In Response to the Fairfax County School Board

In Response to the Fairfax County School Board

By Free & Antiracist Minds

We witnessed a craven display of systemic racism at the Fairfax County School Board meeting on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. The majority of the board did not vote for a resolution in support of antiracist and truthful teaching, and as a result, turned their backs on the many educators who practice these critical academic components each day. 

The resolution was supported by: Fairfax Education Association, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Fairfax County Council of PTAs, Fairfax County Special Education PTA, FCPS Pride, Fairfax County NAACP, and 4 Public Education, among others. 

Instead of championing the clear will of the community, two board members proposed and ultimately passed a last-minute, deeply weakened substitute resolution late on the day of their meeting, which removed any real substance from the statement. Despite two months of outreach, multiple conversations with administration and school board members, and the support of a broad coalition of employee and community organizations, they chose a last-minute bait and switch. The substitute motion removed large sections of critical language from the original, deleting references to: 

* Supporting “curricular resources to meet our students’ needs and the high expectations of our community around our historic truths, representative literature, critical thinking, and social justice” 

* Acknowledging “recent events have caused many FCPS educators and school-based administrators to fear that implementing these necessary curricular improvements might lead to personal or professional harm” 

* Supporting “antiracist, equity- and justice- based classroom resources and pedagogy that meet the high aspirations of each and every one of our students and of the Fairfax County community.” 

The student representative, Michele Togbe, said it best: the amended resolution was "weak and hollow," while the original language "was strong and clear." 

That testimony from the student representative, a young Black woman, did not move the majority. The testimony of their two Black colleagues on the board did not move the majority. Weeks of advocacy from across the community did not move the majority. When the chair called for a picture with community members to "celebrate" the hollowed-out substitute, no one from the audience moved to join them. 

On the eve of their election year, the Fairfax County School Board majority stood alone. They chose weakness and isolation from the most important employee and community groups in Fairfax County. They chose to kowtow to a minority right-wing pushback to

potential progressive movement forward. All so that they could avoid speaking some truth about historic and systemic racism; nevermind that students, teachers, parents and community members have those tough conversations every day. Being antiracist means consistently giving voice to injustice and inequities in voice and in deed and not just when it’s convenient. 

FAM’s work continues, with eyes wide open. We cannot look to this school board for leadership, even when the community clearly calls for it. We are pushing ahead on our calls for change. 

FAM applauds the three board members who remained steadfast and supported this community's values last night by rejecting the amended resolution: Dr. Ricardy Anderson, Karen Keys Gamarra, and Melanie Meren. FAM also thanks the organizations listed above, who helped advocate for the original resolution and opposed the unacceptable substitute. 

We are saddened by last night’s outcome, but more convinced of the great need to fight for a school system that truly respects the rich diversity of our community and the values we hold dear. 

Free & Antiracist Minds is a student, parent, teacher, and community led organization with the mission to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline using antiracist, abolitionist, and community-driven approaches to promote transformative public schools.