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Board Creates 40-Member Discipline Committee

Fairfax County School Board will charge group with reviewing policies, handbook.

The Fairfax County School Board unanimously approved the creation of a 40-member committee charged with reviewing its student rights and responsibilities handbook Thursday, moving forward a months-long reform of its disciplinary process.

Members had discussed the makeup of the committee since late last month, falling on opposite sides of debates on whether a list compiled by staff was a good starting point, how many community members should be appointed to the group, who should lead the committee and what kind of message its membership would send to the greater Fairfax County community about both the board and the issue, which has polarized residents in the past few years.

While the board spent much of its Thursday meeting discussing what member Ted Velkoff (At-large) called "nuances," by way of amendments, he said he believed board members are "all united in our view that we will have good representation, whatever means we use to get there, we have confidence in the work of the committee," he said.

"When we approve the SR+R in the spring, there's going to be considerable public vetting of what comes before us, [and that's a good thing]," he said.  

The committee began as a group of 29, divided nearly evenly among school board appointees and students, and system employees ranging from teachers to principals and a hearings officer.

An amendment by Kathy Smith (Sully) expanded the committee by 12, giving each school board member two appointees from their districts instead of one.

"We need to work together and talk to each other and get diverse representation on the committee. My preference of the best way to do that is to have each of us appoint two people to the committee," Smith said. 

Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) also moved forward a motion to reassign the system's deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent for special services — both of whom were originally slated to be committee members and co-chairs — to advisers and facilitators of the committee instead. 

The same motion also requires the committee to elect its own chairperson once it is assembled.

"I think it sends a very important message because there's a lot of people out there that think this is window dressing ... that it's a done deal. We've all heard it," Patty Reed (Providence) said. "I think this sends the right message that this really will be a committee that runs itself.”

Board Chair Ilryong Moon (At-large) asked each board member to send him two names within a week. The committee will begin reviewing the system's discipline policies this fall and will present its findings to the board in March 2013. 

The board did not pass a motion by Sandy Evans (Mason) to specifically add a representative from the Coalition of the Silence, Fairfax County Council of PTAs, Fairfax County Partnership for Youth, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform, and the NAACP — organizations Evans said had expertise and extensive research on the issue.

Adding representatives from those groups was a position supported by many of those listed, as well as the county's two major teachers unions.

"These are organizations that have been following these issues for years. We need to bring them to the table. I think it's only fair," Reed said. "If we don't do it, I think it sends the wrong message ... In my view these groups would provide those kind of rich perspectives that are absolutely critical to developing public policy."

The amendment failed, with Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Lee), Ryan McElveen (At-large), Pat Hynes (Hunter Mill), Moon, Janie Strauss (Dranesville), Velkoff and Smith voting against it. 

"It is my belief this committee is larger than individual groups. This is about the community as a whole. That said, I do hope these voices find their way onto the committee, if not through this process," McElveen said. 

Another amendment by Evans was successful in adding an additional teacher to the committee makeup, and will require the three teacher representatives be appointed by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, the Fairfax Education Association and the Association of Fairfax Professional Educators.

  • Board Postpones Discipline Committee Creation
  • School Board to Vote on Discipline Committee
  • Discipline Policy Changes Stop Short of Parental Notification
  • Board Revisits Discipline Policy

Final committee makeup:

  • 24 School Board member appointees (one representative by each School Board member from his or her district; one representative, regardless of district, by each at-large School Board member)
  • 1 representative from the Fairfax City School Board
  • 1 Elementary School Principal
  • 1 Middle School Principal
  • 1 High School Principal
  • 1 Middle School Teacher
  • 1 High School Teacher
  • 1 Teacher (TBD by teachers' unions)
  • 1 School Psychologist
  • 1 School Social Worker
  • 1 Elementary Counselor
  • 1 Middle School Counselor
  • 1 High School Counselor
  • 1 Hearings Officer
  • 1 County Government Representative
  • 2 High School students (from the Student Advisory Council)

The Deputy Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent for Special Services will act as advisors. Moon said he will be contacting different employee associations (i.e. High School Principals Association) to ask for their nominations to fill the staff positions.

Greg Brandon September 21, 2012 at 10:58 AM
I'm hugely disappointed with the seven members of the school board who voted against Sandy Evans' amendment to include representatives from Coalition of the Silence, Fairfax County Council of PTAs, Fairfax County Partnership for Youth, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform, and the NAACP. This discipline review committee desperately needs outside experts who can counter the group-think that permeates FCPS.
John Farrell September 21, 2012 at 11:22 AM
The association of high school principals; the association of school social workers and each of the three teachers’ union are “emotionally mature enough,” in the words of Denerak Kaufax, to be trusted to designate their own representative to the “Community Committee on the S R & R.“ But the members of the NAACP is not sufficiently “emotionally mature” to chose their own representative. Neither are the members the FCCPTA. Nor the Fairfax Partnership for Youth. Nor the Coalition of the Silent. Nor Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform. So the FCPS staff organizations are trusted by the School Board to be “emotionally mature” but the parent/advocates are not. Isn’t that the heart of the problem with the FCPS discipline system? Principals don’t trust parents. And it’s now clear that Gatehouse Party members Moon, Velkoff, Strauss, Hynes, Smith, Denerak/Kaufax and McElveen don’t trust or respect parents or parent advocacy groups either. Mr. McElveen says "this committee is larger than individual groups" except when it comes to the FCPS employee associations. Ms. Reed warned her fellow School Board members that if representatives from the groups that have done the most research into the issue weren't appointed to the committee, the community would conclude that "the outcome was predetermined." And the Gatehouse Party members did everything to confirm that conclusion. Thanks for clearing that all up.
Citizen E September 21, 2012 at 01:16 PM
This committee is obviously NOT "about the community as a whole;" it is an insider group, so we're exactly where we started. This is a School Board that is distrustful of its own community. Not an impressive outcome.
T-Bird September 21, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Yes, they should be involved because the parents groups have shown a great deal of objectivity....RIGHT! What crybabies. You know, you ask the school to address an issue and do something, and they did, but then you cry because you didn't get sprinkles with your ice cream. Perhaps you would rather the old system back?? No, I didn't think so.
Dave Webster September 21, 2012 at 01:48 PM
A 40 member committee? Good luck getting work done. A meeting of 8 hours would allow for each committee member to speak for a total of 12 minutes.
Dina Davis September 21, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I have been following this discussion for months now Mr. Farrell and I really don't understand your very critical and negative view of the efforts undertaken by our School Board. What is your real problem? I think FCPS is taking a reasonable approach. You, however, seem to be the unreasonable party who will never be satisfied. Perhaps you are too close to this situation and you might consider putting your attentions into other issues for awhile - if even for your own sanity.
John Farrell September 21, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Anonymous T-Bird As anyone who follows this system knows, FCPS is still operating under the old system. The few changes made have been at the fringes. Principals are still holding children in closed conference rooms with armed officers and not calling parents until after the child has been bullied into writing the confession the principal wants. But thanks for trolling!
Wien September 21, 2012 at 03:00 PM
This. This. This. I've been on way too many committees and groups that had enough trouble getting things done with 8-12 members. A committee of 40 members is going to move at a glacial pace and probably still leave everyone dissatisfied with the results. Too many cooks in the kitchen never makes a good meal.
John Farrell September 21, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Thanks for caring but I can multi-task. Today, we're working on letting Fairfax citizens know that they can vote for President today! The FCPS discipline system is fundamentally unchanged despite promises to do so made by the most members of the Gatehouse Party during their campaigns. Parental notification before questioning could have passed last June if just 2 members of the Gatehouse Party hadn't given into the bullies among the high school principals who mutinied that night at the instigation of Jack Dale. Ghandi and MLK taught us that fundamental change to oppressive regimes only happens in response to unrelenting action.
John Farrell September 21, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I wonder if that wasn't the intended effect of the original draft by Jack Dale all along. Nah, that would be too cynical.
Scott September 21, 2012 at 05:32 PM
"It is my belief this committee is larger than individual groups. This is about the community as a whole. That said, I do hope these voices find their way onto the committee, if not through this process," McElveen said. This means nothing, Mr McElveen. We're not stupid.

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