Tysons, VA

Fairfax County Public Schools’ superintendent said he is committed to tackling racism in the public school system during a town hall last night.

The Fairfax County NAACP met with FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand to talk about how to address systemic racism going into the 2020-2021 school year. 

The discussion between Sujatha Hampton, the Fairfax County NAACP’s education chair, and Brabrand, along with several other guests, focused on a list of priorities from Fairfax County NAACP to address equity.

Brabrand repeated throughout the town hall that he was ready to be held accountable for making change. “We need to be more comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Brabrand said at the end of the meeting.

The town hall began with a discussion on COVID-19 and the status of reopening schools. On July 21, Brabrand announced that schools would be opening virtually on Sept. 8. Hampton made it clear that it will be essential to address the inequities that online learning presents in minority communities.

What would an anti-racist school system look like and how can FCPS strive for that? Hampton had several proposals.

One would address the scope of the chief equity officer position within the county, with Hampton noting the importance of hiring someone with “anti-racist” policies versus a traditional hire for the position.

Hampton’s proposed job description included conveying “transformational leadership” and having “successful experience as a change agent.”

“Anti-racism is a fairly new thing for systems to be considering,” said Hampton when emphasizing the importance of radical change with leadership.

Another priority is creating an anti-racist curriculum. FCPS Social Studies Coordinator Colleen Eddy said that they are already in the process of auditing the existing curriculum.

A major topic of discussion was the disproportionate discipline statistics in the county’s schools. Hampton presented a series of data points showcasing the high number of Black students receiving referrals for “disruptive behavior” versus their peers. FCPS Deputy Superintendent Frances Ivey agreed that it’s time to reinforce positive behavior rather than disciplining students.

Hampton also discussed the lack of Black teachers and principles within the school system and emphasized the importance of creating a data-driven plan to hire more Black teachers in a transparent way. She said the culture of a school stems from a principal, and it is “criminal” to give kids a racist principal. 

“I want everyone to remember that these are actual children’s lives,” Hampton said. 

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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Fairfax County NAACP announced a new virtual town hall to discuss system racism in public schools with Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

Brabrand was originally going to co-host a town hall on the topic with Fairfax NAACP on July 21. He dropped out of the event, which took place the same night the county’s school board reconsidered reopening plans for schools.

Fairfax NAACP pivoted and used the town hall on July 21 to unveil the organization’s priorities for combatting racism in schools. Fairfax NAACP President Sean Perryman said during the event that the organization would work to reschedule the discussion with Brabrand.

Now, Brabrand and Fairfax NAACP are scheduled to host a town hall from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 5. People can watch the event on Facebook Live.

“One topic that will be discussed is the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Fairfax NAACP posted on Facebook, sharing a YouTube video by The Root, a Black-oriented online magazine, that explains how the School-to-Prison Pipeline works.

Here’s the event description:

From academic achievement, enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, to the School Resource Officer program and the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism effects our children’s lives every day. This will be a civil discourse where we can openly talk about our and our kids’ experiences, ask questions, and talk about what change looks like.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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Fairfax NAACP Head May Run for Lt. Governor — “Fairfax County NAACP president Sean Perryman announced an exploratory bid for the position of lieutenant governor Monday, explaining that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resultant economic crisis had catalyzed his run.” [WTOP]

Upzoning in Tysons — “While there are advantages and disadvantages relative to replacing single-family zoning with two- to four-unit zoning, Tysons’ plan may provide an alternative model for suburban upzoning in locations where eliminating single-family zoning runs into political roadblocks.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Gym Eyeing Tysons — “United Kingdom-based gym chain PureGym will open its first location in the United States in Springfield… Parties are now drafting construction drawings for the Springfield location to apply for permits with Fairfax County, the source said, adding that PureGym is eyeing more locations in the region, including in Tysons.” [Washington Business Journal]

Renamed School Holiday — “The Fairfax County School Board has voted to rename Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day for the previously approved 2020-21 Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) school year calendar as well as the yet-to-be approved 2021-22 school year calendar. The 2021-22 calendar is scheduled to be adopted in September.” [FCPS]

Photo courtesy Joanne Liebig

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The Mary Riley Styles Public Library in Falls Church is looking to move forward discussions about police reform in the community.

The City of Falls Church announced today that the library will host an online forum next Wednesday (Aug. 5).

The panelists for the event include the city’s police chief, the president of the Fairfax County NAACP and the city’s HR director. Jennifer Carroll, the library’s director, will moderate the event.

“Learn more about the national Mayor’s Pledge (which was signed by Mayor [David] Tarter in June); the City’s Use of Force Review Committee; the principles of 21st century policing; and what issues lie behind the ‘defund police’ movement,” according to the event description.

The event is set to start at 7 p.m. People can register for the Zoom event by emailing [email protected]

File photo

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A virtual town hall next week will tackle systemic racism and equity issues that students face in public schools.

Fairfax County NAACP and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand are hosting the event.

“From academic achievement, enrollment at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, to the School Resource Officer program and the school-to-prison pipeline, systemic racism affects our children’s lives every day,” the event description says, noting the town hall will focus on students’ experiences.

Previously, FCPS officials and Fairfax NAACP hosted an event in May, where Brabrand said he is committed to seeing the school system work faster to address racism within the public schools, WUSA9 reported.

FCPS plans to announce a new anti-racism curriculum which could start as soon as this fall, Fox5 reported. A recent petition is asking the school system to improve its Black history curricula.

The upcoming town hall is set to take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21.

People interested in watching via Zoom are asked to RSVP. The town hall will also be available on Facebook Live.

Photo via Sam Balye/Unsplash

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Last night’s town hall with Fairfax County’s police chief covered a variety of issues related to police reform, from progress on the demands made by Fairfax County NAACP to body-worn cameras.  

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn hosted the meeting last night to give locals a chance to provide input and ask questions. The conflict-free town hall mainly focused on Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. answering questions from audience members and explaining FCPD’s policies in detail. 

Roessler highlighted the reforms made by FCPD since the shooting of John Geer, an unarmed Springfield man, in 2013. They have shifted towards a “co-production” method of policing, which emphasizes the importance of community engagement by bringing in advocates to review issues and discuss police report narratives. 

A big goal of the police department is to increase diversion of tasks, including sending mental health or substance abuse cases away from the police. Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who is the chair of the county’s Public Safety Committee, also emphasized that the current range of issues diverted to the police is “too much to ask of them” and is in support of the Diversion First model. 

The chief addressed terminology that the public wanted to be defined, including the FCPD’s definition of the use of force as “anything beyond a guide or escort, or above putting handcuffs on.” Roessler said that anything beyond that is subject to investigation. Additionally, he clarified that chokeholds are prohibited in Fairfax County. 

Roessler also touched on the development of body-worn cameras. He said that the idea has been in the works since June 2015, and he wants to adopt the co-production model of community engagement in this development.

He says they are making “great progress” on this project and that the policies regarding the cameras are addressed online in an American University pilot program testing the same model of body camera policies. They plan to evaluate the body cameras again in-person in September to ensure the policies are exceeding community expectations.

Roessler discussed the evaluation and promotion process of officers, saying that evaluation begins upon application. He described a thorough path of training that officers go through before assignments. Additionally, they value community engagement when evaluating candidates for senior staff positions to ensure officers “embody the spirit of what the community needs for the future.” 

“We want our officers to engage with the community members in a positive fashion, not just calls for service,” Roessler said in describing what they look for upon officer evaluation. 

Other issues covered included the presence of the MS-13 gang, to which Roessler said they “will be relentless on gang activity in Fairfax County.”

When asked how the police department addresses domestic and sexual violence, Roessler said they use the Lethality Assessment Program — Maryland Model to assess the situation and connect victims with immediate help, such as counselors, attorneys or volunteers from the community.

Photo via Youtube Live

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At last night’s town hall meeting by the Fairfax County NAACP, the organization’s president Sean Perryman met with local elected officials and community leaders to discuss the future of policing.

Since the killing of George Floyd in police custody and outrage over racial inequities in the U.S., the NAACP compiled a list of policy changes for how to address how police use force and report actions to the public.

Top demands for reform include:

  • removing police from schools
  • reporting data efficiently
  • implementing body-worn cameras
  • reporting officer misconduct
  • reviewing the use of force policy
  • demilitarizing the police force
  • mandating counseling/early intervention

Perryman said that the Fairfax County Police Department needs to see policy and budget overhauls to end systemic racism and better serve the community. Perryman said that nearly half the police use of force in the area is used against Black individuals even though they make up 10% of the population.

At the meeting, the attendees, which included Supervisors Dalia Pakchik, John Foust, Walter Alcorn and Chairman Jeff McKay, all agreed that changes are needed to improve the safety and security of every Fairfax County resident.

Fairfax County Police Chief  Edwin Roessler Jr. expressed a willingness to work with the NAACP on the proposed changes. 

“I don’t think I oppose in whole any one of these items,” Roessler said, but added that there might be stipulations on certain topics.  

A point of confusion at the meeting was about the transparency of data. Though everyone agreed that data is important to tracking issues and upcoming solutions, no one was on the same page when it came to the type of data and release date.

The FCPD police chief said that recent data on use of force data and school arrests should be released to McKay later this week, but the department is transitioning to a new data management system to achieve the goal.

“We have a lot of promises for data and more transparency but we aren’t actually getting the data,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to be not only released to the county board, but also to the public.

“This would give the community some insight into what is happening,” Perryman said, adding that this data needs to include other information such as traffic stops and the races of officers and civilians involved.

The conversation on body-worn cameras for officers revolved around best practices and use.

Perryman suggested that officers shouldn’t be allowed to choose when to use them, calling it “an essential part of transparency,” he said.

“It is a waste of equipment, essentially a lens with a price tag, if there is no policy in place that prevents officers from turning this off or selectively turning it on,” he added.

When it comes to budget and funding, Perryman doesn’t believe the department should receive extra money from the state or the county for this project, suggesting that the cost should come from internal budget shifts.

“What we’ve seen in the past when there is a problem with the police, we give them more money to get more toys and we think that needs to stop,” Perryman said. “I don’t think there is an appetite for it here in the country or anywhere else actually.”

The town hall also addressed concerns with civilian review panels.

Tn the past, the panels have struggled to “have teeth,” according to Roessler, who added that the General Assembly would need to correct that. 

Though there are challenges, Perryman said that people need to stop pointing fingers and create a substantial plan. He wants the panel to be independent and have the power to investigative incidents independently.

“This has to be a group that can stand up and can make clear recommendations to us,” McKay agreed. “I’ll be happy to work with you on the roster.”

Later in the meeting, Alcorn spoke up and talked about limiting the presence of firearms in the community.

“I’m not sure sending out folks with firearms is the best approach in 2020,” Alcorn said, adding that when someone calls 911, depending on the situation, there are better ways to address a community need.

Supervisors Palchik and Foust offered their support to continue the conversation with both FCPD and Fairfax County NAACP about new policies and best practices.

“We are not immune from making the types of reforms that are necessary to build the kind of confidence that everyone should have in our law enforcement agencies,” McKay said. “The most important thing for elected officials to do right now is to listen.”

Photo via Facebook Live

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The Fairfax County NAACP plans to host a town hall Tuesday night on how to make police departments more accountable to their communities.

“As we watch protests and demonstrations on the streets of America, we look to move forward in our community by reforming police practices and holding police accountable to the community,” according to the event description.

Fairfax NAACP invited the police chief and sheriff in Fairfax County, along with the county’s prosecutor and elected officials, according to the Facebook event page.

Fairfax NAACP recently unveiled a series of public safety recommendations and will go over the proposals during the town hall.

Some of the ideas include:

  • removing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program
  • increasing data reports from the county’s police department
  • continuing the rollout of body-worn cameras
  • putting officer misconduct records in a public database
  • reviewing Fairfax County police’s use of force policy
  • preventing police from buying and using military weapons

The town hall follows global, anti-racism protests sparked by George Floyd’s death and a recent incident in Fairfax County where a white officer stun gunned an unarmed black man.

The town hall is scheduled to take place from 7-9 p.m. via Zoom, according to the Facebook event page.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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