Fairfax County School Board Punts on Changes to Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook After America First Legal Sends Letter Warning of Potential Constitutional Liability

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Yesterday, America First Legal sent a letter to the Chair of the Fairfax County School Board in Fairfax County, VA informing the board its proposed changes to Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, Regulation 2601.36P, contribute to an unconstitutional disciplinary regime targeting young elementary school students, those in 4th through 6th grades. 

Today, following receipt of the letter, the Fairfax County School Board has punted and delayed the vote until June 16, 2022.

The changes in the handbook increase already vague and overbroad penalties for young and older students that misgender other students, including suspensions up to five days and potential referral to the Division Superintendent. 

The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees parents and students freedom of speech, religion, and association and protects against vague and overbroad policies that infringe upon or chill such rights. In this case, the now-delayed proposed amendment by FCPS creates unfettered discretion to apply a vague and overbroad regulation that could result in abuse based on the subjective interpretation of staff, in violation of the First Amendment. This is a breathtaking overreach demonstrating both a deep-seated arrogance and indifference to students’ rights of conscience, free speech, and the right of parents to raise their child as they see fit.

In yesterday’s letter, AFL urged the FCSB to withdraw its proposed amendments, putting the board on notice that should it decide to redraft the text, the board must do so in strict compliance with federal and state laws, and only in a manner that advances and ensures the legal rights and interests of all FCPS students and their families. Now that the board has moved review of the proposed amendments to its June meeting, AFL will continue to closely monitor the actions of the board.  

Statement From America First Legal Senior Advisor Ian Prior 

Fairfax County Public Schools’ amendments increasing punishment for children as young as 8-years old for misgendering other students creates a completely subjective disciplinary regime that is vague, overbroad, and threatens the constitutional rights of students and parents. Students do not shed their constitutional rights when they enter the schoolhouse doors. Yet, this proposed policy threatens to do exactly that by forcing elementary school students and their parents to adopt and be ever vigilant of gender ideology in the classroom, else be subject to potentially draconian disciplines. We are pleased that the Fairfax County School Board has delayed this issue following our letter, and we will be carefully watching how it proceeds on the issue at the June 16th school board meeting,” Ian Prior said.

Read the letter here.

To schedule an engagement with America First Legal, please email [email protected].

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