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Virginians must reject Fairfax County’s radical school board at the polls

This op-ed was written by Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, IWN member and chapter leader in Virginia.

Last month, Rachna Sizemore Heizer, a Democratic-endorsed Fairfax County school board member running again in the Nov. 7 election, claimed she was concerned that electing even one candidate not endorsed by the Democratic Party would be a threat to the leftist agenda on the 12-member school board. She said, “If we turn out and we elect all the Democrats, it sends a message that you can’t mess with our values and inclusion. You can’t mess with progress.”

With this, Sizemore Heizer said the quiet part out loud. She’s running not because she cares about Virginia’s education system or the students and families in it but because she’s interested in continuing to inject a radically political, leftist agenda into all aspects of the school district’s governance for the next four years. This is a far cry from the stated purpose of the school board, which is supposed to be an apolitical organization that responsibly tends to the budget, establishes an apolitical code of conduct, and supports public education’s central task: academic excellence for children.

Fairfax County’s 12 Democratic-endorsed school board members have done anything but these tasks. Not only have they failed to support academic excellence — initiatives such as equitable grading and the war on merit in admissions to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology are just a few examples — but they intentionally harmed public education by voting to close the schools’ doors to in-person learning for nearly a year and a half, which led to learning lossplummeting test scores and chronic absenteeism.

Aside from failing at their core mission, they have triggered skyrocketing local taxes, roughly half of which go to the school district, with irresponsible and wasteful budgetary allocations. From 2020 to 2022, Fairfax County’s school district spent over $16 million of its $3.5 billion annual budget on legal fees. Their many abhorrent legal battles, funded with taxpayer dollars, include a case against a student referred to as “Jane Doe.”

Doe was a 16-year-old student who alleged that another student sexually assaulted her during an Oakton High School band trip in March 2017. When Doe reported the assault to school administrators, they mocked her in emails and deterred her from pursuing a legal case. Doe eventually filed a case against the Fairfax County school board for its violation of Title IX, which, after a lengthy process, ended up in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2021. The court ruled against Fairfax County School Board and in favor of the plaintiff, effectively reinstating her lawsuit against the district. Lawyers for the school board appealed the decision and denied responsibility, to which Judge James Wynn responded, “Schools do not get ‘one free rape.’”

In May 2023, Sizemore Heizer, the “progressive” school board chairwoman who fears ideological diversity on the school board, sanctioned its legal fight against the sexual assault victim, and is now running for reelection, quietly signed a settlement to Doe for $587,500 to end the civil lawsuit.

In response to this case and others like it, students formed a grassroots organization called Shatter the Silence. The group’s website states, “We demand that the school board stop its cover-up culture and enact meaningful reforms to make our schools safe.” To that end, in January 2022, members of the group organized a districtwide walkout to protest the district’s “one free rape” policy and its routine mishandling of sexual assault cases.

Fairfax County school board members have not only failed to investigate and handle sexual assault complaints properly. They’ve also made those complaints more likely. The board is defying Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R-VA) model policies and allowing male students to use female bathrooms and locker rooms, despite protests from female students who say they no longer feel safe using the restroom at school.

The school board has also passed a “ bias incident reporting system,” which is essentially the district’s own Orwellian thought police registration.

In other violations of free speech, these ideologically homogeneous, so-called progressive school board members have voted to compel students’ speech with mandated pronouns, issuing the penalty of suspensions if students do not comply.

Meanwhile, for the sake of restorative justice, school board members are extremely hesitant to issue out-of-school suspensions for violent and drug-related offenses, which pose a threat to students’ physical safety. In practice, school board members use suspensions to penalize politically conservative infractions, but rarely violent ones.

Sizemore Heizer and the other incumbents running for reelection — Melanie Meren, Ricardy Anderson, and Karl Frisch — have not progressed public education. They are destroying Fairfax County Public Schools, a district that was once the nation’s gold standard for public education. Voters should not reelect what are, in fact, extremely radical, incompetent, and regressive incumbents for school board.

The radicalization of the Fairfax Democratic Party

This op-ed was written by Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, IWN member and chapter leader in Virginia.

Despite its lip service to diversity and inclusion, the Fairfax Democratic Party does not support these principles in practice. Over the last few years, extremists have hijacked the party, leaving Virginia’s Fairfax residents behind.

Most recently, at a special meeting on Oct. 18, Fairfax Democrats ousted Ed Nuttall from their party. In their view, Nuttall has committed the unforgivable offense of objecting to the George Soros-funded incumbent candidate for Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney office, Steve Descano. Under Descano’s reign, crime in Fairfax County has increased, prosecutions have decreased, and there has been a low conviction rate on felony cases. In favor of his “progressive” agenda, Descano ignores victims of crime and, in six years, has never prosecuted a case in Fairfax County.

Like many of us in Fairfax, Nuttall was fed up with Descano prioritizing politics over safety and therefore challenged him in the June 2023 Democratic primary. Unfortunately, Soros’ money and the extremists’ influence in the Democratic Party prevailed, helping Descano to win the party’s nomination for Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney. There is not a Republican candidate for the November election, so Descano is listed as the only choice for Fairfax County voters.

In response, concerned citizens of Fairfax County created a write-in campaign for Nuttall, who, until recently, was a member of the Fairfax Democratic Party in good standing, to unseat Descano. Campaign supporters explain, “We simply want to live better lives in safer communities, and Ed Nuttall continues to be that only path forward for Fairfax voters.”

Instead of pressuring Descano to support community safety initiatives and victims’ rights, Fairfax Democrats held a special meeting to oust Nuttall from their exclusive tribe. Ejecting and rejecting members who do not march unquestionably to the beat of their radical drum is not new to Fairfax Democrats, which proves they are anything but inclusive and ideologically diverse.

Fairfax County’s 12 Democrat-endorsed school board members, for example, certainly were not being inclusive when they decided to incorporate racism against Asians into their new admissions procedures to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, beginning in 2020. Among the parents fighting for fairness and race-blind admissions to the county’s magnet school is Harry Jackson, a father and current school board candidate in Fairfax County’s Hunter Mill district. In Oct. 2021, Fairfax Democrats punished him for supporting merit in education by voting against his membership to their exclusive, radical party.

A few months later, in Jan. 2022, Fairfax Democrats also voted against the memberships of concerned parents and community members who supported in-person public education for our children. Saundra Davis, a mother and current at-large school board candidate, was among them. At the time of the meeting, Davis was an active member of OpenFCPS, a non-partisan group of parents advocating for our children to return to their classrooms. Fairfax Democrats denied her membership to their exclusive, homogenous party.

Some of the Democrats responsible for this exclusion are school board members, such as incumbent Melanie Meren, who is seeking reelection. Meren repeatedly voted in favor of closing our public schools while she simultaneously enrolled her own children in private pods. Where was her concern for equity and equal outcomes then? Clearly, party elites do not apply the institution’s principles to themselves.

Now, parents on both sides of the aisle are concerned about the learning lossplummeting test scores, and chronic absenteeism caused by prolonged school closures. Hindsight is looking favorably at Davis and the other brave parents of OpenFCPS, and not so much on the radical Fairfax Democrats who advocated keeping our schools closed.

The resounding message from the Fairfax Democratic Party is that anyone calling for fairness, moderation, and thoughtful debate; anyone who is not in lock-step with the Fairfax Democratic Party’s radical initiatives, will be ejected without question or remorse. And we are all worse off for it.

Fairfax County ignores parents in plans to put gender ideology in classrooms

This op-ed was written by Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, IWN member and chapter leader in Virginia.

At 7 p.m. on Oct. 12, hidden away in the cafeteria at Gatehouse, the headquarters of Fairfax County Public Schools, the appointed members of the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee held their latest monthly meeting. Public perception of these meetings is that they are intentionally non-transparent.

Unlike other public meetings and work sessions, these meetings are neither recorded nor livestreamed. Though technically open to the public, they are not easy to access. Parents and members of the community arrive at Gatehouse without knowledge of where, in the large complex, the meeting will be held. Security personnel have to lead them to the meeting location. If members of the public arrive late and security personnel are not at the front desk, then they are not admitted.

The secrecy and hurdles to attending these meetings are suspect, leading parents to wonder what the public school district’s administrators and board members are trying to hide.

What we do know is that the 12 Democrat-endorsed school board members have appointed gender ideology activists to the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee, which advises them on the district’s sex education curricula. This stacking-the-deck method is standard operating procedure in Fairfax County’s public schools. Despite their incessant claims about the importance of inclusion, school board members only appoint advisory committee members who are ideologically homogenous so that they can draw the conclusions on which they have already decided.

The 2022-2023 Family Life Education committee of activists unanimously voted on several recommendations that were not well received by the public. These recommendations included gender-combined instruction for sex education beginning in 5th grade, gender identity instruction beginning in 4th grade, and changing the words “male/female” to “assigned male/female at birth.”

After the committee presented its recommendations, the district conducted a community survey. Months later, we learned that activists tried to bury the results because respondents were overwhelmingly against these absurd proposed changes to the sex education curricula. In particular, 84% of respondents indicated that they do not support gender-combined family life education instruction in grades 4-8.

At that point, it would seem like the simple response given community feedback would have been for school board members to vote down the unwanted proposed changes. Instead, they decided not to call for a vote, likely hoping that the public would lose interest over time.

On June 22, 2023, Michelle Reid, the district’s superintendent, and Fairfax board members were explicit about their intentions to advocate for and eventually pass the proposed changes to the sex education curricula. To the meeting attendees’ and parents’ surprise, Reid explicitly stated the quiet part out loud, “The majority doesn’t always dictate, right?” She added that the board still had plenty of time to pass the changes since family life education lessons take place “later in the year next [academic] year,” specifically in January and February 2024.

Like prolonged school closures during the pandemic, it seems that the proposed changes to the sex education curricula will be rammed through by out-of-touch school board members despite substantial community opposition. For example, Melanie Meren , who is running again in this year’s school board election, supported the changes at the June 2023 work session. She said that “learning about other genders” in elementary school and gender-combined classes would be “a step toward further accepting everyone and understanding people’s biology.” She added , “I mean, it’s just straight-up biology.”

Reid also foreshadowed at the June work session that the board should take up the issue again in the fall, which will likely be soon, following more discussions on professional development.

Fairfax County’s outright disregard for parental input is illustrative of what is happening across many unregulated local government and school district fiefdoms in America. And yet, despite the stacked committees, attempts to bury unfavorable survey data, and nontransparent meetings, parents and community members are still aware of and object to these illogical changes to the sex education curricula for our children.

The district’s superintendent and school board members may very well continue to search for ways to circumvent parents to achieve their desired ends, but we are watching.

Democrat Fairfax County School Board Member Objects To Moment Of Silence For Israeli Victims

This op-ed was written by Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, IWN member and chapter leader in Virginia.

On Oct. 12, Abrar Omeish, an at-large member on Fairfax County’s school board, objected to calling for a moment of silence for the innocent victims of the Hamas massacre in Israel. Omeish asserted that she did not support the dominance of one side’s narrative.

A suburb of Washington, D.C., Fairfax County’s school district is the eighth largest in the nation, with a $3.5 billion budget and 181,000 enrolled students. Like many other school board members across the country, Omeish uses her position at the dais to grandstand about issues that have little or nothing to do with our children’s public education.

Omeish stated that by proposing the moment of silence, her colleagues on the school board had engaged in a “sneak attack” against her. “We often sympathize with and humanize the side that … our biases guide us toward, but doing so obscures the root of the violence,” she said, adding that the adage, “No justice, no peace” is relevant for the situation in Israel.

Many of her colleagues on the school board left the dais as she was speaking, likely as a protest to her remarks. Despite some turbulence along the way, the 12 Democrat-endorsed Fairfax County school board members maintained a tenuous, unholy alliance, in which they voted almost unanimously on every single dysfunctional political initiative for the last four years.

Their alliance has withstood Omeish’s previous demonstrations of anti-Americanism on the school board. In June 2021, as a school board member speaking at a high school graduation ceremony, she told the graduates they should remember their “jihad” because they were about to enter a world of “racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, [and] white supremacy.” A few months later, she opposed a motion to honor the victims of 9/11. In Feb. 2023, Omeish said that the battle of Iwo Jima “unfortunately happened” and “set a record for really what, I hate to say, human evil is capable of.”

Fairfax County’s parents waited for an explanation of Omeish’s anti-American Iwo Jima remark, but there was not one. We thought at this point her Democrat-endorsed colleagues on the school board would condemn her remarks, but they also were silent.

On Feb. 24, 2023, I emailed Omeish demanding an explanation for her offensive comments. My great-uncle had fought and was wounded in Iwo Jima. Both of my grandfathers, my father, my brother, and my husband are veterans.

Omeish responded that the only reason I had problems with her remarks was because of my biases, a comment she often throws at white members of the community. She wrote, “There is no reason to warp what was said and reading more into it merely reflects biases forced in by the listener.”

According to Omeish — who never seems to take responsibility for her actions, has no children of her own, and, as of recently, still lived with her parents — Fairfax community members and their biases are generally the problem. She is so obsessed with the issue of inherent biases, that last year, she proposed a bias incident reporting system for the school district, which subsequently passed.

Omeish did not respond to my additional questions, but instead issued a public statement in which she victimized herself. She claimed that people who take issue with her statement on Iwo Jima believe that “Muslim somehow implies anti-American.”

Despite all of her antics, her Democrat-endorsed colleagues on the school board said virtually nothing over the last four years. It truly has been a case of tribal partisan loyalty at all costs, also much like at the national level. With the silent protest where a few of the school board members exited the dais during the last meeting, her refusal to honor the victims of the Israel massacre on Oct. 7 might be the breaking point of the woke alliance on Fairfax County’s school board.

Strangely, up until this point, Omeish has always shown her hand, and her fellow Democrat-endorsed colleagues seem to have been mostly supportive. In 2019, four years before she objected to the moment of silence for the slaughtered civilians in Israel, Omeish campaigned at a fundraiser for the American Muslims for Palestine. There, she informed the audience that as a member of the school board, she would change the narrative on Palestinians, meanwhile referring to Israel as an “apartheid nation.”

She proudly boasted that she would achieve her ends in the system that educates our children, with the district’s multibillion-dollar budget. In other words, she explicitly bragged about her intentions to politically indoctrinate our children in public schools with regard to the situation in Israel. Her remarks at the last school board meeting are abhorrent, but not particularly surprising given what she has already said and done.

What is more surprising is that Fairfax County’s Democratic Party endorsed her and all of the other candidates who sat silently around her at the dais for the last four years. The case of Abrar Omeish is a cautionary tale. Voters should think about the inappropriateness of integrating politics in public schools, and what happens when we disagree on issues outside of the fundamentals when we do.

Omeish’s story is also a warning for voters to be informed about their local candidates and not simply march to the orders of a political party’s sample ballot.

Schools Won’t Admit a Big Driver in Absenteeism

This article first appeared in the Washington Post.

Listening to researchers discuss the reason for chronic absenteeism in our schools is like watching cigarette companies weigh in on the causes of lung cancer in the 1950s. Both institutions are laughably incapable of blaming themselves.

The Oct. 13 news article “Absenteeism plagues two-thirds of schools” considered many factors of absenteeism except the most obvious one that virtually all parents of school-age children know to be true. When schools closed their doors to in-person learning under misguided and self-aggrandizing advice from Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, and other teachers-union activists, they signaled to children and parents that school attendance is not necessary. Not acknowledging that school closures were a mistake only worsens the problem. Teachers unions can’t have it both ways. Chronic absenteeism is not a concern only when public funding becomes contingent on test scores and attendance.

Similarly, in Fairfax County, a “restorative justice” district in which suspensions raise concerns of a “school to prison pipeline,” my sons were suspended for 15 consecutive days for refusing to wear their masks after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order 2 was implemented. Now, the schools display signs about missing more than nine days being a threat to literacy and academic achievement.

School district administrators and researchers lose their credibility when they raise alarms and acknowledge truths only when they are politically and financially expedient.

Stephanie Lundquist-AroraSpringfield

Fighting for Liberty at the Local and National Levels with Senator Rand Paul

As many liberty-loving IWN members fought, and continue to fight, for our freedoms to in-person education, a mask-free face, and vaccine choice in our local communities, Senator Rand Paul, M.D., fights tirelessly at the national level for liberty, truth, and accountability.

IWN Fairfax chapter members had the pleasure of meeting Senator Paul on October 11 at his book launch, Deception: The Great Covid Cover-Up, hosted by Freedom Works.

Many parents in Fairfax County, Va., recognize the truth in Senator Paul’s words. In January and February, 2022, our local school district issued multi-day suspensions to several children for not wearing masks in schools after Governor Glenn Youngkin issued Executive Order 2, which allows parents to make decisions regarding their children masking or not. My three sons, for example, were suspended for a cumulative total of 39 days.

By that time, we all knew the masks do not stop the spread of the virus and actually cause harm. Even Anthony Fauci, Senator Paul points out in his book, acknowledges the ineffectiveness of cloth masks. In a private email to a friend, Fauci writes, “The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material.” (p. 119).

Despite Fauci’s public stance on mask obedience, in private, he seems to understand mask deficiencies. Senator Paul adds to his point, “I would point out that the pores of a surgical mask were six hundred times larger than the virus.” (p. 120). There is consensus; Cloth masks are ineffective. It is clear that masking is not about “the science,” it is about control.

Senator Paul and his wife, Kelley, seemed touched at the event by the story of brave young American children standing up against draconian school masking policies. The senator generously wrote the message, “In liberty!” to my sons when he signed his book for them.

The senator’s book, which will undoubtedly reach many generations of Americans, illustrates the important point that COVID policies were less about “following the science,” and more about profiting and controlling the population. He writes, “[U]nder the cult of personality around Fauci, science was bastardized into something akin to religion. And yet the media accused anyone who challenged the dogma of somehow ‘politicizing’ the virus.” (p. 120).

I hope that Americans are taking notes and internalizing the lessons of COVID policy failures and government abuses at all levels, so that we do not ever repeat them. Senator Paul’s book and his upcoming tour is a brave undertaking to that end. The IWN Fairfax chapter was grateful to be there for a stop on his important journey.