Starting January 27, 2020, seventh- to 12-grade students attending Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia will be allowed to skip school in order to participate in “civic engagement activities.”
Hot Air’s Karen Townsend reported that the Fairfax County Public School system is one of the largest in the country, with about 188,000 students. She also reported that the definition for “civic engagement activities” has been left vague, but that Fairfax School Board member Ryan McElveen, who introduced the policy, gave some examples, including marches, sit-ins, or lobbying trips to Richmond, Virginia. McElveen told The Washington Post that the policy was just the beginning.
“I think we’re setting the stage for the rest of the nation with this,” he said. “It’s a dawning of a new day in student activism, and school systems everywhere are going to have to be responsive to it.”
Townsend responded by saying that allowing kids to skip school to protest is unnecessary and potentially dangerous:
Lots of protests are held on weekends to allow more people to join in. Allowing middle school and high school students to skip classes to go protest somewhere off campus is not an acceptable field trip. Not only is it an escalation of liberal indoctrination in the classroom but it is a public safety matter, too. What happens when the child is hurt in a crowd or is arrested? Why encourage that?
The Post, of course, decried conservative concerns about the policy as “the hyperpartisan sniping.” The outlet spoke to a Harvard professor who said new education policies are immediately determined to be either a “win” or “loss” for either political party.
“Each side is so suspicious of the other that it’s become very hard for adults to trust what’s happening in schools is legitimate, if the other side seems to be ‘winning,’” the professor said. “We’re all always looking for what’s the political agenda — and that’s why, with this new policy in Fairfax County, there’s going to be contestation about it.”
Townsend contends that “politicizing the education of our children escalates the hyperpartisanship.”
Indeed, it seems unlikely that the Left would be so accepting of the policy if it had been enacted under the Obama administration (which, of course, it wasn’t) or if a school district in a heavily Republican area adopted the policy with the clear intent to push conservative ideas onto progressive legislators.
Townsend’s original point is the most important, however. There is simply no reason to provide students a day off to go protest when they can do so on the weekends. Lobbying state legislators may not be possible on weekends, but should students really get an excused absence for traveling to Richmond?
If this is only the beginning, as McElveen suggested, what’s next? Will K-12 students be told to protest for class credit, as some college students are? And will there be protections put in place for students want to join conservative protests? Unlikely, since as the Post pointed out, it is mostly liberals who participate in protests.