Equality Virginia Supports Proposed Family Life Education Curriculum for Fairfax County Public Schools

Recommendations Promote Tolerance and Non-Discrimination


Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804-643-4816

RICHMOND – Equality Virginia fully supports the Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee’s (FLECAC) recommendations to the Fairfax County School Board regarding Family Life Education curriculum revisions.

The recommendations strive to “promote an environment free of bias and discrimination,” and include curriculum that introduces students in grades seven and eight to concepts including sexual orientation and gender identity.

“This shouldn’t be controversial,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.  “The proposed curriculum will benefit all students, promote understanding and knowledge, and make Fairfax County schools a safer and more welcoming place for everybody.”

Members of the newly formed Northern Virginia Advocates for Equality will provide testimony at Thursday’s meeting.  According to their group statement, “The recommendations are a step in the right direction for creating respectful and accepting educational environments for all students in Fairfax County.”

The proposed curriculum, in accordance with broad scientific consensus, will teach that LGBT people are normal within the spectrum of human development.  Parents will still be able to opt their children out of Family Life Education lessons, including, but not limited to the sexual orientation and gender identity lessons.

FLECAC, a standing citizen advisory committee comprised of school board appointees, community members, students, teachers, and administrators will present its recommendations to the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday May 21, 2015.  Public comments will be accepted from May 21 through June 19, and final School Board approval is set for June 25, 2015.


When to cry over spilt Milk

Thoughts on Harvey Milk Day

By Kyle Poulin

Remembering our past is an integral part of advancing our future; we need to see the good we’ve done and use it to inspire us to make unrelenting progress. How much has the LGBT community progressed since Harvey Milk was ardently advising all young people to come out for themselves, and in turn, each other? As of this year’s Harvey Milk day, the shift in society’s focus would suggest the answer to that question is “a lot.”

The first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.

We Virginians celebrated the arrival of marriage equality throughout the Old Dominion, crying out of happiness that we can now legally stand by our loved ones. Yet we must also shed a tear for those who fought to deliver our rights but didn’t live to see this day. Over this thunderous victory we still hear the tinny of detractors fighting against us and equality. We must continue to defend the belief that our rights we are granted are inalienable, echoing Harvey Milk’s words, “All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try they cannot erase those words. That is what America is about.”

While this rings true in our hearts and minds, we are still faced with the insult of discrimination on the basis of our sexual orientation and gender identity. Should we be satisfied with what we’ve gotten so far and sit silently as we are subjected to the fear of losing our jobs or housing? No. Shake off the mindset of being thankful when it comes to human rights and cry out for them. Seventy five percent of Virginians favor a state law that would protect LGBT people from employment discrimination, so it’s up to our community and allies to nurture it into reality. Thirty one percent of same-sex couples looking for rental housing online in the Richmond area face adverse, differential treatment. If you face discrimination in a part of life as essential as finding a home then you deserve better.

Inequality and discrimination affect LGBT people of all ages. Today, there are school age children in Virginia and nationwide identifying their gender fluidity and sexual orientation with a firm and unyielding presence of mind. While this is a step forward for society, bathrooms, locker rooms and other school related facilities have come under scrutiny for their use by these students. Fortunately some of our communities and institutions, such as Fairfax County Public Schools, recognize and validate the students’ needs. This fulfills Milk’s vision for our youth that, “All young people regardless of sexual orientation or identity deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

For those who haven’t received the support of their family, community, or government — cry for them. Cry out for them. Fight for them. Use your shared experiences as a community to empathize and endure, be your own best advocate. If Harvey Milk could stand alone and facilitate progress in equality, imagine what we can accomplish together.

What happened in Fairfax last week…

By James Parrish, executive director

Last Thursday I was at the Fairfax County School Board meeting where they voted 10-1 to update their non-discrimination policy to include gender identity. This is the first time employees of a Virginia school system are covered by a non-discrimination policy that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. I would call this vote to update their policy remarkable except for the fact that Virginia’s leading corporations have had non-discrimination policies like this in place for years.  Why? Because it helps them retain the best and the brightest, is good for business, and it’s the right thing to do.  The truth is that all Virginia’s public employees and students should be protected from discrimination.   Even still, this policy update in Fairfax is a huge step forward for Virginia and something we are celebrating.

James Parrish with POFEV’S Paula Prettyman

This vote didn’t happen without you. 
Thank you to all of our supporters and community partners in Fairfax including POFEV, PFLAG, Fairfax County NAACP, and NOVA Pride, for supporting the Fairfax County School Board leading up to the vote. With your help, more than 2,000 emails were sent to the board from Fairfax constituents. Your advocacy made a difference.  

Leading up to the vote, there was a lot of energy on both sides, reminding us of how hard we still need to work to change hearts and minds.  I was particularly disappointed to see the chairman of the Fairfax Republican party turn this into a partisan issue. Protecting people from discrimination in the workplace isn’t a partisan issue. We all live by the golden rule of treat others as you would like to be treated. Gay and transgender Virginians are part of every family in our commonwealth, and just like everybody else they should be evaluated on their merits, not who they love or how they identify.

I also saw a lot of parents and community members passionately speak against updating Fairfax’s non-discrimination policy. Conversations about what it means to be transgender are new to many of us, and I understand how it can be confusing. However, hundreds of cities, counties, and states have already implemented policies to protect transgender people from discrimination with no negative consequences. These policies help build understanding and consensus that discrimination is wrong – period.  Another part of the equation is connecting members of our transgender community to the community at large.  Understanding, acceptance, and affirmation will only grow as more of us get to know transgender people.  Click here to see some of the ways EV is connecting communities and building understanding.

You see, this is a large part of what we do at Equality Virginia. Throughout the commonwealth, we are behind the scenes connecting our partners on the ground with community members, resources, and best practices. Our work is taking place in board rooms and offices – from local school systems, to Governor McAuliffe’s and Attorney General Herring’s administrations.  Even when our work isn’t covered on the front page of the morning paper, we are actively working with communities throughout Virginia to bring LGBT equality home. Thanks for all your support that enables us to do this important work.

I was happy to be in Fairfax to see the vote on this positive policy update. It is great to witness positive change in our communities. Congratulations Fairfax – you are leading Virginia forward!


Equality Virginia Applauds Fairfax County School Board for Voting to Update Non-Discrimination Policy

All Students and Employees Must Be Given Equal Opportunity to Succeed


Contact: Kirsten Bokenkamp, [email protected]; 804.643.4816

FAIRFAX – Equality Virginia applauds Fairfax County School Board Members for voting on Thursday to update Fairfax County Public Schools’ non-discrimination policy to include gender identity.   The policy protects transgender students and employees in Fairfax County Public Schools from facing discrimination. With this vote, Fairfax County is the first school district in Virginia to join hundreds of cities, counties, and states that are leading the nation forward.

“Equality Virginia is pleased that the board took into consideration the opinion of both community members and experts, and voted to do the right thing,” said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia. Like any other student, those who are transgender simply want to be accepted for who they are. Being stigmatized should not be part of any child’s growing up, and this updated policy ensures that Fairfax Public Schools will create an atmosphere of acceptance and respect.” Parrish was present at the school board meeting, where he was joined by Fairfax residents wearing purple in support of the policy update.

The update was proposed by Fairfax County School Board Member Ryan McElveen and was supported by 10 of 12 board members.

“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.”

In addition to ensuring that students will no longer be discriminated against based on gender identity, the updated policy also protects transgender public school teachers and employees.

“Non-discrimination policies to protect employees are nothing new,” said Parrish. “The majority of Fortune 500 companies protect their gay and transgender employees from discrimination because they know it makes good business sense. The policy update will contribute to Fairfax County’s ability to attract the most qualified employees, and that’s something that will benefit all Fairfax County residents.”

As part of its safe schools work, Equality Virginia has been working with school boards to implement bullying policies enumerated with sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2012, less than 2 percent of Virginia’s public school students attended a school with such a policy. Today, more than 20 percent of Virginia’s public school students are protected. The updated policy in Fairfax is another step to make sure that LGBT students feel safe at school, and is the first in Virginia that protects transgender teachers and other school employees.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Mark Herring issued an opinion stating that school boards in Virginia have the authority to expand their employment anti-discrimination policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Herring’s opinion overruled a 2002 opinion that said school boards had no authority to enact employment non-discrimination policies.

“It is fantastic to see Fairfax County take the lead in Virginia, and we applaud the board members for proactively taking a stand against harmful discrimination,” said Parrish. “It is our hope that other school districts throughout the commonwealth will follow in Fairfax County’s footsteps.”



Equality Virginia is a statewide, non-partisan education, outreach, and advocacy organization seeking equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians.  Since 1989, EV has worked to end discrimination, protect families and build safe communities.  More information is online at EqualityVirginia.org.  Connect on Facebook.com/EqualityVA or Twitter @EqualityVA.

Protect and Support all Fairfax County Students


Today the Fairfax County School Board will vote to update the district’s non-discrimination policy to include gender identity. When updated, the policy will protect all students and employees from discrimination.

This is Fairfax County’s opportunity to lead Virginia in the right direction.  

Here’s what you can do to stand up for equality and fairness in Fairfax County:

  1. Click here to send a letter to the Fairfax County School Board Members thanking them for considering this policy, and urging them to vote YES tonight. They need to hear from you!
  2. Join Equality Virginia and your community members at the School Board Meeting.   Please wear purple to show that you support inclusive policies for all students, teachers, and employees. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Road, Falls Church, 22042.  Click here for map.

Equality Virginia has been working with school systems for the last two years to update their non-discrimination policies to protect LGBT students. And now, a recent opinion issued by Attorney General Mark Herring gives local school boards the authority to also protect their employees.

The current Fairfax Schools policy reads: No student, employee, or applicant for employment in the Fairfax County Public Schools shall, on the basis of age, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, marital status, or disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity, as required by law. Adding “gender identity” to this policy will place Fairfax County among the hundreds of cities, counties, and states across the country that are leading the nation forward.

Please send a letter to the school board members today
, and join us with your purple tonight – help Fairfax County School Board do the right thing and move Virginia forward!