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Stafford supervisors to weigh resolution against asking about students' preferred pronouns, teaching critical race theory
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Stafford supervisors to weigh resolution against asking about students' preferred pronouns, teaching critical race theory

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The Stafford County Board of Supervisors are scheduled Tuesday to take up a resolution that would deny funding to the school division if it is tied to the practice of requesting students to identify their preferred pronouns or the teaching of critical race theory or the 1619 project.

Retiring Hartwood District Supervisor Gary Snellings proposed the resolution, which states that the board “does not support the School Board expending any funds to teach or further the 1619 Project or CRT, or related principles, or student pronoun selections in Stafford County Public Schools.”

It goes on to state that the board “will stringently review all appropriation requests from the School Board to ensure funding is not dedicated to practices specifically denounced in this Resolution and the Board intends to deny such requests.”

At the Sept. 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, Snellings said he is proposing the resolution after constituents contacted him with complaints about teachers asking about preferred pronouns or incorporating elements of critical race theory.

At the Sept. 8 meeting, interim school Superintendent Stanley Jones told the Board of Supervisors that teachers are not “expected or directed” to ask students their preferred pronouns.

“There is a lot of information in the media that may lead people to believe we’re doing those things. We’re not,” he said.

The General Assembly last year approved a law requiring the Virginia Department of Education to develop model policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public schools and requiring that local school boards adopt policies consistent with these guidelines no later than this school year.

The model policies, which are available on the VDOE’s website, state that transgender children experience much higher degrees of depression, anxiety and alcohol and drug use than their cisgender peers, but that “socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have no elevations in depression and only minimal elevations in anxiety relative to population averages.”

According to the model policies, the persistent use of pronouns not consistent with a transgender student’s identity can constitute verbal harassment.

“Schools shall allow students to use a name and gender pronouns that reflect their gender identity without any substantiating evidence. School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent, when using a name or pronoun to address the student, use the name and pronoun that correspond to their gender identity,” the policies state.

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The Stafford County School Board in 2019 approved adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories protected from discrimination within the school division.

Jones also told the board on Sept. 8 that Stafford schools do not teach critical race theory.

“We don’t teach it. We never have,” he said.

According to a May 8 article in Education Weekly, critical race theory is an academic concept proposed by legal scholars in the 1970s and early 1980s.

“The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies,” the article states.

The article gives as an example the practice of redlining, in which government officials in the 1930s created maps of urban areas and deemed those neighborhoods inhabited largely by Blacks to be financially risky. As a result, banks refused to offer government-backed mortgages to Black homeowners living in the redlined areas.

“Today, those same patterns of discrimination live on through facially race-blind policies, like single-family zoning that prevents the building of affordable housing in advantaged, majority-white neighborhoods and, thus, stymies racial desegregation efforts,” the Education Weekly article states.

Jones told the board that parental concerns about what happens in individual classes can be brought to the teacher of the school administrators and that if there are a large number of concerns about a certain class or teacher, that would be discussed at a higher level.

He also said repeatedly that the school division’s highest priority at this time is helping students recover from learning loss experienced over the course of the pandemic.

“This is a distraction to us, to be quite honest,” Jones said. “If we continue to get questions among our staff about this, I will direct them not to respond. We have more important work to do. I hate to be that harsh, but I’m prepared to do that. We have important work to do to make up for last 18 months.”

A petition seeking to “prevent the Stafford County [Board of Supervisors] from denying inclusivity and culturally responsive teaching” had 379 signatures as of Monday afternoon.

Adele Uphaus–Conner:

540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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