The School Board Cannot Suppress the Voices of Fairfax County Parents

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On Friday, a judge will hear Elaine Tholen’s argument to dismiss the over 5,000 signatures her constituents submitted against her due to her neglect, incompetence, and dereliction of duty in her role as a member of the School Board. Even after 18 months of outside pressure, the Fairfax County School Board still has not presented a clear plan and scope surrounding next week’s return to school or how they plan to make up for lost academic time. We, the parents, have been begging for months for this, and are only met with crickets from our School Board representatives. But first, a reminder of how we got here.

Approximately 18 months ago, our children stopped going to school. We were in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Given so many unknown variables regarding COVID-19, it was understandable when closures began to empty workplaces, businesses, and schools. We paused our lives while the brightest minds in the world worked to handle this troubling situation. Unfortunately, all logic stopped there.

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As time progressed and more knowledge regarding the virus was acquired, the threat of the virus to our children became less of a worry, but the threat to their intellectual growth and mental health grew. Throughout the country, legitimate concerns about the long-term damage of prolonged school closures on children were raised by public health experts, education officials, and parents. These concerns were echoed to the Fairfax County School Board by parents through countless emails, phone calls, rallies, and appearances at board meetings. Public Health Officials, including Fairfax County’s Public Health Advisor, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, recommended that Fairfax County schools should reopen in the Fall. Despite these concerns, our schools remained closed. And on July 10, 2020, instead of following the guidance of public health officials and the pleas of their own constituents, the School Board made the decision to close schools for the academic year.

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