March 17, 2021
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:
We write to you to share the deep concern felt by thousands of families in Fairfax County in anticipation of Thursday night’s board vote regarding the Fairfax County Public School 2021- 2022 academic calendar.
On behalf of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Jewish students, parents and teachers throughout the county, we are compelled to advise you that voting in favor of Calendar Options C or D is a strategic error.
We fail to see how the Calendar D produced by FCPS staff, in tandem with the proposed revised regulations, fulfill the Board’s express direction to craft a plan reflecting a wide range of criteria including equity, inclusiveness, transparency and community climate, and student social-emotional wellness.
Our coalition was not consulted when the revisions to regulations regarding religious accommodation for students or staff were prepared, and a preliminary review reveals that they were prepared in haste and include numerous problems. The regulatory revisions reflect a deep lack of understanding about the nature of religious observances for members of our faiths and drive home our belief that simply tweaking regulations will not resolve the issue of minority faith equity in Fairfax schools. Addressing these issues requires a fuller analysis that cannot be completed in the two days remaining before the board vote.
We urge you to vote against the existing but flawed calendar option and again offer our shared expertise for a thoughtful and thorough discussion with FCPS’ Chief Equity Officer in pursuit of a more equitable solution.
We remind you that our collective minority faith communities have spoken—clearly and often.
- The FCPS Religious Observances Task Force presented to you clear and carefully considered recommendations for calendars that honored our communities’ needs. Will you respect them?
- FCPS parents and stakeholders sent you nearly 16,000 emails urging you to vote for Calendar Option A or Calendar Option B. Will you honor their efforts?
- Nearly 500 FCPS students from 41 schools in our county delivered to you this evening a petition asking for an inclusive calendar that reflects the Fairfax school system’s diversity. Will you hear their voices?
- One of our nation’s leading legal experts on church-state issues opined that the school closures we are recommending are legal in their entirety. Will you give his analysis the weight it deserves?
- Our coalition of interfaith grassroots activists spoke with you, met with you, wrote to you and pleaded with you. Will you heed our message?
- The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has endorsed One Fairfax in an attempt to increase equity and fairness to Fairfax County. Will you live up to the values of that policy?
Ignoring these voices would be a betrayal of the trust our community has invested into our elected leaders and the school system.
But it is not too late to do what is right.
We urge you to vote against Calendars C and D, options that would further marginalize and penalize our families and our communities.
Please vote for Calendar A or Calendar B to send a message that Fairfax County is a place of equity and respect; a place where minority faiths are welcomed and empowered to flourish.
Our understanding is that the option remains open to reconsider either Calendar version A or B, with the direction to adjust that calendar to ensure that hourly workers do not experience loss of income, and that other concerns are addressed. Pursuing that strategy might yield a better balancing of the diverse criteria delineated in the Board’s mandate of March 2nd .
We remain united and determined, and we will not allow our communities to be pitted against one another. We will not rest until our voices are heard and respected and until Fairfax County finds a way to do what seven neighboring school districts have done already: adopt inclusive, equitable school calendars that accommodate the needs of minority faith communities.
All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS)
Association of United Hindu and Jain Temples of Metropolitan Washington
Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Hindu American Foundation (HAF)
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC)
McLean Islamic Center
Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation
Sikh Foundation of Virginia
Temple Rodef Shalom
Virginia Council of Muslim Organizations (VCMO)
Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE)