School Board Amends Title of Equity Policy — Why?

Pictured: School Board Chair Elaine Tholen (Fairfax County Public Schools)

Mark Spooner | Fairfax Schools Monitor

On June 26, 2023, the Fairfax County School Board adopted a new, sweeping “Equity Policy.”  At its next meeting, on July 13, the title was changed.  It is now called the “Educational Equity Policy.”  The amendment was on the meeting’s “consent agenda” and was adopted without any discussion, so the public doesn’t know who proposed it or why.

The amendment was listed as “technical,” which was intended to suggest it has no substantive meaning.  But is there a difference between an Equity Policy and an Educational Equity Policy?  Is a hidden agenda involved?

Perhaps I’m unnecessarily skeptical.  But if I’ve become cynical, it’s because of the way the School Board and the FCPS administration have acted.  Transparency, candor and inclusiveness have not been among the school system’s guiding principles.  The Equity Policy was adopted with plenty of input from the FCPS equity team’s “stakeholders” (groups that favor an expansive scope of “equity”) but with minimal participation by, or notice to, the general public, despite promises that every point of view would be an integrally involved at every stage.  It was sold to the public with reassuring rhetoric but was written to authorize controversial programs under the “equity” umbrella.

So please excuse my paranoia if I’m suspicious of a substantive reason for last night’s amendment.  Education is supposed to be the only function of the school system, so one would think it isn’t necessary to distinguish between an Equity Policy and an Educational Equity Policy.  But someone obviously thought it was necessary to do so.

Perhaps it’s this:  In the late-stage editing of the policy, the definition of “equity” was tweaked to focus primarily on providing educational opportunities to all students and removing barriers to learning, i.e., education.  But that isn’t the full scope of the agenda of many “equity” warriors.  To them, “equity” includes controversial, ideology-driven measures, going well beyond opening opportunities and removing barriers.  For example, influential writers like Ibram Kendi, who has been embraced by many in the FCPS system, contend that “equity” means ensuring equal outcomes for all and evaluating some minority groups by different standards than are applied to others.  It also means non-education-focused measures such as promoting that “rights” of a biological, transgender male over the locker-room privacy rights of girls.

So, it may be that the purpose of the July 13 amendment is to permit the “equity” mavens to say that the recently adopted policy is only an educational equity policy and not a limitation on other, broader “equity” programs.  We will see.

Mark Spooner, a retired attorney, is the founding editor of Fairfax School Monitor, where this article was first published.

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