NAACP hosts online forum on addressing systemic racism in Fairfax County schools

The Fairfax County, Virginia, chapter of the NAACP hosted a virtual discussion about ways to root out systemic racism from schools, and it had to do it without the leader of the county’s school system.

The forum was supposed to feature Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

Fairfax County NAACP chapter President Sean Perryman announced at the start of the meeting that Brabrand emailed to cancel the night before.

Perryman expressed his “annoyance” that the cancellation came without 24 hours’ notice.

“It’s really disappointing,” Perryman said. “While we’re trying to be gracious and understand that these things do happen, these issues, as it relates to racial equity, are of critical importance.”

Dr. Sujatha Hampton, education chair for the Fairfax County NAACP, said “that’s what this meeting was supposed to be about,” and she said Brabrand told them at the last meeting that he “did not want to be the superintendent of a racist school system.”

“If that is the case, then you have to be able to work on doing new things,” Hampton said. “He was dedicated to working with us, and I believe he really is.”

WTOP reached out to Fairfax County Public Schools about why Brabrand canceled.

A school spokesperson said that Brabrand attended an afternoon school board session about the fall reopening that ran into the NAACP event, “presenting a conflict.”

“We hope to reschedule the NAACP meeting,” Lucy Caldwell, the school system’s director of news and information, said. “I do know that he participated in a previous NAACP forum, and he is committed to staying involved and attending forums in the future.”

The NAACP meeting then moved into the nine educational priorities that the chapter is proposing to address systemic racism in schools.

One of the ideas revolved around recommending the removal of school resource officers, also known as SROs, from all schools by the end of this coming academic year.

Perryman said that it unfairly targets minority students, who are arrested and end up being sent into, in essence, a pipeline to prison.

“When you introduce an officer into school, what you see is an increase in disciplinary actions but specifically ones that would lead to arrests,” Perryman said. “Arrests of Black and Latino students, as well as disabled students.”

Another idea includes creating a committee to review the entire school curriculum to root out racial and cultural bias.

“Understand that an anti-racist lens has to be put to everything,” Hampton said. “These issues are in all of our curricula.”

During the coming school year, the school system said it might be ready to roll out its anti-racism curriculum, which has been in the works for years, integrating instruction into social studies classes.

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Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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