Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools system is signaling that the eyes of “Big Brother” are upon our children. The district’s school board members are currently considering an Orwellian “bias incident reporting system” in changes to the code of conduct. With the new system, students, parents, and staff members would anonymously report “any incident of inappropriate conduct, including, and without limitation, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bullying, other violations of civil rights.”
Bias incident reporting systems are on the rise in our nation’s universities, doubling in the last five years. These systems are the administrative apparatus used to chill free speech and are facing many legal challenges, including in neighboring Loudoun County Public Schools.
A bias incident is anything and everything that an administrator, usually a so-called “equity” officer, claims it is. Bias incident reporting systems and blocking conservative speakers on campus prohibit not only free speech but free thought. It is insidious that educational institutions foster environments, in part with bias incident reporting systems, in which students protest the right to speak of their ideological opponents.
SFSU’s Bias Incident Reporting System
On April 6, Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer at the University of Kentucky, was held for ransom and assaulted when she spoke at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Despite protests outside the room, Gaines was able to finish detailing her harrowing experience swimming at a Division 1 level against, and sharing a locker room with, a male claiming to be a female. Her message was simple: Keep women’s sports female. Protesters claimed Gaines’ mere presence on the campus was so traumatic that they were owed money.
SFSU Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Jamillah Moore subsequently issued a statement commending students for their protest, asserting that transgender-identifying people were the victims in the incident and that campus resources were available to help them “heal.” Not surprisingly, SFSU is among the many universities with a bias incident reporting system. Saying anything contrary to Moore’s statement likely would be grounds for a bias incident report.
Chilling speech at the collegiate level is wrong, and incorporating these systems in K-12 public education is abhorrent. In a recent study, 60 percent of college students said they could not express their opinions because they feared how other students, faculty, or staff would respond. Similarly, in George Orwell’s “1984,” Winston Smith is hesitant to write his private thoughts in his own diary. He is terrified that even ideas of rebellion will land him in the hands of the Thought Police. Educational institutions implementing these systems are not fostering inclusion as they claim. Rather, they are creating a climate of fear and censorship, particularly among students with conservative ideas.
Expansive Definitions of ‘Hate Speech’
Schools and colleges are using expansive definitions of “hate speech” to set parameters for what constitutes bias incidents and bullying. Hate speech in Fairfax County Public Schools is defined as:
…any form of expression intended to humiliate or incite hatred against a group or class of persons based upon their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, weight, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, or disability.
Within those parameters, not using a student’s preferred pronoun falls within “hate speech.” In Fairfax County Public Schools, children in fourth grade and above can be suspended for not using preferred pronouns. The proposed bias incident reporting system is likely intended, in part, for the district’s chief equity officer to have more sets of eyes on noncompliant students for better pronoun enforcement.
Fairfax County’s Reeducation Camp
If a student dares to use a pronoun associated with another student’s biological sex when the student objects or displays other hints of unintended or perceived biases through “hate speech,” the offender must undergo reeducation. Fairfax County Public Schools’ Equity and Employee Relations Office, together with the Chief Equity Officer, in true “1984” fashion, are mandating a “culturally responsive intervention.”
An “equity officer” creating and implementing a cultural responsive training is virtually the same as a priest offering public school lessons in morality, inappropriate and dogmatic with religious fervor. I have emailed a request to all school board members and the district’s superintendent to preview that training but have not yet received a response.
Bullying and Power Differentials
The determination of a bias incident and the need for reeducation is likely wrought with identity questions regarding the offending student. In the district’s code of conduct, bullying is defined as “any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and the victim … and is repeated over time … or causes severe emotional trauma.”
The inclusion of a “perceived power imbalance” is particularly disconcerting. The code of conduct is not entirely explicit about the power hierarchy, but given the school board members’ aggressive move toward the racist “anti-racist” ideology, race is most certainly considered.
In January 2023, a 12-year-old white male student at Fairfax County Public Schools was choked and smacked by a black female classmate on the bus, leaving multiple marks on his body. Other children videoed the assault and cheered her on. The boy’s mother pressed charges, and a Fairfax County judge granted a protective order against the girl, who allegedly bullied the boy prior to the assault. The mother argues that the school has not responded appropriately to the assault or done enough to keep her son safe since the attack.
This incident raises the question of whether the children’s race and sex played a part in the district’s dismissive attitude. Are bullying and biases less harmful or offensive when committed against white or male students? In Fairfax County, it would seem so.
Many of these educational institutions already have rules and procedures in place to address and record bullying incidents. Fairfax County school administrators currently use the Bullying and Harassment Management System. Why Fairfax County schools need a broader system is unclear to the public. The district’s school board members are meeting to discuss these changes at their public work session on May 23 before they vote at the regular meeting on June 26, and parents are anxiously waiting for more information.
But the larger question is: Why is Fairfax County spending its resources monitoring our children to shape them ideologically rather than teaching the fundamentals and addressing colossal pandemic learning loss?