by Vincenza Belletti

The Fairfax County School Board voted eleven to one on policy 1450 on including sexual orientation to the non-discrimination act that protects students, staff and faculty last October. On May 7, the school board voted ten to one with one vote abstained to include transgendered people in the non-discrimination act.

The proposal was submitted by School Board Member Ryan McElveen. “It’s critical for Fairfax County, as the largest school division in the state, to make the statement that we unequivocally protect, value and embrace all of our students and employees for who they are,” McElveen said. “Statistics show that half of all transgender teens will attempt suicide by the time they turn 20, and it’s time that we bring this issue to light.”

Andrea Lafferty, who serves as president of the Traditional Values Coalition and a member of Fairfax County, spoke out against the recognition of transgenders in the non-discrimination act, stating that the policy could endanger children. “Children need and deserve a psychologically stable and emotionally secure environment in which to learn,” Lafferty said. “Your policy threatens that.”

“So you are going to put people with serious mental-health issues that are at a risk for suicide in our classrooms? What you’re going to have in class are she-males — people who are half-female and half-male. We ask that you protect our children. They deserve to be protected.”

In the May 7 meeting, School Board Member Elizabeth Shultz presented a motion to postpone the vote until the next school board meeting in October 2015 so “that the board may be provided the commensurate draft regulation and handbook language and determine the overall impact of the proposed revision of policy 1450.” This motion was not passed with a vote of eleven to two.

Following this vote, some of the board members spoke on their opinion for including transgenders in the non-discrimination policy to sway their undecided colleagues.

“Children who don’t have a gender identity issue will be firmly discriminated against, even though everything we’ve heard has said that our FCPS staff personnel do a stellar job addressing the needs individually and respectfully in each and every case,” Shultz said.

On the other side, School Board Member Megan McLaughlin was a strong supporter of the amendment to Policy 1450. “The misinformation about the fear that this will change bathroom practices and locker rooms and the safety of our children is simply not true.”

In one final comment, Shultz made strong claims against the federal government, saying that if Fairfax County does not implement this policy, they will withhold the federal education funds for Fairfax County.

After the final vote, people in favor of the amendment clapped, but their cheers were soon drowned out by the outraged hollers from those on the opposing side and they left the auditorium furiously. Some of the shouts heard were “We don’t trust you,” and “How dare you do this to our children.”

Following the vote to amend policy 1450, Shultz also stormed out of the auditorium. When asked about how she will fight this amendment, she’s  said, “It’s not for me, as a board member to act on, but it is the right of Fairfax County citizens and the right of the parents who the students who will be affected by this policy. I can only hope parents will take action and won’t give in to this careless decision.”

One Stuart parent who attended the School Board meeting said, “Today we made history. They can’t discriminate these kids. They have rights regardless of race, sexuality, or gender.”