Metro Weekly

Hate group urges Fairfax voters to oust all Democrats from school board

Traditional Values Coalition issues endorsements in upcoming elections over school board's LGBT nondiscrimination policies

A parent holds up a sign opposing Policy 1450, which adds gender identity to Fairfax County Public Schools' nondiscrimination policy.
A parent holds up a sign opposing Policy 1450, which adds gender identity to Fairfax County Public Schools’ nondiscrimination policy.

The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), which has been classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group for its long record of anti-LGBT rhetoric and activism, is throwing its weight behind Republicans in the upcoming elections for the Fairfax County School Board, according to a three-page flier being circulated to Fairfax county voters.

The flier primarily attacks the actions of the school board over the past year related to the board’s approval of two amendments to Fairfax County Public Schools’ nondiscrimination policy, one that added sexual orientation as a protected class in November of last year, and another that added gender identity to the list of protected classes in May. The flier also takes issue with proposed changes to the Family Life Education Curriculum dealing with health and sexuality, specifically lessons that would teach students about sexual orientation and gender identity. The biggest objection to that was that some of the lessons from the Family Life Education Curriculum — which parents can choose to opt out of — had been moved over and incorporated into the county’s health curriculum, which is mandatory.

At its June meeting, the board later voted 10-2 to approve the lessons in the Family Life Education Curriculum, but also agreed to move 15 controversial lessons dealings with sexuality out of the health curriculum and back into Family Life Education, in order to allow parents to continue to opt out if they so desire. The board also voted 11-1 to ensure that parents are provided links, information and physical copies of the opt-out forms for the Family Life Education Curriculum at the start of the school year.

At the heart of the issue surrounding the inclusion of LGBT people in the FCPS nondiscrimination policy and the Family Life Education Curriculum is the question of parental rights. Those opposed to the changes say that they want to ensure their children are taught about sexuality in a way that is consistent with their personal moral or religious beliefs, not in a classroom setting. The anti-LGBT side has also embraced the argument that the board’s quick adoption of sexual orientation and gender identity to the FCPS nondiscrimination policy — following an opinion by Attorney General Mark Herring (D) that school boards are able to do so without having to seek input from the General Assembly — leads to a “lack of transparency.”

“The Fairfax County School Board has been dominated for over two decades by a one-sided viewpoint, which does not reflect the values of many Fairfax families,” TVC’s flier reads. “The current School Board’s recent actions demonstrate a deeply troubling pattern of a (1) lack of transparency, at times to the point of deceit and a (2) total lack of responsiveness to the point of hostility to the community of those sharing concerns about family values and respect of faith issues.”

Although all school board positions are technically non-partisan, the respective local GOP and Democratic county committees can make endorsements in all non-partisan races. The Traditional Values Coalition has endorsed all GOP-backed candidates for school board, including incumbents Patty Reed (Providence) and Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) — both of whom voted against adding gender identity to the FCPS nondiscrimination policy — At-Large candidates Jeanette Hough, Bob Copeland and Manar Jean-Jacques, and challengers Tom Wilson (Sully), Mark Wilkinson (Hunter Mill), Anthony Stacy (Mt. Vernon) and Peter Kurzenhauser (Dranesville). On their personal websites, all non-incumbents either mention the LGBT nondiscrimination policy specifically or allude to it through promises of seeking “parental engagement” and “respecting” parents’ “opinions and voices.”

But TVC did not endorse all challengers to incumbent Democrats, most notably in the race against incumbent Megan McLaughlin in the Braddock district, where Katherine Pettigrew, who is affiliated with the Independent Green Party of Virginia, is running.

“On November 3rd we can change the school board culture,” TVC’s flier reads. “This is our only change for the next 4 years. For the sake of our children we cannot afford to stay home. … There are no elected public servants who have more impact on the day-to-day life in Fairfax County. Most incumbents supported the gender identity/transgender policy change. They did not listen to you and they do not deserve your vote. Please pass this on to others who care about these issues and Vote on November 3!”

Although the flier notes that it is not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee, it has been clear for some time that TVC has been planning to make LGBT nondiscrimination a campaign issue in November’s elections, partnering with the Virginia Christian Alliance and other conservative groups to push back against advances in LGBT equality, particularly when it comes to transgender rights.

The Virginia Christian Alliance’s president, Donald Blake, has been quoted saying he hopes that Virginia will serve as “ground zero” in the fight against transgender protections. Blake’s organization has incorporated questions about legislation that would require transgender children in schools to use the bathroom of their biological sex as part of its candidate survey for those seeking office in the Virginia House of Delegates or Senate. Papers with links to TVC and the Virginia Christian Alliance’s website, as well as those of several major national conservative organizations, and a copy of the Family Foundation of Virginia’s report card with “pro-family” ratings for General Assembly lawmakers, were circulated at the Fairfax County School Board’s June meeting, along with other fliers reminding opponents that all 12 school board seats are up for re-election this November.

Sue Langley, chairwoman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, which has endorsed the eight incumbent board members running for re-election and two others seeking open seats on the school board (as well as the two departing board members, Kathy Smith (Sully) and Daniel Storck (Mt. Vernon), in their races for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors), defended the school board’s decisions of this past year.

“In Fairfax County, our community gets its strength from its diversity,” Langley said in a statement. “Our School Board members acted with compassion and sensitivity when they voted to modify school nondiscrimination policies earlier this year while empowering parents to opt students out of chapters they wish to teach privately. Support for all students is a core Democratic value.”

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