Red Apple Mom

July 18, 2011

Another Bad Headline for FCPS in the Washington Post – thanks Janie Strauss!

Fairfax County Public Schools can’t stem the bleeding on the discipline issue. 

Our school system made national headlines again in yesterday’s Washington Post.

Reporter Donna St. George outlines yet another story of an 8th grade FCPS student who was interrogated by police and school officials — without his parents present — after other students said they’d smoked pot with the boy.

You can read the full Washington Post story here:  Supreme Court Ruling, Rising Police Presence in Schools Spur Miranda Questions

Janie "I voted NO on parental notification" Strauss

What the story doesn’t mention is that our new FCPS School Board Chair – Janie Strauss – voted NO on parental notification.

Why does this matter?   She’s running for re-election.  She doesn’t have kids in our public schools and she’s out of touch with what today’s parents, teachers and taxpayers expect from our school system.  If Strauss and other School Board members had supported parental notification, this issue wouldn’t be making national news – AGAIN!

Hey business community – are you paying attention?  The #1 reason businesses cite for moving to Fairfax County is the reputation of our school system.  How long is that going to last with continued bad headlines?!  The solution is a new School Board.  It’s time for long-serving members like Janie Strauss, Ilyrong Moon and Kathy Smith to go.   FCPS’ reputation is at stake.  Start getting involved business leaders.  Support the candidates running against these incumbents.  You have a stake in this too!

UPDATE ON SCHOOL BOARD FOIA VIOLATIONS – FAIRFAX COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE FINDS FCPS GUILTY:

Also reported by The Washington Post (Saturday, July 16th), “Judge Leslie M. Alden found that the School Board and the administration of School Superintendent Jack D. Dale had violated FOIA provisions on open meetings or public disclosure, but she concluded that the violations were too minor to justify reversing the board’s decision.” (Refers to any decision to reverse the Clifton ES closure.)

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June 26, 2011

My Letter to the Editor About Janie Strauss’ Vote Against Parents

Kudos to The Connection Newspapers who print constituent letters to the editor – including from yours truly.

OUT OF TOUCH

She’s on Facebook.  She tweets.  And yet, Janie Strauss is more out of touch than ever.

She recently voted NO against parental notification.  So now school authorities can

interrogate and pressure my child to sign a confession without having to call me first.

Parental notification is the one change to the disciplinary code that parents wanted most.

And Janie Strauss voted NO.  She voted with the Superintendent – again – and against

the wishes of parents.  In this day and age of social media, email and even the old-fashioned

telephone, a simple call informing me that my child may be in trouble is not too much to

ask of the public school system.  Voting for Janie Strauss again is too much to ask for. 

She’s out of touch and out of date.  We need a new generation of leadership to represent

parents, students and taxpayers.  That’s why I am supporting Louise Epstein in November.

It’s time for leadership that delivers real results.

Catherine Lorenze
Parent of three FCPS students, McLean

6 ❖ McLean Connection ❖ June 22-28, 2011

School Board Member Janie Strauss submitted her own letter to local papers the week before.   In her letter, she stated:   “Some parents are uncomfortable with an administrator questioning students without first notifying and seeking permission from a parent. But in order to protect the safety of all students, principals must be able to immediately investigate incidents of misbehavior.”

Try MOST parents are uncomfortable Janie.   The vote for parental notification was for NON-CRIMINAL offenses.  If school officials can manage to call me when my child is ill, they can call to let me know my child is being questioned about a food-fight or some other NON-CRIMINAL activity.  What risk to student safety is there if the allegation is NON-CRIMINAL?

Interestingly, just day’s after Strauss’ vote, the US Supreme Court ruled that children don’t necessarily lose their right to self-incrimination when they walk into school.

Read more:
In School and In Custody (The News Observer – Chapel Hill, NC – June 22, 2011)

June 10, 2011

Janie Strauss & Ilyrong Moon Point Fingers on Failure of Parental Notification

In a vote of 5 FOR and 7 AGAINST – parental notification FAILED to pass at Thursday night’s Fairfax County School Board meeting.

Blame Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  School Board member Janie Strauss did.

Janie "I voted NO on parental notification" Strauss

In an effort to give herself some air cover for her NO vote, Strauss cited Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia saying, “Justice Scalia is careful to look at the words in the law.” 

That’s fine.  However, the School Board doesn’t pass laws.  It passes policies.  So, it’s interesting that a liberal Democrat like Janie Strauss would cite a conservative Supreme Court Justice as justification for her NO vote on a “policy.”

Strauss said she was “troubled” by the wording in the parental notification amendment and said she wouldn’t support it.  She said she didn’t like that the amendment said parents should be notified “prior to questioning.”

Of course, if Strauss was so troubled by the amendment’s language, she could have made a motion to offer alternative wording in the amendment.  But she didn’t.  Instead, she stood in solidarity with Superintendent Dale and his staff and voted NO – against the wishes of parents and students.

That’s right.  Janie Strauss –School Board member running for re-election in McLean, Great Falls and Herndon – voted against the parents she claims to represent.  She voted NO on parental notification.

Parents Rally for Discipline Reform

As a result, FCPS officials don’t have to call you before your child is questioned about a discipline violation or pressured to sign a confession.   In fact, you may not know your child has been interrogated until hours after the questioning has taken place and after your child may have already signed a confession – without any counsel from you.

But Strauss doesn’t want voters to blame her for failure of the parental notification amendment.  Oh no, no.  Point the finger at how Justice Scalia reads legal text instead.

Let’s be clear.  Janie Strauss should be held accountable for her NO vote on parental notification.  Election Day – November 8th is your chance to end her too-long career on the School Board.

At-Large member Ilyrong Moon should also share some of the blame for the amendment’s failure because he sponsored it.  You’d think he would have taken the time to be sure the issue was crystal clear for his colleagues to ensure passage of this critical amendment.  Unlike Strauss, Moon did not blame Justice Scalia – but he did blame FCPS staff.  Unbelievably, Moon had FCPS staff write the amendment for him.

Isn’t that a bit like letting the fox guard the hen house?

Debate on Parental Notification Amendment

Dale and FCPS staff absolutely do not want parental notification.  So why did Moon have FCPS staff craft the amendment when he should have done it himself.  Can’t he write his own amendments?  He’s a lawyer for Pete’s sake.  What a waste of an At-Large School Board position.  It’s just another reason why Moon doesn’t deserve re-election either.

We need School Board members who are going to seriously advocate for the parents and students they claim to represent.  Janie Strauss and Ilyrong Moon don’t.  Show them the exit door this November.

School Board members who voted NO on parental notification:

Janie Strauss – Dranesville District (*running for re-election)

Kathy Smith – Sully District (*running for re-election)

Liz Bradsher – Springfield District (not seeking re-election)

Jim Raney, At-Large (not seeking re-election)

Brad Center, Lee District (not seeking re-election)

Stu Gibson, Hunter Mill District (not seeking re-election)

Tessie Wilson, Braddock District (not seeking re-election)

Related Articles:

Fairfax County Public Board Docs – Action Taken By FCPS School Board (June 9, 2011)

FCPS School Board Proposed Amendments (June 9, 2011)

Fairfax Scales Back Discipline Policy (The Washington Post, June 10, 2011)

School Board Votes to Make Discipline Process More Flexible, Supportive (The Patch, June 10, 2011)

Parents & Community Rally Before School Board Decision (The Patch, June 9, 2011)

Disciplinary Policy Changes Coming to Fairfax County Schools (WUSA-Channel 9, June 9, 2011)

Fairfax School Board Takes Up Zero-Tolerance Policy Reform (WJLA-Channel 7, June 9, 2011)

June 7, 2011

Student Interrogations & Discipline Review: Your Child Needs You Thursday

As parents, we want to help our children – particularly when they are vulnerable and in need of guidance.

The discipline reform debate going on in Fairfax County Public Schools has revealed just how few rights our children have if they are ever accused of a serious school infraction.

This Thursday, June 9th, School Board members will vote on changes to the Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy – including the controversial parental notification component.

Picture school authorities interrogating your child – and pressuring him or her to sign a confession or statement of guilt – without you present in the room.

Don’t like that idea?  Then take some action.  Your chance is now.

These following School Board members are either undecided or opposed to notifying you before your child is questioned about a serious school infraction.

Jane Strauss -Dranesville District
Kathy Smith – Sully District
Liz Bradsher – Springfield District
Stu Gibson – Hunter Mill District
Tessie Wilson – Braddock District
Jim Raney – At Large

Email these members now and ask them to vote in support of parental notification.  The parent group Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform (FZTR)  is asking parents to specifically request the following points:

1.  Parental notification for infractions that could result in suspension of more than three days or a recommendation for expulsion.

2.  No  signed student statements of confession without a parent or guardian present.

3.  Advising students that they have the right to remain silent and they have the right to seek counsel.

We would all like to believe our children will never face serious disciplinary action in public school.  But the fact is, you can never really know.  Put yourself in the shoes of your child.  Ask yourself if you could handle an interrogation without an advocate by your side.

Does that idea trouble you?

Then show your kids you really care and participate in FZTR’s sponsored rally BEFORE Thursday night’s School Board meeting on June 9th at 6:30pm.  Location – Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church on Gallows Road at Route 50.  Meet in the parking lot.  Wear RED and bring appropriate signs that call for PARENTAL NOTIFICATION.

Many of the School Board members are running for re-election this year.  Your participation in this rally could help apply the pressure needed for these critical reforms.    Please get involved and advocate for your child now while you still can.

The School Board is expected to vote on discipline policy changes about 7:45pm.  If you cannot attend in person, the meeting will be televised on Cable Channel 21 and web-streamed live at http://www.fcps.edu.

For more information, visit the Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform website at:  www.FairfaxZeroToleranceReform.org.

Here are the email addresses for all the School Board members:
Kathy Smith – Chair – Kathy.L.Smith@fcps.edu
Brad Center – Vice Chair – Brad.Center@fcps.edu
Elizabeth Bradsher – Springfield – elizabeth.bradsher@fcps.edu
Sandra Evans  – Mason – sandy.evans@fcps.edu
Stuart Gibson – Hunter Mill – stuart.gibson@fcps.edu
Martina Hone – Member at large – Martina.Hone@fcps.edu
Ilryong Moon – Member at large – ilryong.moon@fcps.edu
James Raney – Member at large – james.raney@fcps.edu
Patricia Reed – Providence – patty.reed@fcps.edu
Daniel Storck – Mt Vernon – daniel.storck@fcps.edu
Jane Strauss – Dranesville – jane.strauss@fcps.edu
Judith Wilson – Braddock – Tessie.Wilson@fcps.edu

May 17, 2011

What if a teacher “got rid of drugs” for a student?

Monday’s School Board work session on discipline reform took a weird turn, I thought, when it was Janie Strauss’ turn to address her colleagues.

School Board Member Jane Strauss

First, she completely neglected to discuss the lack of parental notification in the Superintendent’s recommendations for discipline reform.  (This is important because one of the students who committed suicide after the FCPS discipline process was from her district.)

Then she  bizarrely asked FCPS staff, “In a situation where a kid brings a small amount of drugs, what is our requirement if drugs are found?  What if a teacher got rid of it?  What is the law?”

Yes, Strauss seriously asked what if a teacher “got rid of  drugs” for a student?

How weird it that?  What teacher would honestly risk their job and reputation by doing such a thing?

Strauss said she was asking the question because parents had posed the question to her and wondered if drug situations could be handled “privately.” Why Strauss focused on that issue rather than parental notification is just plain weird to me.

For the record, Dale informed Strauss that FCPS is required to report criminal activity.  So the answer is “NO.”  Drug possession on FCPS property is never handled as a “private” matter.

Kudos to School Board members Sandy Evans, Tina Hone and Patty Reed who asked all the tough questions of the day and advocated strongly for parental notification, new training of hearings officers and not treating first-time offenders like hardened criminals.

School Board Work Session on Discipline Reform

Some additional information points from Monday’s work session include:

  • Superintendent Dale stated that FCPS does not send discipline records to colleges.  He said many colleges and universities ask students if they have had discipline infractions, but FCPS “doesn’t send a thing to colleges.”
  • One of the big changes to the Student Responsibilities & Rights  (SRR) deals with Over –the-Counter (OTC) drugs.  If a student brings an OTC drug to school, like an aspirin or Motrin, the principal has full discretion to decide on a suspension or a reprimand if the OTC drug was innocently brought to school by mistake.  However, if a student is found to be distributing an OTC drug for the purpose of misuse, a principal could recommend expulsion.  FCPS staff explained that OTC cough medicines are sometimes abused by students and distributed to others.
  • FCPS staff stated if there was intent to misuse or distribute prescription drugs, principals will not handle that in-house and the case will be referred to the hearings office.  The factors involved come down to legal use as prescribed by a doctor versus illegal use (distribution to others of the prescription drug).
  • Statements provided by students during the discipline process are confidentially held by Fairfax County Public Schools unless subpoenaed by a court.  One FCPS staffer said in the seven years that she has worked in the FCPS hearing office, she is aware of only one student statement being subpoenaed.
  • FCPS has said they will let parents listen to an audio recording of their child’s discipline hearing, but won’t give them a copy of the recording.  They cited confidentiality concerns with other students’ names who might be mentioned during the hearing.  They also expressed concerns that the recording could be edited and taken out of context.  School Board Member Tina Hone took issue with FCPS staff on this point saying there is encryption software that could lock the recording and prevent it from being copied or edited.  She also stated there are options for blocking out student names.
  • Kindergarten students must now be met at the bus by a parent or guardian or a sibling who is in 7th grade or higher.  If they are not, the bus driver will return the student to the school.

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