In Fairfax County, Virginia, changes set to be approved May 26 would punish ‘malicious misgendering’ at the same level as assault and battery.
For those who scoff that Florida’s new education law bans “non-existent” gender indoctrination, let the tale of Fairfax County, Virginia serve as a wake-up call.
Fairfax County’s school board has long prided itself on leading the way for the nation in cutting-edge education policy and curriculum. As the tenth-largest district in the nation, it holds disproportionate sway over other school boards.
In 2015, the Fairfax school board blindsided parents with changes to its non-discrimination policy, followed by a sweeping expansion of the sex-ed curriculum and new rules governing student offenses and penalties. This is not an isolated policy. In Wisconsin, three middle-schoolers have been accused of “sexual harassment” for using biologically accurate pronouns to refer to a fellow student.
Fairfax’s proposed changes, set to be approved May 26, have hit a new low. Legally meaningless offenses such as “malicious misgendering” and “outing related to gender identification” would be now punishable by up to “Level 4” sanctions. It’s the last level before penalties for drug dealing, rape, and homicide.
Level 4 is the punishment meted out for assault and battery, drug consumption, theft, and arson. These penalties may be applied even to kindergarteners and include, at their worst, expulsion at the behest of the school board.
This barrage of ideological punishment is accompanied by the school board sex-ed committee’s latest, unanimous April 2022 vote to move instruction on gender identity down to elementary school. This puts the Fairfax school system entirely out of step with the Virginia State Standards of Learning on Family Life Education (sex ed).
But this is nothing new. In 2015 Fairfax school board proposed moving instruction on gender fluidity and identity down to middle school from high school, as well as sweeping expansions of the sex-ed curriculum on gender and sexuality. The board and superintendent claimed they were required to make these changes in order to align with new Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs). When other mothers and I combed through the SOLs, we discovered this was a flat-out lie: there was not even a reference to these controversial new sexual concepts.
The Fairfax County School Board continued to steamroll families in 2018, when it voted against overwhelming community input to change the terminology of biological sex to “sex assigned at birth.” As I served on the sex-ed committee for more than years, I saw firsthand the determined effort to move teaching on sexuality to lower and lower grades, and to work around parents who might disagree—a trend mothers and fathers all over the nation are noting as well.
The 2019 blue wave in Virginia, when national LGBTQ advocacy groups including the Human Rights Campaign and the Victory Fund poured millions of dollars into our local races, resulted in further erosion of parental rights in Fairfax County. The new Transgender Policy (R2603.2) establishes a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary support and gender transition team for Fairfax County students.
This team can be formed and operate in secret, without the parents ever being made aware. The policy dictates that parents may be involved in a child’s gender transition team “if the student is willing.” It further stipulates that “a persistent refusal to use a student’s chosen name and pronouns constitutes discrimination”—again, a sanctionable offense for students and teachers alike.
At the state level, Fairfax ideologues are backstopped by their close ally in Richmond, the Senate Education Committee. Powerful members like state Sen. Janet Howell, who twice has used her election committee seat to gerrymander opponents out of her district during her campaigns, treat parents and students alike with staggering arrogance. The education committee is notorious as the graveyard of bills promoting curriculum transparency and accountability.
Taken as a whole, these actions and others by the Fairfax school board over the last several years constitute an ideological and dangerous overhaul of policy, curriculum, and standards that have little to no basis in law, but threaten very real harm to children. Two pending lawsuits in Virginia defending the rights of teachers are addressing these very questions of pronoun use.
But in the meantime, these actions by the Fairfax School Board have set the stage for children to be encouraged to transition in secret, and for children who might persist in using biologically accurate pronouns to be dealt criminal-level penalties.
For those who look at Florida and say “but no one is teaching these things in kindergarten,” let Fairfax be a cautionary tale. Our school board not only plans to teach them, but to expel the pint-size “criminals” who might resist.