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Group files second school board recall petition, with shift to Springfield rep. Laura Jane Cohen

Laura Jane Cohen, Springfield District representative for Fairfax County Public Schools (via FCPS)

A coalition that tried to recall school board member Elaine Tholen has filed another recall petition, this time for school board member Laura Jane Cohen.

Open FCPS Coalition says it’s seeking to remove the Springfield District representative over Fairfax County Public Schools’ pandemic response. Dee O’Neal Jackson, the group’s founder, said in a statement that the school board has failed students during the pandemic, especially those with learning disabilities.

“We hope the Court recognizes the concerns of these 8,000 residents and requires Ms. Cohen to explain why the concerns of these parents are invalid,” the group said in a statement, stating that it filed the 8,000-plus signatures collected for the petition on Friday (Dec. 10) at the Fairfax County Courthouse.

Open FCPS Coalition has gathered signatures against multiple school board members and previously noted concerns with school closings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Open FCPS Coalition formed in fall 2020 to protest Fairfax County Public Schools going virtual during the pandemic and campaigned to recall Tholen, who represents Dranesville District, and Member-at-Large Abrar Omeish.

Cohen noted Tholen’s case was summarily dismissed after a special prosecutor said he had investigated the allegations in the petition and found that none of them could be substantiated.

“Allowing public officials to be recalled over policy disagreements unnecessarily politicizes their work,” Cohen said in a statement. “Virginia law is clear: differences of opinion over matters of policy are simply not grounds for removal from office.”

While the Open FCPS Coalition describes itself as a grassroots, bipartisan group concerned with keeping politics out of schools, it’s received funding contributions from former Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder and N2 America, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing center-right policies in the suburbs.

Open FCPS Coalition previously said only one school board member, Braddock District representative Megan McLaughlin, advocated for reopening in a way it felt was consistent and a priority.

“The Board has worked hard to ensure the safety and health of our 180,000 students and tens of thousands of teachers and staff during the pandemic,” Cohen said in a statement. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to successfully return and keep students in our buildings this year and provide a much more normal school experience in spite of the pandemic related challenges all systems are facing.”

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