Parents rally as Fairfax school board punts controversial vote on changes to sex-ed classes

Parents said Fairfax schools should instead be focused on academic excellence

FAIRFAX, VA - Despite the Fairfax County school board's decision to punt a controversial vote on changes to family life education (FLE) classes to June, parents showed up in full force at Luther Jackson Middle School at last Thursday's meeting. 

The Fairfax school board is considering changing the FLE classes in the name of equity, including largely eliminating separate gender classes. The recommendation, from the school board sex-ed committee, would mix boys and girls in 4th through 8th grade for all discussions of puberty, sexually transmitted diseases, and the human reproductive system. The board will also consider increasing penalties against students for "malicious misgendering" "deadnaming" their peers. "Deadnaming" is a word used to describe the act of referring to someone by a name they used prior to transitioning. 

"Too far, too much, too young," was Fairfax County parent Jeff's mantra. And his fellow parents in attendance roundly agreed. 

"I asked my son this morning what he was going to learn," Jeff told Fox News Digital at a rally ahead of the school board meeting. "He said, ‘math, science, language arts, writing. And he said, ’oh, science.' That's what we want to hear, right? We don't want to hear, ‘I got punished today because I called somebody by the wrong pronoun. Or what this regulation identifies as 'malicious misgendering.’"  

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Elizabeth McCauley of the Virginia Mavens was concerned the administrators seemed to be prioritizing progressive agenda items at a time when Virginia schools are falling behind. Recent reports have found that, in the state of Virginia, only 33 percent of eighth graders and 38 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading.

"I think just the basic of saying what is falsehood is true," McCauley told Fox Digital."Boys are boys and girls are girls. And God has uniquely designed each individual the way they are. And starting at a very young age and preying upon young children. Grooming young children. Having pornographic, pedophilia literature in schools. That's very problematic. And also doing that and focusing so much effort on that, when kids are falling behind in academics."  

A Fairfax County school bus sits in a depot, a day after it was announced the county would begin the school year all online, in Lorton, Virginia, U.S., July 22, 2020.

A Fairfax County school bus sits in a depot, a day after it was announced the county would begin the school year all online, in Lorton, Virginia, U.S., July 22, 2020. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

McCauley blasted the materials she said children were being exposed to in classrooms.

"Also, I think the Family Life Education course, it's so important for parents to have to opt-in versus opt-out," she said. "That's absolutely key. Especially when they're expanding upon information that students are hearing here at school, but you would never even dream of mentioning in an adult working environment. Some of the things that kids are being told in school or even literature that they're receiving in school, is, if you sold it on the street, or you had it on the street, you'd be criminalized for it." 

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McCauley spared no hesitation when asked why she thought the Fairfax school board pushed the FLE vote to June.

"They're afraid because hey, I'm a mother bear," McCauley said, pointing to her t-shirt that read, "Beware the Mama Bear." "Beware the mother bears. Mother bears and Papa bears are coming out because we care about the future of our country. We care about our children."

Concerned parents at the Fairfax County School Board Meeting

Concerned parents at the Fairfax County School Board Meeting (Fox News Digital)

Fairfax parent Thomas Ferguson agreed some issues in the classroom are too much, too soon for young, impressionable minds.

"These are very, very dynamic, real world, adult issues," he said. "And we're starting at kindergarten through third grade. And things that, frankly, even adults struggle with, as we know. At that age, it's kind of important to just major on the basics. Reading and writing and arithmetic."

He, too, shared concerns about the state of Virginia academics, arguing students need to get a handle on the basic subjects. 

"So, to try to tackle these politically charged, very dynamic, sort of social hot buttons, at such a young age, seems very inappropriate, especially when a parent should be the first person to actually have those types of conversations with their child," Ferguson said.

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting, just 40 minutes from Fairfax.

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting, just 40 minutes from Fairfax. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

Janice, a Fairfax resident, said she doesn't have grandkids in the schools, but explained the school policies "will affect" her neighborhood. 

"I think what they're attempting to teach the children is dangerous in terms of even their psychological wellbeing," she said. "To teach a child they have an option to whether they're female or male, is first of all wrong. We don't, we're born one way or the other. And to start giving children who don't even know which is their right, which is their left hand, tell them they have a choice as to their sex is abuse, child abuse in my book."

Parent Stacy Langton argued that having co-ed sex-ed classes would make the students "uncomfortable." As for the penalties against misgendering, Langton said it could just be cases where kids are "goofing off."

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"It's compelling our kids to a type of behavior and speech and especially…if you're a conservative family or a Christian family, you have a right to be able to live in reality and…address someone who is obviously male as a male. I don't think that that speech should be compelled," she told Fox Digital. 

"Our issue is not with the transgender community, but with these policies’ violation of students’ and families’ First Amendment rights," Virginia mother Stephanie Lundquist-Arora, who helped organize Thursday's rally, told Fox News Digital. "This activist school board is overstepping its jurisdiction, far outside of standard public education curriculum. Bullying is never acceptable, but not every perceived slight needs to be codified and weaponized in Student Rights and Regulations. Like misgendering and deadnaming, calling another student ‘fat’ or ‘poor’ are also offensive and hurtful – but need not be stipulated explicitly in the regulations."

"Board members should be focused on learning loss over the pandemic, and improving standards of education – rather than on gender politics," Lundquist-Arora added. 

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Lundquist-Arora mused that FCPS Board members postponed the vote until June 16 in the "hope that attention on the issue will settle, families will leave for their summer vacations, and board members can sneak through their activist policies in the quiet stillness of a summer evening." 

"But our energy and dedication to preserve parental rights and stand for the First Amendment will not wane," she declared.

The school district sent a statement to Fox News saying that all students have the right to be respected. 

"Fairfax County Public Schools firmly believes that every student has a right to be respected. Our Students Rights and Responsibilities ensures that all students at FCPS feel welcome and safe in their learning environment," the statement read. "No student should ever have to be faced with persistent and deliberate bullying or harassment once they enter our schools."

Fox News' David Spunt contributed to this report.