Metro Weekly

Fairfax school board member taking part in FRC panel on “transgender ideology”

LGBTQ advocates and liberal allies take issue with Family Research Council's designation as a "hate group"

Elizabeth Schultz – Photo: Fairfax County Public Schools.

LGBTQ advocates and their liberal allies are decrying a decision by a Fairfax County School Board member to take part in a Family Research Council panel discussion on how social conservatives can resist the “imposition” of “transgender ideology” in public schools.

According to the Family Research Council, Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) will take part in the May 5 discussion, which will examine the passage of LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies in Fairfax County as an example of the “threat” posed by what the organization calls a “radical ideology.”

“Fairfax County, Va., is ground zero in the efforts to impose transgender ideology on American school children,” FRC says in its writeup of the event. “The Fairfax County school system is one of the largest and richest in the United States, and its close proximity to Washington, D.C. has made it a target for the efforts to mainstream this radical ideology. Even after the Trump Administration revoked the Obama directive threatening the nation’s public schools, the fight rages on at the state and district level.”

Schultz gained notoriety after she was the only member of the school board to vote against the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the school system’s nondiscrimination policy. She will be appearing along with Meg Kilgannon, a Fairfax County Public Schools parent and one of the activists lading the charge against LGBTQ-inclusive policies; Josh Hetzler, legislative counsel for the Family Foundation of Virginia; and FRC senior legal fellow Cathy Ruse.

While school board is technically a nonpartisan political office, Schultz is a longtime Republican Party activist and one of three sitting board members to be endorsed by the local Fairfax County Republican Committee. She has previously been honored by socially conservative organizations like the Virginia Christian Alliance for opposing the additions to Fairfax’s nondiscrimination policy.

Her detractors’ chief objection to her presence on the panel is that Schultz is giving credence to FRC, which was recently labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its strident opposition to LGBTQ rights. The liberal blog Blue Virginia, which first reported on Schultz’s decision to participate in the panel discussion, asks: “How can someone like this be on the Fairfax County School Board? It boggles the mind.”

FCPS Pride, an employees’ and parents’ group (independent of the school system) that advocates for LGBTQ-inclusive policies within FCPS, issued a statement decrying Schultz’s presence on the panel.

“The members of FCPS Pride, teachers and employees in Fairfax County Public Schools and parents of Fairfax students, are stunned that one of our public officials, Elizabeth Schultz, would ally herself with such an amazingly uncivil organization as the Family Research Council,” the statement reads. “FRC has for decades demonized gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the most graphic terms. Ms. Schultz, by starring at their event, acts only to inflame sentiment against LGBT children and staff in our county.

“LGBT students, staff and families are facing increasing harassment in our schools as repeated shocking public statements against them by a very small contingent at school board meetings, with Elizabeth Schultz’s urging and her support; this antipathy trickles down into the community,” the statement continues. “Her attendance at the FRC forum, sponsored by a group with no stake in Fairfax County Public Schools other than using us as a foil for fundraising, can serve no useful purpose, and actively harms innocent children in our schools.”

Calls to Schultz’s office seeking comment were not returned.

The Democratic Party of Virginia issued its own statement on the controversy. 

“The Family Research Council has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center,” Susan Swecker, the party’s chairwoman, said in a statement. “For an elected official in the most populous county in the state to speak at their event is markedly out-of-line with the values of Fairfax County and of the Commonwealth. Virginia does not discriminate, and Virginia Democrats stand in strong support of our friends, family members and neighbors in the LGBTQ community.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com