Get on the bus for ERA ratification

By Susan Laume:

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment are sponsoring a 10-day bus tour across Virginia to urge legislators to make Virginia the 38th and final state necessary to achieve ratification. The bus stopped in several locations in Fairfax County on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, after visiting Richmond, and continued on to Fredericksburg.

The bus tour is run by VAratifyERA, a non-partisan, single issue campaign focused on this issue.  In Fairfax County, the third day of the tour, the bus stopped at George Mason University, Clifton, Falls Church and Fairfax.

At the Clifton stop, state Sen. George Barker (D-39) and his wife Jane were on the bus. Sen. Barker first introduced the ERA in the state legislature in 2012 and has been a strong supporter ever since. Mrs. Barker is co-chair of the Democratic Women of Clifton and Northern Virginia, and a leader in the bi-partisan effort to build a memorial to suffragists near the former Lorton Reformatory location where many suffragists were imprisoned.

Also on the bus were state Delegates Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2), Hala Ayala (D-51) and Kaye Kory (D-38).

From The Blue View

Fairfax Dems Mount Massive Latino Outreach

By Todd Thurwachter:

Ahead of the Nov. 6 election, Democrats have made a sustained effort to register and educate Latino voters in Fairfax County – who now constitute 16% of the population, and are heading higher.

The campaign has contacted tens of thousands in Fairfax and neighboring counties, led by the Voter Registration & Education Committee of Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC).

The project began last May with printing and distributing 5,000 voter information cards in Spanish, “Todo Sobre el Voto” (click here to view).

The cards, and other information in Spanish on voting, were also posted on the FCDC website. Also available in Spanish, for the first time, is the free Election Alerts service, which sends emails to subscribers before every election with key information including a sample ballot.

Committee Chair Janice Yohai also created and launched a special Latino outreach pilot program for Back-to-School-Nights in September. The committee targeted 16 Fairfax schools with over 50% Latino populations, mostly elementary schools, and recruited 13 Spanish speaking volunteers, who engaged close to 1,000 Latino parents of schoolchildren.

More from The Blue View

Virginia could be the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

Virginia’s vote could be the last state vote needed to allow the United States Congress to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would become the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Alice Paul / Historical Photo

VAratifyERA Sunday — Women’s Equality Day — kicked off a campaign to press Virginia lawmakers to approve the amendment in January by holding screenings around Virginia of “Iron Jawed Angels.” The film stars Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, the suffragist who first drafted the ERA.

Women’s Equality Day, Aug. 26, commemorates passing the 19th Amendment in 1920, prohibiting state and federal governments from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex after a fight for women’s rights that began in the mid-1800’s.

The proposed ERA seeks to further expand equal legal rights guarantees for all American citizens regardless of sex.

Voting rights were a significant victory for women in 1918. Suffragists endured unthinkable treatment during the quest. Drawing little public interest when picketing began in January 1917; by April, as World War I started, the public became outraged at suffragists’ criticism of President Woodrow Wilson’s “hypocrisy” in calling for Democracy in Europe.

Suffragists suffered multiple incarcerations, increasing fines; even the torture of force feeding following hunger strikes, and eventually beatings, choking, and kicking by prison guards during the infamous “Night of Terror” on Nov. 14, 1917, at the Occoquan Workhouse.

Finally, public sympathy and shock over such treatment, for merely picketing, led to their release two weeks later. In January 1918, President Wilson came out in favor of the 19thamendment.

It had taken 72 years for women to get the vote, but women have yet to be recognized as having equal rights, beyond voting, under law in the United States Constitution.

From The Blue View

New policy for police in Fairfax schools to focus on law enforcement, not discipline

By Matthew Dunne:

The policy governing roles and responsibilities of  armed police officers who patrol the hallways of every public middle and high school in Fairfax County is about to be improved, after a community panel submitted more than 50 pages of comments in a wide-ranging review.

Although universal agreement was not reached, the policy review, the first in several years, led to significant improvements, including establishing a bright line between school discipline and law enforcement.

[Editor’s note: Some panel members believe the policy should strengthen protection for immigrant students – read story here]

The revised policy is set to be voted on by the Fairfax County School Board this coming Thursday, and will take effect with the start of the school year on Aug. 28.

The policy review grew out of concern that the existing agreement between the Fairfax Police Department and the school board had led to disparate treatment of minority children. In response, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova appointed an ad hoc committee of community representatives to provide input on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the school system and the police.

Some parents and community members view armed police in schools, known as school resource officers (SROs),  as a necessary safeguard against the many dangers in our world. While violent crime remains at historic lows, gun violence, sex trafficking and gang activity continue to threaten the safety and security of our children in school.  From this perspective, SROs serve as the first line of defense.

Other parents and community members view SROs as the problem, not the solution. Dash cam, body cam, and cell phone videos have revealed a disturbing pattern of discrimination and violence against minority children across the country.

In Fairfax County, there are conflicting reports on SRO interactions with students. However, data compiled by ACLU People Power show that approximately two-thirds of those arrested by SROs are African-American or Hispanic, even though these groups together constitute only one-quarter of the county population.

Similarly, two-thirds of students receiving suspensions are African-American or Hispanic, even though these groups together constitute only one-third of the student population.

Led by Communities of Trust Committee Chair Shirley Ginwright, the SRO review committee engaged in a thorough review of the MOU, starting with its first meeting on July 2. The process was at times contentious because the stakes were high and the time was limited. The parties had to bridge serious differences of opinion and understanding on SRO activities within three weeks. The committee members submitted dozens of comments, which were compiled into a matrix exceeding 50 pages in length.

The draft reviewed at the final meeting on July 19 committed Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to “handle discipline within the school disciplinary process without involving SROs” and affirmed   “that school administrators and teachers are responsible for school discipline and that law enforcement is not to be involved with disciplinary action.”

Read the rest at The Blue View

Fairfax NAACP Recognized as Best Branch in the United States

By M. J. O’Brien:

The Fairfax County NAACP has been named the top branch in the country by the national organization. The branch will receive the prestigious Thalheimer Award, given annually to the branch with the most outstanding achievements, next week at the NAACP’s Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

Kofi Annan, President, Fairfax County NAACP

“Fairfax County is the home of the best branch in the NAACP in the nation,” said Kofi Annan, president of the Fairfax branch in announcing the award. “We’ve always felt that way … but today it became official!”

Established in 1944, the Thalheimer Award recognizes “outstanding achievements” by local branches in “the implementation of the Association’s strategic priorities and goals.” These include “enhancing advocacy, civic engagement, economic and political empowerment, criminal justice, and educational equity.” The award is named for Dr. Ross Thalheimer, a psychologist who was executive director of the Community Guidance Service and also founder of the American Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.

In its application for the award, the branch cited a variety of activities and initiatives, including the successful two-year “Change the Name” campaign that sought to convince the Fairfax County School Board to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School. Name change proponents pointed out that naming the most diverse high school in the county after a Confederate general was a detriment to learning and an insult to students and residents alike.

In July 2017, the school board voted that the name of J.E.B. Stuart had to go and later in the year support coalesced around the name Justice High School. The school is being revamped this summer and will officially open with its new moniker next month.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Review group questions police role in Fairfax County schools

By Brad Swanson:

What should be the role of cops in schools? Should armed police officers even be allowed in schools?

These were among the issues that rose to the surface in a tense meeting Monday night of a community group charged with reviewing the terms under which police officers are assigned to high schools and middle schools throughout the county.

“Kids should not be consigned to hell because they made one mistake [in school],” argued Matthew Dunne, representing the Fairfax County Council of PTAs.  Dunne and 14 others are members of the School Resource Officer (SRO) Community Review Committee, appointed by Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova to review the draft of a new memorandum of understanding between the Fairfax County School Board and the Police Department governing  the cops-in-schools policy.

The meeting was attended by about 50 members of the public, some of whom waved signs and heckled speakers. Bulova, Police Chief Ed Roessler, and School Superintendent Dr. Scott Braband bore the brunt of criticism as committee members questioned key tenets of the program and called for more time to complete their review.

Bulova defended her decision to fix an accelerated timetable of only three meetings for the SRO committee, pointing out that the new agreement had to be finalized this summer so it could take effect with the start of school on Aug. 28.

But some committee members pushed for a top-to-bottom review, and even questioned whether Fairfax should station police officers in schools at all.

“There are school systems elsewhere that have safe environments without the presence of armed guards in the schools,” said Sookyung Oh, a committee member representing National Korean American Services & Education Consortium. But Commitee Chair Shirley Ginwright, representing the Communities of Trust Committee, said the program of placing police in schools is a reality, and the question before the committee is how to improve it.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Photo Essay: Thousands rally in Washington, D.C., to bring families together

Tens of Thousands of demonstrators rallied Saturday in Washington, D.C., to protest the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and separating children from their parents.

On a sweltering day in the capital, the crowd gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House to protest separating thousands of children from their parents at the border and the new plan to detain families together. Some 600 “Families Belong Together” rallies were held around the country.

The rally began with Sebastian Medina-Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation addressing the crowd in Spanish and English, reminding people that this is a nation of immigrants. Then he beat the drum.

Then Jocelyn, an undocumented immigrant who didn’t want to give her full name, told of how she was separated from her son when she came to the United States from Brazil last August and she was held at a detention facility in Texas. She said that she was told that her son could be adopted. It took 9 months for them to be reunited.

Celebrities Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the smash musical “Hamilton,” singer Alicia Keys and actress America Ferrera were among the rally speakers. Miranda sang a lullaby from “Hamilton,” Keys read a letter from a mother separated from her son and Ferrera talked about being a new mother, her Honduran roots and her duty to defend justice.

After the rally, protesters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the Trump International Hotel to the Department of Justice.

Read the rest at The Blue View

School Board votes to make sex ed more LGBTQ inclusive

By Karen Kirk:

The Fairfax County School Board Thursday night approved changes to the Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum that are more inclusive of LGBTQ students, thwarting opposition from a national right-wing media campaign.

The proposed changes include using the term “sex assigned at birth” rather than “biological sex” and informing high school students about “pre-exposure prophylaxis” or “PrEP,” a treatment to protect against HIV. The FDA in May approved Truvada for adolescents to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Supporters of the proposed changes outnumbered opponents in a packed auditorium at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, and several of them addressed the board.

Read the rest at The Blue View

Medicaid Expansion, Huge Win for Virginia

You may have heard that yesterday the Virginia legislature approved a budget that includes an expansion of Medicaid, making it the 33rd state in the country (including the District of Columbia) to do so since passage of the Affordable Care Act.

It is hard to overstate the impact of this victory. In Fairfax County alone, 15,000 families will be eligible for health coverage. At least 27,000 individuals could receive health care. Throughout Virginia, over 400,000 people are eligible for coverage.

Thank you to every member of the Hunter Mill Democrats for your part in helping make life better for everyone in Virginia. Your work will literally save lives. Check out Fairfax County Democratic Committee Chairman Dan Lagana’s statement on this incredible victory.

School Board weighs changing sex ed to make it more LGBTQ inclusive

By Karen Kirk:

The Fairfax County School board heard spirited comments both for and against changing the public school sex education curriculum to make it more LGBTQ inclusive at its regular meeting Thursday, May 24.

The discussion was a precursor to the vote on June 14 on changing wording in the Family Life Education (FLE) curriculum. The proposed changes include using the term  “sex assigned at birth” rather than “biological sex” and informing high school students about a pill that was recently approved for adolescents to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Paul Wooldridge, who has two children who attended the Fairfax County Public Schools system, one of them transgender, spoke movingly of his son’s experience.  “Now FCPS has many teachers and administrators who recognize the rights and needs of transgender students. However my son’s experience showed that there are plenty of students and a few teachers that were not so understanding and accepting of the person he is.”

“He was teased and degraded in the halls by fellow students,” continued Wooldridge. “He was also intimidated by a few faculty members in apparent attempts to make him feel shame or lesser of a person. This unsolicited treatment was dished out in spite of my son’s attempts to proactively educate the faculty and fellow school students about the transgender issues and human rights.”

Read the rest at The Blue View