The Fairfax County School Board’s May 7 meeting drew a passionate and boisterous crowd that filled the Luther Jackson Middle School auditorium and spilled out into the main lobby. That night the board voted in favor of adding “gender identity” to its nondiscrimination policy for students, employees and applicants for employment.
On June 25, the board may face a similar scene. It’s scheduled to vote on proposed updates from the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee, including adding the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation, beginning in seventh grade Family Life Education, classes out of which parents may opt their students.
Other advertised changes include moving a portion of the curriculum from Family Life Education to students’ health courses. This would be done to comply the Virginia Board of Education’s recently revised health standards of learning for kindergarten through tenth grade.
According to Fairfax County Public Schools, the topics that would no longer be part of Family Life Education (and therefore no-longer opt-out) are:
Personal development (emotions/feelings, self-image, self-concept, personal characteristics, skills to work and play successfully in a community)
Healthy relationships (includes conflict resolution skills)
Respecting individual differences (disabilities, ethnicities, cultures)
Mental health areas such as depression and suicide
The recommendations came up as new business at the school board’s May 21 meeting. At the June 11 meeting, eight out of the 10 citizen speakers and one additional speaker on a prepared video addressed the recommendations. Each of those speakers opposed the proposed changes.
“How one identifies should not take the place of science and truth,” said citizen Steven Mosley, who introduced himself as a “black, ordained, evangelical reverend” who works in higher education. “Here’s the truth we need to hang on to: Man cannot determine his gender just like I can’t determine my race. Both these things are gifts from God and affirmed by science.”
Citizen Mary Beth Style said, “Fairfax County Public Schools have no expertise to teach lessons on the development of transgender identity.
“This religious belief that the soul is separate from the body and that man creates his own reality is not supported by science,” Style continued. “There is no agreement in the therapeutic world and certainly no agreement in society or even among the theorists who are fighting among themselves. Yet you are teaching it anyway. That is arrogant.”
Community review of the board action will continue until Friday, June 19, through the website www.fcps.edu/is/hpe/fle.shtml. The page contains frequently asked questions and answers from Fairfax County Public Schools, as well as contact information for Elizabeth Payne, health and physical education coordinator for the school system. Email comments can be sent to FLEcomments@fcps.edu.
Citizens may also request to speak at the upcoming meeting by either registering online at www.fcps.edu/schlbd/meetings/requestspeak.shtml or calling the School Board office at 571-423-1075 during normal business hours, beginning three days prior to the meeting. Ten spots are available and are filled on a first-come basis.
THE SCHOOL BOARD also recognized its outgoing, 44th student representative Harris LaTeef, a senior at Langley High School.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Garza followed the individual board members and summed up their effusive compliments of LaTeef’s work.
“You’re one of the most impressive young men I’ve ever been around: intelligent, articulate, calm under pressure and wise beyond your years,” Garza said. “Being the student voice on the board, you always added significant value to our work and reminded us why we’re doing this.”
In his remarks, LaTeef thanked the board for teaching him about “politics, education, human nature and the true meaning of serving one’s community.”
He also offered the public some commentary from his perspective. “Though they may seem divided at times,” he said, “each has the same goal, to make Fairfax County Public Schools a great school system to send your kids to each and every morning.”
LaTeef’s final thoughts were directed back at the School Board members: “Keep fighting the good fight,” he said. “Don’t let petty politics or gamesmanship distract you from why you are here, and that is to focus on the future.”
After graduating, LaTeef plans to attend the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.