FCPS Has Free Speech Expectations
Updated: Sep 25
Fairfax County Public Schools' leadership contacted the Fairfax Times to arrange a meeting, as they put it, “to better understand your editorial process and also discuss our basic expectations so that moving forward, we can work together more effectively.”
It is inappropriate for a government body to engage a free and independent newspaper with a set of "expectations." The Fairfax Times refused the meeting, which was the proper decision.
This attempt at influencing by FCPS is the latest in a series of steps that try to distance the school system from accountability. Public comments at school board meetings have been reduced to 2 minutes, and important decisions are delayed until well into the night, after most of the audience has left or gone to bed. This Board has tarnished transparency enough, it needs to stop.
As a member of the School Board, I would advocate changing the way the School Board conducts its meetings. An example is the meeting from June 26. The members didn't begin discussing business until around 10pm after spending the first two hours with ceremonial and recognition activities. The Board delayed important decisions until well into the night before approving two of them: their own salary hike and the equity policy, one which received no public comment and the other little public comment. Longer public comment periods, increased transparency on matters for board approval, and operating at reasonable hours are all critical first steps.
Thomas Jefferson, said, "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without it being lost." Had FCPS leadership been well-read on Virginia history, then they may not have tried to limit a free and independent newspaper with a set of "expectations."