A group of parents submitted over 5,000 signatures yesterday (Monday) to the Fairfax County Clerk of Court in a petition to recall Fairfax County School Board member Elaine Tholen, who represents the Dranesville District, over school closings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Open FCPS Coalition formed in the fall to protest Fairfax County Public Schools going virtual during the pandemic and has been campaigning to recall Tholen and two other school board members, Member-at-Large Abrar Omeish and Springfield District Representative Laura Jane Cohen.

“I look forward to continuing to earn my constituents’ trust and support as we prepare to welcome all students in person five days per week,” Tholen said in a statement. “As a former classroom educator and now a school board member, I have always worked for my students’ well-being and to help them reach their utmost potential. I will continue to put our students’ best interests first.”

Recall supporters have a different perspective.

The petitions that citizens signed argue that, in supporting an all-virtual start to the most recent school year, the school board was not acting in children’s best interests. The petitions also allege the school board violated state and local laws and regulations guaranteeing students with disabilities a free, appropriate education.

“Just how far behind are our students? How will these deficits be met?” Zia Tompkins, a coalition board member and former school board candidate, said, raising questions about staffing and other issues. “Parents have been left in the dark about these issues and…as such have real doubts as to whether the Fairfax County school system is even serious about opening full-time in-person for the fall.”

The group met outside the Fairfax County Courthouse before a dozen supporters and leaders went inside to deliver the signatures.

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

The coalition’s largest expenditure has been for signature collection services from a center-right door-to-door voter contact firm, Blitz Canvassing LLC, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The group hopes a judge will review the signatures as part of a trial that could ultimately lead to Tholen being removed from her position.

Open FCPS Coalition says only one school board member, Megan McLaughlin, advocated for reopening in a way it felt was consistent and a priority. But only three school board members were chosen for recall efforts because of the group’s limited resources.

Coalition board member Nellie Rhodes said Monday that work to recall Cohen and Omeish continues.

The coalition’s website says it has over two-thirds of the 4,000 signatures needed to recall Cohen, which if obtained, would represent over 10% of the total number of people who voted in her election — the threshold required for a recall to be considered in Virginia.

After shifting entirely to virtual learning on March 13, 2020, FCPS began phasing in some in-person learning in October, but the process was put on hold when COVID-19 cases started to surge around Thanksgiving.

Students began 2021 in remote settings before the school board approved the return of a hybrid model — where students could opt for two days of in-person classes or to remain all-virtual — starting on Feb. 16. FCPS expanded its in-person offerings to four days for some students in April.

Open FCPS Coalition board member and Vienna resident Hemang Nagar says he ended up taking his daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, out of school in the fall because of the distress virtual classes caused her. He said she used to love school but would cry whenever he opened the computer.

“Virtual learning was an utter disaster for her and so many like her,” he said.

His daughter, who is now 10, returned to her elementary school when in-person classes restarted in February.

“They pretend to care but never put their words into action that does any good for any students,” Nagar said of the school board members that the coalition is targeting for recalls.

FCPS plans to resume a five-day in-person week for students this fall.

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 8:15 p.m. on 7/23/2021) Fairfax County School Board Members at Nats Park During Shooting — Karl Frisch and Megan McLaughlin, who respectively represent the Providence and Braddock districts on the school board, were at Nationals Park on Saturday (July 17) when gunfire outside the stadium sent fans running for cover and suspended the game. Three people were injured in the shooting, including a woman who was attending the game, according to police. [Karl Frisch/Twitter, Megan McLaughlin/Twitter]

Virginia Announces Universal Broadband Plan — Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan on Friday (July 16) to invest $700 million to make broadband services universally accessible throughout the state. The funds will come from the state’s $4.3 billion federal COVID-19 relief allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. [The Washington Post]

Mosaic District Art Gallery Presents New Show — The Torpedo Factory Artists Association will present the results of its regional painting competition at The Gallery @ Mosaic (links corrected) from July 23 through August 22. With more than 30 paintings from nearly 400 submissions, the show will the association’s first regional painting showcase and give the pop-up gallery its first in-person reception since it recently reopened after closing for the COVID-19 pandemic. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

McLean Little League Softball Teams Celebrate Strong Seasons — “It has been the case for many years now, so it was no surprise that McLean Little League all-star girls softball teams again had strong showings in recent state tournaments, with one squad winning the championship and two others finishing second.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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The Fairfax County School Board approved a framework yesterday (Thursday) to seek federal COVID-19 money, with the stipulation that it gets increased oversight and input on how the money will be spent.

The roughly $189 million plan would start with the upcoming school year and extend to June 2024. It is intended to help Fairfax County Public Schools respond to issues stemming from the pandemic.

“While we did have a public hearing about where people would like us to target our monies, we have not had the opportunity to get the greater details from the superintendent and his team,” Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin said.

The school board thanked district administrators for developing the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) framework after learning about the incoming funds in May, but several board officials questioned whether the proposal was sufficiently detailed and provided enough accountability.

“The ESSER funds are unlike other funding by the federal government in that it has a requirement to have extensive community input and outreach,” Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said.

The ESSER III money will support school operations, cover increased workloads for Individualized Education Program (IEP) staff, aid academic interventions, address students’ social and emotional needs, help with translation services for students, and more.

The largest costs, as identified by district staff so far, would involve:

  • $54.9 million for academic intervention
  • $46.2 million for special education teacher contracts
  • $23.3 million for social and emotional learning needs
  • Nearly $20.2 million for summer 2022 learning
  • Nearly $14 million for afterschool programming and transportation

According to an FCPS presentation about the program, the ESSER money should address the impacts of the pandemic especially for students who have been disproportionately affected, and at least 20% must be used to address learning loss, among other rules.

The money will come through the Virginia Department of Education from the American Rescue Plan Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law in March.

Corbett-Sanders said FCPS faces an Aug. 1 deadline for submitting a general framework to the state before giving a more specific plan for how it will spend the funds by Sept. 1.

“Rather than just greenlighting, ‘They’re giving us $188.6 million, we’re going to put it in a line item list,’ we felt that it was important to have a little bit more comprehensive planning around the ESSER funds grant,” Corbett-Sanders said.

With the board’s initial approval, Superintendent Scott Brabrand will present an official ESSER III plan prior to the board’s Aug. 26 business meeting. He will present more detailed information, including targeted goals, operational timelines, and accountability metrics in a September work session.

The board’s motion also stipulated that state-filed amendments to the plan that reach $100,000 or more must be authorized by the board.

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Morning Notes

Metro Extends Service Hours This Weekend — Starting Sunday (July 18), Metro will provide rail service until midnight for the first time since operating hours were reduced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The transit agency approved a package of fare reductions and service improvements in June aimed at attracting riders as more offices are set to reopen in the fall. [The Washington Post]

Freedom Hill Park to Recognize Historic Carter Family — As part of an interpretive history project, the Fairfax County Park Authority is inviting the public to a traditional land ceremony and sign dedication at Freedom Hill Park in Vienna on July 31. The new signs will tell the story of the multiracial Carter family, whose accomplishments include establishing the First Baptist Church of Vienna and possibly spying for the Union during the Civil War. [FCPA]

Fairfax County School Board Elects New Chair — The school board unanimously approved Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky as its new chair for the 2021-2022 school year. Board members thanked Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson for her time as chair amid the pandemic and noted she will get some much-deserved time with her family. [FCPS]

Food Trucks Stop by Providence Community Center — “Come by the Providence Community Center tomorrow [July 16] from 11am to 1:30pm for some freshly made empanadas by @empanadasdemza! This will make for a great snack over the weekend so make sure you grab some extra to share with your friends and families!” [Supervisor Dalia Palchik/Twitter]

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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand (via FCPS)

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand will step down from the position at the end of the upcoming school year, FCPS announced this morning (Thursday).

Brabrand will leave at the end of his current contract, which was extended through June 30, 2022 by the Fairfax County School Board in December.

The announcement of Brabrand’s impending departure comes as FCPS prepares to start a second phase of expanded summer school and resume five days of in-person learning for all students when the 2021-2022 school year kicks off in August.

“My colleagues and I are extremely grateful for Dr. Brabrand’s unwavering commitment to FCPS students, staff, and families,” School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson said in a statement. “We look forward to our continued collaboration toward the goal of returning all students to school safely for five days in the fall and providing every child the instructional and social emotional services they need this coming school year.”

While FCPS did not expand on Brabrand’s decision to leave next year in its press release, his departure follows a year of unprecedented challenges as school systems nationwide scrambled to adapt to closures and a massive shift to virtual learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the leader of Virginia’s largest public school system, Brabrand was tasked with balancing the sometimes competing needs of a diverse population of students and staff, drawing criticism from both parents who pushed for school buildings to reopen and faculty wary of the health risks that they would face from teaching in person.

Prior to the pandemic, Brabrand’s tenure as superintendent, which began in 2017, has been characterized by an emphasis on equity and supporting students’ social and emotional needs as well as their academic success.

The effectiveness of his efforts has been mixed so far. For instance, changes to the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology produced the magnet school’s most diverse class in years, but conditions for students with disabilities in FCPS have drawn repeated scrutiny, prompting a federal investigation and policy changes.

Brabrand’s career with FCPS has spanned almost 30 years, starting in 1994 when he was a social studies teacher, according to the news release.

Dr. Brabrand, a career changer who was inspired by doing volunteer work in the schools, began his career in FCPS as a social studies teacher in 1994. He also served as an assistant principal at Herndon High School and an associate principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School before becoming principal at Fairfax High School in 2005. In 2009, he was promoted to cluster assistant superintendent, where he was responsible for 29 schools and more than 22,000 students, and provided collaborative leadership for 27 principals and administrators. Prior to being named superintendent at FCPS in 2017, Dr. Brabrand spent five years as superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools.

“I pledge to continue to serve with the same love and passion for FCPS that I had when I started,” Brabrand said. “In the best of times and in the worst of times, I have always strived to lead with a steady hand and a full heart.”

FCPS says Brabrand will work with the school board “to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition in leadership at the end of his term.”

The school system plans to hire a search firm to identify and recruit potential candidates, according to a new webpage on the search process.

“The School Board will immediately begin the process of finding a new division superintendent,” FCPS said. “Community members will have opportunities to participate in the process.”

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Chesterbrook Elementary School staff celebrating Pride Month (via FCPS)

(Updated 4:20 p.m.) A contentious meeting over acceptance of transgender students in Loudoun County Public Schools has Fairfax County officials eyeing their own policy and pushing for more equitable regulations to support transgender and gender non-conforming students.

The Loudoun meeting, which discussed a new policy that requires trans students be treated respectfully and allowed to use restrooms and play in sports that align with their gender, comes months after Fairfax County Public Schools adopted similar new regulations in October.

A spokesperson for FCPS said the regulations adopted in October are still undergoing review to ensure they align with state guidelines. An FCPS spokesperson said all regulations are reviewed annually to ensure they are in compliance with new state legislation.

The new regulations grant transgender students access to various facilities consistent with their gender identity and effectively prohibit dead-naming students — using pronouns or names in records that don’t reflect the student’s gender identity.

“They’ve been mulling about it for a few months,” said Robert Rigby, a Latin language teacher at West Potomac High School and co-president of FCPS Pride. “Many students were thrilled. There was a blast of happy messages with multiple exclamation points. They were ecstatic after years of being dead-named in online platforms and in grading and by substitutes. Suddenly, they could just talk to their counselor and get it changed.”

Rigby said there was an “enormous relief” among students. Staff training started in March to prepare and educate teachers about the new regulations.

FCPS had previously added gender identity to the school system’s non-discrimination policy in 2015. Rigby said several factors over the last year helped push FCPS into codifying protections for transgender and gender non-conforming students, crediting:

  • Gavin Grimm’s recent victory when the Supreme Court rejected a Gloucester County school district appeal of a lower court decision that found the schools had violated Grimm’s rights
  • State legislation requiring local school districts to have policies adhering to how individuals identify their gender and requiring access to bathrooms and locker rooms associated with their gender
  • The election of the first openly gay school board member Karl Frisch

“These protections are long overdue,” said Frisch. “If we are truly committed to fostering a caring and inclusive culture, gender-expansive and transgender students must be treated with the same dignity and respect as everyone else. They must be made to feel safe and accepted.”

Others in Fairfax County leadership, including Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay, rebuked the comments made during the Loudoun school board meeting.

Rigby, who has taught at West Potomac High School since 1999, said faculty and parents, along with some students who felt welcome, have helped advocate for the changes, but student advocacy can be sometimes hindered by concerns about subjecting students to humiliations like those on display at the Loudoun meeting.

“Students advocate to us, but quite frankly it’s not incredibly safe and can be very alarming for young LGBTQIA to speak openly at School Board meetings,” Rigby said. “There have been dreadful things said and doxxing, so we caution children and their parents: when you speak publicly, this might happen.”

Rigby said the Loudoun was one of the worst he’s seen.

“We’ve had some dreadful meetings in Fairfax over the years, the worst being May 7, 2015 when they updated the non-discrimination policy,” Rigby said. “It also happened in 2002 when we were talking about a harassment policy. We’ve seen this happen in our county, but Loudoun was worse than anything I’ve ever seen.”

Still, Rigby said overall there’s been remarkable progress in the attitudes of many in the school system over his last two-decades of advocacy.

“I’ve seen attitudes in teachers, parents, and students take a big change,” Rigby said. “It’s changed dramatically. It’s a change beyond my wildest imaginings. It’s relieving and frustrating. I was discussing with a friend last night, another advocate who is a school psychologist, just how far we’ve come and how wonderful it is. It’s taken a long time. There’s an awful lot of work left to do.”

Rigby said FCPS Pride and other organizations are trying to focus now on offering more rounded care for students who may not receive support at home.

“We’re turning our eyes now to children who are housing-vulnerable, who aren’t welcome in families,” Rigby said. “Fairfax is definitely setting up structures to help families and children come to agreement… The school system is putting together these structures to help kids at school and at home.”

Photo via FCPS

Morning Notes

Police Investigate Offensive KKK Flyers — Bigotry-filled flyers aimed at the Fairfax County School Board were found earlier this week in the Springfield and Sully Districts, apparently distributed by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. School board members and local leaders, including Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and the president of the county’s NAACP chapter, denounced the flyers, which are under investigation by county police and the FBI. [Patch]

County Government Observes Juneteenth — Fairfax County government offices are closed today in recognition of Juneteenth, which falls on Saturday (June 19). Fairfax County Public Library branches are closed, as is the McLean Community Center, but many park facilities are open, and the county’s trash collection services will proceed as normal. [Fairfax County Government]

Athletic Training Facility Opens in Falls ChurchCapital City Sports Academy will hold a grand opening ceremony from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday) for its new, 4,500 square-foot sports training facility at 3431 Carlin Springs Road. Attendees can meet the owners and coaching staff, take a tour of the facility, and win two months of free classes. [Capital City Sports Academy/Instagram]

Volunteers Clean Up Vienna Park — “As Vienna Little League prepares to host Virginia’s Little League Major Baseball State Tournament in July, George C. Yeonas Park is getting a facelift with the help of two dozen sweaty and hard-working volunteers. On Thursday, around 25 volunteers who work for Dominion Energy showed up at Yeonas Park to tackle projects to improve the fields and other facilities.” [Patch]

Great Falls and North West Street Sidewalks Extended — “After much effort by @fairfaxcounty and @FallsChurchGov staff, and local residents, today we celebrated completion of the NW Street and GF Street sidewalk extensions. It was a beautiful day and I am so glad we were able to gather together in person!” [Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust/Twitter]

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A former Oakton High School student will get another day in court after a three-judge panel ordered a new trial in her lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board over school officials’ handling of a sexual assault report in 2017.

In an opinion released yesterday (Wednesday), Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges James Wynn Jr. and Stephanie Thacker reversed a judgment rendered by a jury in 2019 and sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for a new trial, stating that the lower court incorrectly defined the legal standard to determine whether officials knew about the reported assault.

“We hold that a school’s receipt of a report that can objectively be taken to allege sexual harassment is sufficient to establish actual notice or knowledge under Title IX — regardless of whether school officials subjectively understood the report to allege sexual harassment or whether they believed the alleged harassment actually occurred,” Wynn wrote in the majority opinion.

A third judge on the panel, Judge Paul Niemeyer, wrote a dissenting opinion that Fairfax County Public Schools is not liable under Title IX — the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education — because its conduct was not so indifferent that it caused or amounted to discrimination.

Identified in court documents as Jane Doe, the plaintiff argued in a complaint filed against the school board in 2018 that FCPS administrators and employees did not meaningfully and appropriately respond to her report that a fellow student sexually assaulted her during a school band trip.

A junior at the time, Doe said she “struggled academically, emotionally, and physically” as a result of the experience, alleging that school officials suggested she might be disciplined for the incident and did not inform her parents about her report or the result of the subsequent investigation, according to Public Justice, the nonprofit representing her.

A jury in Alexandria determined in August 2019 that Doe had been assaulted and that the experience affected her education, but they found that the school board could not be held liable because it didn’t have “actual knowledge” of the assault, a term some jury members later said they found confusing.

That confusion became the basis for Doe’s appeal of the ruling, which came before the appeals court for oral arguments in January.

“I’m so grateful that the Fourth Circuit is sending my case back for a new trial, and recognized that Fairfax’s legal arguments would lead to ‘absurd results’ for student survivors like me,” Doe said in a statement provided by Public Justice. “It means a lot to me that the appeals court’s strong opinion will protect other survivors. Every student deserves to feel safe in school.”

An FCPS spokesperson said yesterday that the school system “respects the court’s decision” and was in the process of reviewing the opinions.

Public Justice attorney Alexandra Brodsky, who delivered the plaintiff’s arguments before the Fourth Circuit, said in a statement that the appeals court’s ruling makes clear “ignorance is no defense to violating students’ rights.”

“FCPS’s behavior — dismissing a student’s report of sexual assault out of hand — is too common among school districts across the country,” Brodsky said. “The Fourth Circuit’s ruling in Jane Doe’s case should serve as a warning that all schools must train staff to recognize and address sexual harassment.”

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Parents who have spent the last year calling for a five-day return to school for Fairfax County Public Schools students are circulating petitions to remove three Fairfax County School Board members.

They are Springfield District representative Laura Jane Cohen, Dranesville District representative Elaine Tholen, and At-Large Member Abrar Omeish.

“Our petitions are all about the board ignoring science, dismissing the wishes of parents to have kids in school, and putting politics (unions) before our children,” the Open FCPS Coalition group tells Tysons Reporter. “We have people of all walks of life — young and old, with kids and without kids signing. People were afraid to sign at first because they didn’t want to get involved. But as more time passed, and people got disappointed about the school board lying to us, they started signing.”

They admitted that the campaign faces long odds. According to Ballotpedia, Virginia has seen just one successful recall campaign in at least the past decade, with the majority of efforts — including one against former Mason District School Board representative Sandy Evans — failing to reach a circuit court.

This parent coalition has been around since November and started distributing petition templates to other counties around that time. But the momentum did not pick up until mid-February, members said.

“December and January, people still weren’t getting out much and if they were, it wasn’t to come and sign a petition,” the group said. “Many people who sign now sign because of other things that they are frustrated with, but we are just glad people are recognizing our efforts.”

The Open FCPS Coalition describes itself as a bipartisan organization.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, donor records show that its largest gifts have come from former Republican governor candidate Pete Snyder and N2 America Inc., a conservative group that has been vocal in school reopenings. Its largest expenditure has been for signature collection services, an expense that went to a center-right door-to-door voter contact firm with ties to N2 America.

“Anyone who wants to donate is welcome to…If the Dem party wants to donate we surely will take it,” the group said. “But it seems that though many Dems have signed and silently support, some are afraid to stand up for open schools. Thankfully we have Dems in our group who are bold and brave and know that nothing about the recall is personal or about politics. It is about what is moral.”

Coalition members aimed to collect enough signatures to recall at least one school board member by the end of this school year, which concluded on Friday (June 11).

The coalition chose Cohen, Tholen and Omeish after watching school board meetings and determining only one member had a record of voting and speaking that prioritized reopening over other issues: Braddock District representative Megan McLaughlin, according to the group’s website.

So, members narrowed down their targets to the two members who were elected with the fewest number of votes — Cohen and Tholen.

“Based on this discovery, the voters in their districts would likely provide the most support for the removal effort,” according to the website.

When reached for comment, Tholen said she centers all her work and decision-making on what is best for students.

“I am busy at this point fulfilling my job as a school board member,” she said. “I am closing out this school year, celebrating our class of 2021, planning for summer programs and preparing for fall when we will welcome all students in person five days per week.”

Cohen, meanwhile, said that her “focus is, has been, and always will be ensuring our students have the best opportunity to be successful in our schools.” Read More

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Fairfax County School Board Member-at-Large Abrar Omeish comments on the reaction to her tweet criticizing Israel at the board’s May 20 meeting (via FCPS/YouTube)

Abrar Omeish doesn’t regret taking a stand on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, but if she could go back, she might have expressed her opinion a little differently.

The at-large Fairfax County School Board member sparked a heated local debate about one of the most contentious subjects in global politics last month when she recognized Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that concludes a month of fasting, with a tweet decrying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as “apartheid and colonization.”

As the board’s only Muslim member and the first Muslim woman elected to a school board anywhere in Virginia, Omeish says she felt a responsibility to speak up about the escalating violence that, at that time, had killed 10 people in Israel, including two children, and 192 people in Gaza, including 58 children.

Her May 13 tweet was part of the larger #EidwithPalestine hashtag that went emerged after Israeli security forces stormed the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem amid tensions over Palestinians being evicted from the city’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

“The idea was [Muslims] celebrate [Eid], but it’s bittersweet because we can celebrate while mourning and knowing that our Holy Land is being disrespected and people are being killed in their efforts to defend it,” Omeish told Tysons Reporter. “…Being, like you said, the only Muslim voice, I felt tremendous pressure, and it’s not like I didn’t anticipate, you know, backlash.”

That backlash came from expected sources, given the school board’s decidedly Democratic makeup, as the Fairfax County Republican Committee chair called for Omeish’s resignation or removal and endorsed a parent-led campaign to recall her and other school board members that originally stemmed from frustrations with pandemic-related school closures in the fall.

However, the tweet also drew criticism from some colleagues and allies.

Hunter Mill District School Board Representative Melanie Meren said in a tweet on May 14 that she was “aghast” and “appalled,” calling Omeish’s sentiments alienating to members of the community, including herself, and a setback to Fairfax County Public Schools’ equity-related efforts.

“Rebuilding of relationships will need to happen,” Meren said.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington nixed plans to honor Omeish for supporting the recognition of additional religious holidays in the FCPS calendar. Four other school board members were still honored at the advocacy group’s annual membership meeting on May 20.

“The language Ms. Omeish used in this Tweet is deeply offensive and inflammatory to all who support Israel,” JCRC President Ronald Paul and Executive Director Ron Halber said in a joint statement on the decision. “It is irresponsible of her to use her public platform to publicly advance controversial political views that target and marginalize Jewish students and their families and divide our community.”

The letter went on to say that conversations about why JCRC found Omeish’s comment offensive were unproductive as she “continued to stoke the flames of division and acrimony” by not removing the tweet or taking “affirmative steps to try to stem the vitriolic, hateful rhetoric on social media triggered by her remarks.”

For her part, Omeish says JCRC’s statement was “a complete mischaracterization” of how she approached their interactions, saying that she “got yelled at on the phone aggressively” and has “been threatened by JCRC multiple times” about her stance on Israel.

“They told me, like, if you don’t take this down, we will post a statement about you and it’s not going to be pretty,” she said. “They would say things like that to me, and for me, I’m like, look, I respectfully reject the threat. I’m not going to change my position because you’re scaring me.”

Halber and JCRC Associate Director Guila Franklin Siegel disputed Omeish’s characterization of their interactions in a statement to Tysons Reporter:

“We took no pleasure in having to rescind Ms. Omeish’s award. But there is no place for the divisive and offensive language she used in her May 13th Tweet or for her insulting insinuations about the JCRC. We never have and never would threaten anyone. Ms. Omeish stands out among the thousands of elected officials and interfaith leaders from every background who have successfully partnered with the JCRC in nearly a century of community-building. We hope Ms. Omeish undertakes the hard work necessary to understand how her hurtful language impacted members of the Jewish community, including our children in FCPS schools. For the benefit of the entire FCPS community, we hope to be able to work with Ms. Omeish in the future to pursue unity, equity, and mutual respect in Fairfax County.”

Omeish got another opportunity to engage with Jewish leaders, as she promised in a follow-up tweet, at a roundtable convened on May 23. Read More

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