Tysons, VA

Fairfax County NAACP shared nine priorities for tackling racism in the county’s public schools on Tuesday night.

The virtual town hall was originally set to be a two-hour discussion with Superintendent Scott Brabrand, but Brabrand declined and instead attended the school board’s meeting to push for a fully online start to school.

Sujatha Hampton, the chair of Fairfax NAACP’s education committee, presented the nine priorities. “Black kids are regularly asked to swallow their pain,” Hampton said.

The event Tuesday night received more than 1,700 views. Most of the discussion and comments focused on school resource officers (SROs), the Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) and principals’ power.

Advanced Academic Programs

Several commenters claimed that there are “drastic” differences between the general education curriculum and AAP Program. “I support getting rid of the AP program for SO MANY reasons,” one person wrote. “We could do so much more as a school system if we didn’t have it.”

The organization’s president Sean Perryman said that the AAP Program is large, referring to a Washington Post story about students getting into the program through the appeals process.

“There’s a reason for us to look deeply at the AAP Program to see if the juice is worth the squeeze,” Hampton said. “It has so many problems, let’s just take a look at it.”

School Resource Officers

For SROs, Perryman said he wants to have more conversation around the idea of taking officers out of schools, questioning how effective SROs have been in preventing and responding to school shootings. Instead, SROs can increase the school-to-prison pipeline for Black and Latino students, Perryman.

“I know for a lot of people, it gives them heartburn when they think we’re going to take the SROs out of schools because they have this understanding that if a cop is present in the school, my child is safe,” Perryman said.

Especially now that FCPS will start off the school year virtually, Perryman said that state funds that go to SROs can instead get used for therapists — “counselors not cops,” he said.

Principals 

Several commenters agreed that principals should take the lead on creating an anti-racist school culture.

Hampton said that principals have “tremendous power” over their schools — “almost like a mini fiefdom” — when deciding disciplinary actions.

Here are the nine priorities:

  • protect vulnerable students, faculty and staff most impacted by COVID-19
  • add more support for Equity and Cultural Responsiveness Team in schools*
  • have the School Board vote on removing SROs from schools*
  • make curriculum review committees to scrutinize racial/cultural bias*
  • create a plan to hire and improve retention of Black and Latino teachers
  • examine AAP’s admission process, goals, etc.
  • review demographics and accessibility of abstract math, Honors, AP and IB classes to increase Black and Latino students*
  • examine the roles of principals and regional superintendents to ensure effective oversight on equity issues
  • review and revise the admission process to Thomas Jefferson High School
  • *priorities to be completed by end of the upcoming school year

Perryman said that the organization will work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.

People can watch the full video on Facebook Live.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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