Comings & Goings

By Peter Rosenstein - August 17, 2023 12:00 am

A group of activists organized by FCPS Pride held a rally and march near Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church on Aug. 15 to support transgender, nonbinary and gender expansive youth in Fairfax County Public Schools.

Teachers, students, administrators and activists were joined by elected officials in praising the statement issued earlier in the day by FCPS Superintendent Michelle Reid, which assures constituents that the current Fairfax County policies for trans and nonbinary students will remain unchanged.

The Virginia Department of Education issued a model policy that rolls back protections for trans and gender non-conforming students. Advocates warn that the new state policies directly harm trans, nonbinary and gender expansive students.

In response to the state policy announcement, Reid publicly responded in a letter on Aug. 15. “We have concluded our detailed legal review and determined that our current FCPS policies are consistent with federal and state anti-discrimination laws as required by the new model policies.”

“Let me be clear that FCPS remains committed to fostering a safe, supportive, welcoming and inclusive school environment for all students and staff, including our transgender and gender expansive students and staff,” the statement continues.

Reid announced in the statement that FCPS would retain current county policies: Including that students continue to be addressed by their chosen names and pronouns; provided with access to facilities, activities and trips consistent with their gender identity; and continue to have their privacy respected regarding gender expansive or trans status, legal name, or sex assigned at birth. These Fairfax County policies are in direct opposition to the policies announced by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.

A group of Fairfax student and teacher activists were joined by Fairfax County School Board members Karl Frisch and Laura Jane Cohen, state Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church), members of faith communities and representatives from the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers union in a rally and march at Luther Jackson Middle School in support of the Fairfax policy announcement.

“This is about making sure that every child can show up in our schools without the weight of the world on their shoulders so they can focus on learning,” Karl Frisch, who is the school board’s vice chair, told the assembled activists. “Protecting them from the weight of the bigotry out there so that they can focus on getting the education that we are offering them in our school buildings.”

The Youngkin administration policies are being debated in districts statewide and have already been adopted by Spotsylvania County Public Schools.

Speaking with the Washington Blade, Frisch elaborated.

“It’s important to stand with our transgender and gender expansive students and their families and our staff,” he said. “Today the superintendent made it clear that FCPS, Fairfax County Public Schools, will continue to abide by federal and state law that requires us, rightly so, to support and protect and affirm our transgender and gender expansive students and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

“They are teaching the rest of the commonwealth a lesson on how to handle a bully.” said Simon, who praised Reid and FCPS. “Because that’s what Glenn Youngkin and his administration are: They are an administration full of bullies who want to take out their frustration and anger and distract us from their own failings by taking on our trans and nonbinary students. The only way to stand up to that is to say, ‘no, we’re not going to do it. Go away. Leave us alone.’ We’re doing it the right way here in Fairfax County.”

FCFT Treasurer Emily Vanderhoff said she has “heard from these families that the parents and their children have been scared about what school is going to look like for their child when they walk in the door on Monday. I know that teachers and other school staff need to know that they want to affirm these students and that they need to know that their district has their back.”

The gathered community activists marched on the sidewalk along Gallows Road carrying signs and chanting support for trans students’ rights following the rally.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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