- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2021

Parents lambasted Fairfax County Public Schools this week for returning two controversial books to the library and making left-wing class assignments.

Stacy Langton, a parent of a public school system student, excoriated the board for the schools’ decision to return “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer: A Memoir” to library shelves despite parents’ outrage. After a review, Fairfax schools officials said last week that the books did not include any pedophilia or pornography.

“They sent me a letter saying neither of these books contain pedophilia nor are they obscene,” Ms. Langton told The Washington Times. “That’s a bald-faced lie.”

Ms. Langdon said she planned to follow the schools’ appeals process to continue challenging the library books.

Parents opposed to the books say they are inappropriate because of their sexual content, graphic images and what they say are depictions of pedophilia.

Thursday night’s contentious meeting was the latest in a string of incidents that has roiled the Washington suburb this year as well as hundreds of school districts around the nation. Parents have objected to a range of issues, from COVID-related measures, to material infused with critical race theory, to sexually explicit questionnaires and to what Ms. Langton contends are obscene books.

Ms. Langton first raised the issue in September. As she stressed Thursday night and again Friday, her issue is not with LGBQT material but with the explicit nature of the books available to middle and high school students.

She shared screenshots of graphic illustrations of oral sex between young people and one that shows a grown man masturbating a boy that are included in Maia Kobabe’s “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

Fairfax County is not the only school in which “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” have raised concern. In some instances, viral social media videos have shown school boards stopping parents reading from the texts because of the obscene language.

“I am the adult child of a gay parent,” Ms. Langton told the board. “But we hear the LGBTQ community tonight defending the indefensible. And this school board doubled down — in clear terms — that they are in favor of pornography in schools.”

The various fronts in the fights between parents and school officials are separate, Ms. Langton said, although she believes all of them are rooted in a determination by education professionals and elected officials to force kids to learn a left-wing, woke philosophy.

“You can have supportive books of LGBQT community and they don’t have to depict pornography, do they?” she said.

A similar left-wing approach seems to have crept into eighth-grade assignments at Katherine Johnson Middle School in Fairfax County, according to a parent who said he was startled by the material Thursday evening.

He cited an assignment: “Research a couple of social justice organizations in order to gain an understanding of what social justice activism involves,” it read.

The links provided by the teacher took the students to a variety of left-wing social justice groups and included screenshots of various gender and sexuality concepts and pro-immigration policies.

“Some of it is unobjectionable,” said Edwin Donovan, noting information about significant civil rights figures such as Rosa Parks and John Lewis. “But there are a number of links that plainly require my son to learn about ‘social justice activism’.”

One of the links, to the Equal Justice Initiative, paints American history as a parade of racist horrors.

“American history begins with the creation of a myth to absolve White settlers of the genocide of Native Americans; the false belief that nonwhite people are less human than White people,” the group website says. “This belief in racial hierarchy survived slavery’s abolition, fueled racial terror lynchings, demanded legally codified segregation, and spawned our mass incarceration crisis.”

Another link went to teaching guides on social justice activism by the Center for Racial Justice in Education, and Mr. Donovan said he was puzzled at why his 14-year-old child’s English class was focused on left-wing social justice activism. 

“Much of this is fine, but this is all disguised critical race theory,” Mr. Donovan said.

A spokeswoman for the school system said she was unfamiliar with the assigned material and it was not clear if it was being given across eighth grade English classes. Mr. Donovan said at least two teachers at Katherine Johnson Middle School had issued the assignment.

One of the parents of a child in the other 8th-grade class filed a formal complaint about the assignment with FCPS Thursday.

“I am furious beyond words that this type of biased, political and hard-left ideology is being assigned as a rational lesson,” Jason Bryk wrote in the complaint.

Mr. Bryk cited approving links to radical left-wing thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Francis Fox Piven as inappropriate and beyond the grasp of 8th graders.

“I realize that Fairfax County is the epicenter of leftist ideology but this lesson is beyond defensible,” Mr. Bryk’s complaint said. “This lesson provides no ‘diversity’ of opinion, ‘inclusion’ of alternative ideologies or any competing viewpoints. This is nothing short of indoctrination.”

Developed in graduate and law schools in the 1970s, critical race theory is an analytical tool based on Marxist critical studies. It posits that racism is a foundational element of American society and government and is important in understanding and evaluating U.S. laws, policies and programs.

Ms. Langton said she sees the stamp of approval Fairfax has given graphic books for students as separate from critical race theory but part of the same agenda being pushed by the education establishment.

Both she and Mr. Donovan pointed to the November gubernatorial election in Virginia, in which Republican Glenn Youngkin upset Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a vote that polling showed was highly charged by the issue of K-12 education and Mr. McAuliffe’s statement during a debate that parents should not tell schools what to teach their kids.

Mr. Donovan said that, if social justice activism is a standard feature of Fairfax’s eighth-grade education, Mr. Youngkin’s transition team should investigate.

The situation in Virginia was cited Thursday in an open letter to the education establishment and elected officials released by the conservative Heritage Foundation.  

“Parents in Virginia and across America are acutely aware of the cultural changes taking place in society, most notably occurring in public schools,” the letter said. 

The signees called for lawmakers to “empower parents with insight and influence over their child’s education.”

“We therefore call for state legislators to enact policies that families and students desperately need to reject the racial prejudice inherent in critical race theory, maximize transparency around what is taught in K-12 classrooms and secure education choice,” the letter said.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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