The Fairfax County School Board should partner with parents and citizens, not ignore them! A strong Auditor General would help build and sustain a partnership built on transparency, data, and sound analysis.
At the Fairfax County School Board meeting on March 9, concerned parents and citizens once again appealed to the Board to re-evaluate the gender identity practices and Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).
In the latest chapter of dissent expressed over the past many months, the public voiced criticisms of such school policies and practices in the context of the Board’s consideration of a new policy for an FCPS Auditor General. Many speakers during the Citizen Participation part of the meeting emphasized the draft Auditor General (AG) policy focuses too narrowly on potential financial wrongdoing, restricting the AG from investigations into fraud, waste, and abuse; procurement malpractices; and ethical misconduct.
Limited by this narrow focus, the AG would not be able to examine FCPS’s gender identity policies and practices and its FLE curriculum, which “concerned parents and citizens” of Fairfax County have increasingly opposed, especially since the School Board made significant changes to them in the spring of 2015.
Here are some of the relevant points on this subject raised by citizens at the meeting:
1. Alan Telecki (At 14:26 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). Some School Board members seem to be actively seeking to censor the opinions expressed by concerned parents. Based on a review by a consortium of local professionals, the proposed AG charter:
- Removes investigative authority from the Office of the Auditor General, including the authority to investigate fraud, waste, and abuse that is authorized by the Virginia code for the duties of local government auditors.
- Does not include standards for investigative services
- Does not authorize the AG to seek outside legal counsel when an issue arises involving internal counsel.
- Allows the audit committee to bypass approval of its activities by the full School Board.
Mr. Talecki recommended the School Board reject the proposed Auditor General charter until such time as it fully empowers the AG to act on behalf of parents.
2. Thorium Hussein (sp?) (At 18:35 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). The Auditor General charter should allow the evaluation of School Board Policy 1450.6, which includes gender identity as a group to be protected against discrimination. The policy does not duly consider the beliefs of Muslim students. She is not comfortable about her daughter using a bathroom with a transgender student. Such a practice discriminates against Muslim children. Additionally, Muslim children at young ages should not be learning about homosexuality, which is against their religion.
3. Merehan Elhadi (At 20:40 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). As a medical practitioner in Fairfax County and Outreach Director for the Muslim American Society, Ms. Elhadi wants the Auditor General charter to enable monitoring of discrimination and “hate crimes” against Muslim students. Discrimination against Muslims and “Islamophobia” is “ridiculous.” The Auditor General should be able to audit the practices implemented on the basis of School Board Policy 1450.
4. Eileen Spotts (At 23:28 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). Ms. Spotts is a community organizer for Asian Americans, an educator, and a small business owner in Reston. She argued some of the $25 million that FCPS spent on substitutes could more appropriately be used to fund dedicated counselors for a growing number of children needing such services in Herndon. She criticized the “cultural proficiency” professional development program covering gender diversity that young teachers must attend. Most of them have “big hearts” and don’t fully understand the nuances of intolerance associated with such training. Because of School Board Policy 1450 she had to transfer her son to a private school, all the while she is paying high property taxes to fund FCPS. She argued for no taxation without representation of all ideologies and for repeal of Policy 1450.
5. Stamatios Stamoulas (At 27:24 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). Everyone has civil rights, but observation of the rights of transgenders must not occur in such a way that it infringes on the civil rights of other persons. He has received reports of some students not using bathrooms in schools because transgenders are using them. School practices must appreciate the liberties of transgenders while simultaneously respecting the rights of the majority of students. The rights of all students must be protected.
Sex education, including exposure to transgender rights, is taking place at too young an age in FCPS with insufficient opt-out provisions. FCPS must respect the rights of parents in educating students. Most classes in college are optional, but that is not the case in high school social science classes where controversial sex subjects are discussed. Young people are often struggling with their identity, and such discussions can be detrimental to their development.
6. Bethany Kousma (At 31:16 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). Ms. Kousma posted her complete criticism of the School Board’s lack of respect for parents and unwillingness to listen to them here.
a group of Fairfax County mothers and fathers whose backgrounds include education, health care, and biology and whose children attend or graduated from Fairfax County Public Schools. We believe parents need to know what is being taught in FLE lessons and decide for themselves whether those lessons are appropriate for their children. Busy parents ourselves, we want to help other busy parents by identifying which lessons should be looked at most closely.
He argued all FCPS programs should be subject to audit, including FLE. He pointed half of the students in some FLE classes opt out of them because of “offensive, unhealthy, emotionally harmful, politically charged lesson materials.” Students are sitting in the library to avoid classes that are “offensive to religious faiths that have endured for a millennia,” classes that even medical authorities say are risky and unhealthy.
One does not even need an auditor to know that such classes are a waste of money. An Auditor General would be able to find classes with the highest opt-out rates and report them to the Board of Supervisors, taxpayers, parents, and the School Board. Money spent on these classes could be used more productively on school programs and teacher salaries. An Auditor General could find such classes and therefore should audit the FLE curriculum.
8. Andrea Delvecchio (At 40:09 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). Ms. Delvecchio focused on the Lesson on Pregnancy offered to 10th graders. The curriculum is well-written but could be developed further. It presents three options for an unplanned pregnancy: parenting the child, putting the child up for adoption, or aborting the child.
But the lesson does not convey to students that studies show 64% of women who have abortions are coerced, forced, or otherwise bullied to select that option And while the teacher in the FLE class goes over the physical and psychological risks of abortion, he/she does not cover other risks, such as increased infertility and high drug and alcohol usage by mothers who select abortion, likely to assuage their guilt feelings. The class should expand its list of risks faced by a girl choosing the abortion option.
The curriculum should include a description of the eight pregnancy support centers in Fairfax County and two more in Manassas, which can provide pregnant women with options better than abortion.
9. Robert Rigby (At 37:14 mark on the YouTube video of the meeting). Mr. Rigby is the President of FCPS Pride, an LGBT organization involving school staff and parents, was the one speaker whose remarks focused solely on concerns about LGBT bullying and the anguish felt by LGTB students when denied the bathroom of their choice.
With the exception of Mr. Rigby, the speakers presented valid points and rationale arguments for why the School Board should reassess FCPS’s gender identity policies, its sex education program, and the need for an audit program that is empowered to evaluate such activities.
Alas, concerned Fairfax County parents and citizens have objected to School Board-imposed gender identity policies and sex education and have proposed alternative approaches for over a year with little, if anything, to show for their efforts. A controlling number of School Board members seem unwilling to listen to the growing and increasingly emphatic chorus of voices opposing their top-down, ideologically driven decisions about gender identity policies, sex education, and now school audits.
It’s way past time for the School Board to quit ignoring the interests of parents and to partner with them to educate their children. A robust audit program that practices transparency and delivers accurate, data-driven assessments to all concerned would be a good start!