FCPS Interfaith Sign On Letter

To:    Hon. Ricardy Anderson and Members of the Fairfax County School Board

cc:    Dr. Scott Brabrand, FCPS Superintendent 
         Mr. Armando Peri, FCPS Ombudsman 


Dear Chairwoman Anderson and Fellow School Board Members:

As religious leaders and representatives of faith communities and religious institutions throughout Fairfax County, we write to you to express our deep dismay regarding the School Board’s recent discussions regarding the 2021-2022 academic calendar.  In ignoring the recommendations of its own Religious Observances Task Force and of the FCPS Calendar Committee, introducing an “Option C” calendar without the proposed closures coinciding with Eid, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Diwali, the Board has seriously compromised the trust and confidence of our minority faith communities and their many allies in our county.  

Our concerns are threefold: 

  • The lack of transparency in this matter violates precepts of “good government,” and deeply disrespects the interfaith leaders who devoted so much time and energy over 18 months to the Task Force;
  • The summary rejection of the input of the Task Force and the Calendar Committee contradicts the spirit and intent of “One Fairfax,” which the School Board has said is a priority for our school system, retaining a calendar that is impervious to Fairfax’s richly diverse population and out of step with our neighboring jurisdictions; and,
  • The pitting of academic equity against religious equity is a false binary that serves to unnecessarily sow division and conflict among people of different faiths, races and ethnicities. Rather than fulfilling its obligations to all of its students, the Board stands to drive a wedge between the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities and the Black, Brown and special needs communities, disregarding intersectionality among the communities.

Fairfax’s interfaith leaders have been at the forefront of promoting true equity for all our county’s residents.  Our faiths compel us to speak out when we see injustice. The issue of academic losses suffered by low-income, Black, Brown, and special education students during the pandemic is of critical importance to us – and we do not hesitate to speak truth to power and call on FCPS to do more for these students.  Yet the persistent pain and frustration of minority-faith FCPS students and their families, whose numbers have exponentially increased over the last decade, cannot be ignored or cast aside.  We, perhaps more than others, are privy to the emotional and spiritual trauma endured by students and employees who feel forced to choose between their faith and their studies or employment.  These harmful inequities must be addressed.  FCPS can and must simultaneously pursue the goals of religious accommodation and educational equity. This is not an “either/or” situation – both issues can and do exist side by side in Fairfax County and as faith leaders, we see the pain and frustration of so many in our communities and implore you, our elected officials, to do better.

Adoption of these closures and recognition of the growing diversity of faith communities is long overdue; it will reduce conflict and confusion regarding religious accommodations, which in any case are honored more in the breach than in the compliance, and it will further cultural competency and mutual respect among all FCPS students, faculty and employees.   Simply put, members of minority-faith communities must stop feeling like second-class citizens in their own schools.  

For these reasons, and in service to the values embodied in Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideal of the “Beloved Community,” we encourage the School Board to unite rather than divide; to sow comity and competency rather than conflict; and to prioritize the inherent dignity of each FCPS student and staff member, ending the need to choose between one’s faith and one’s education or employment.  We urge you to honor the recommendations of the Religious Observance Task Force and the FCPS Calendar Committee, and adopt either Calendar Option A or Calendar Option B.  

Respectfully,  

Individual & Faith Community/Religious Organizational Signatories as of February 24
(in formation, updated at 5:00 PM daily):

  • JCRC of Greater Washington
  • Rabbi Jessica Wainer
  • Rev. Russell Heiland
  • Jain Community
  • Agudas Achim Congregation
  • Cantor Allen Leider
  • Durga Temple of Virginia
  • Cantor/Chaplain Michael Shochet
  • Rev. Dr. Jean Wright
  • Mr. Sant D. Gupta
  • Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia
  • Cantor Susan Caro
  • Rabbi Lizz Goldstein
  • Congregation Ner Shalom
  • Rav Natan Freller
  • Rabbi Gilah Langner
  • Congregation Olam Tikvah
  • InterFaith Council of Metropolitan Washington
  • Hurunnessa Fariad, Muslim Faith Leader
  • Imam Sayed Wali
  • Mustafa Center
  • Imam Syed Omair
  • Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe
  • Rabbi Amy Schwartzman
  • Temple Rodef Shalom
  • Cantor Rachel Rhodes
  • Rabbi Stephanie Bernstein
  • Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation
  • Imam Mohamed Magid
  • Rev. Michelle L. Nickens
  • Washington Plaza Baptist Church
  • The Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana
  • Rev. Aaron Fulp-Eickstaedt
  • Rev. Dr. Rob Vaughn
  • Community of Faith United Methodist Church
  • Rick Schryber
  • Pastor John W. Moyle
  • Oakbrook Church
  • Farah Ahmad
  • McLean Islamic Center
  • Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer
  • Congregation Adat Reyim
  • Allison Carpenter
  • Dr. Sultan Chaudhry
  • Chinmaya Mission Washington Regional Center
  • Zafar Farooqi
  • Imam Kebba Sallah
  • Shahbaz Mian
  • Reverend Jonathan Page
  • Herndon United Methodist Church
  • Imam Tarek Zahid
  • Rabbi David S. Widzer
  • Temple B'nai Shalom
  • Dana Pratt, Ruling Elder, Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Dr. Shyam Bajpai
  • Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples
  • Ghanshyam Gupta
  • Fabrangen West (Jewish Havurah/Fellowship)
  • Barbara Laster