

    move[d] to postpone Board action on the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee recommended lesson objectives to no later than July 23, 2015, in order to optimize transparency and informed Board decision-making.

    (See http://www.boarddocs.com/vsba/

    I hope Michael Tomasky, writing in The Daily Beast yesterday, is correct in his prediction that . . .

    [removing the Confederate battle flag from South Carolina’s capitol grounds] is . . . a big deal. It could usher in a second era of conquest over Southern political hegemony. If that happens, those other fights will be easier to win, eventually, too.

    (See “The South Shall Not Rise Again,” The Daily Beast, June 24, 2015; http://www.thedailybeast.com/a

    Those reactionary conservatives who are ethnically, racially or gender intolerant, are fighting a rearguard action. They may sound vicious but their arguments are spent. It is time for Democrats to press our advantage by proudly campaigning on our moral beliefs that go beyond mere tolerance to acceptance and, better yet, understanding.