VA school district to allow student absences from classes to protest

Happy New Year, kids! Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia will enact a new policy on January 27, 2020, which allows school students to skip school to protest.

So it begins. Fairfax County Public Schools system is one of the nation’s largest with approximately 188,000 students. With close proximity to Washington, D.C., it doesn’t take much imagination to understand where the students will be protesting. It is being touted as the first school district in the nation to incorporate this policy. The policy allows students in seventh through 12th grades to have one excused absence each school year for “civic engagement activities”.

Though the definition of civic engagement activities is vague at this point as described by spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell, Fairfax School Board member Ryan McElveen, who introduced the policy gave some examples that will be considered excusable absences – marches, sit-ins or trips to Richmond to lobby legislators. McElveen admits this is just the beginning of things to come.

“I think we’re setting the stage for the rest of the nation with this,” he said. “It’s a dawning of a new day in student activism, and school systems everywhere are going to have to be responsive to it.”

No, Mr. McElveen, school systems everywhere are not going to have to be responsive to it. Lots of protests are held on weekends to allow more people to join in. Allowing middle school and high school students to skip classes to go protest somewhere off campus is not an acceptable field trip. Not only is it an escalation of liberal indoctrination in the classroom but it is a public safety matter, too. What happens when the child is hurt in a crowd or is arrested? Why encourage that?

An article in the Washington Post criticizes conservatives for not welcoming the escalation of liberal indoctrination. Apparently it is odd that conservatives expect that their children are educated in the classroom, not dismissed and allowed to join a protest.

The controversy shows that the hyperpartisan sniping dominating America’s political stage has seeped into the nation’s school systems, said Meira Levinson, a Harvard University professor who studies education. Schools throughout the country are reckoning with a disturbing new reality, Levinson said: Every move by administrators and students, no matter how anodyne, is swiftly interpreted as a “win” or a “loss” for the right or the left.

“Each side is so suspicious of the other that it’s become very hard for adults to trust what’s happening in schools is legitimate, if the other side seems to be ‘winning,’ ” Levinson said. “We’re all always looking for what’s the political agenda — and that’s why, with this new policy in Fairfax County, there’s going to be contestation about it.”

Yes, our country is in the throes of hyperpartisanship. What Levinson doesn’t say, though, is that politicizing the education of our children escalates the hyperpartisanship. Conservatives support school choice for this very reason – for the last generation or two, liberal agendas have taken over the education process. This is evident in today’s young voters and their ready acceptance of socialism, for example.

The popularity of Greta Thunberg and the cultish support of her by young people and manipulative adults (like 82-year-old Jane Fonda) began with her Fridays for Future movement. She encourages school students around the world to skip school on Fridays and take to the streets in protests over climate change. This brand of environmental alarmism earned the Swedish teenager a TIME Person of the Year award, among others. There is no doubt that this action being taken by the Fairfax County school district originates with a nod to Thunberg’s movement.

The article in WaPo also mentions that it is mostly liberals, not conservatives, who participate in protests. That’s true. Conservatives expect their kids to receive an education in school – in classrooms – and conservative adults are usually at work during the day. Liberals seem to have more free time on their hands. It is the inclusion of children, though, that is the reason for objections with this policy. Conservatives know that political indoctrination is a one-party exercise in public schools. Are we to think that kids will be chanting and marching in favor of pro-life legislation or gun rights or against the Green New Deal initiative?

The guidelines of the new policy are lax, to say the least. It is wishy-washy nonsense.

Under the guidelines, students must fill out a form at least two days ahead of their planned absence that explains the reason they plan to miss school, McElveen said. They must obtain permission from a parent or guardian, and they must stop by their school campus at least once on the day of their excused absence — a measure adopted to address worries about accreditation, McElveen said.

But the teenagers do not need administrators’ sign-off, McElveen said. Although front office staff at each school — most likely an assistant principal — will glance over a student’s request, school officials can’t veto it, McElveen said. Instead, if a reviewer finds the stated reason for skipping school troubling, a regional assistant superintendent can be alerted and may intervene — but possibly after the protest.

The built-in bureaucratic delay is purposeful, McElveen said.

“There is no strong definition of a ‘civic engagement’ activity,” he said, “because I think we have to be careful not to pick and choose activities.”

The last burst of protesting from conservative-leaning people was during the Tea Party movement. Those rallies were mostly held on weekends, though, and were not disruptive to the lives of regular people. Giving children an excuse to skip school and protest left-wing causes is a liberal idea.

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