Many people are asking us what progress we're making on getting ZT reform done in Fairfax.
First, this issue is getting traction beyond local mainstream media.
Besides stories in local papers and TV news, on March 24, hosts of Fox Sports Radio 106.7 peppered their conversation with the injustices our kids face in this system. Call-ins were almost universally supportive of reform and appalled at the lack of due process and disconnects between "crime" and "punishment." They were struck that over the last six years, of 5,025 suspension and expulsion hearings office cases, zero were overturned or remanded back to principals.
The March 21 issue of Time magazine talked about the Stuban case in "Zero Tolerance, Zero Sense." We have received calls from Las Vegas, Denver, Atlanta, and New York, and several counties in Virginia, among others, asking about what's going on here.
Second, we are helping organize many groups that, until now, have worked separately on this issue, sometimes duplicating efforts. For example, an upcoming meeting in Richmond (see News on Home page) will address statewide needs and how they play out in FCPS.
Third, we have been meeting individually with school board members and have planned meetings with staff. We have distributed information to these officials, including excellent information from the Advancement Project and the American Psychological Association, to help them understand why and how FCPS can do better. We have some really wonderful champions on the school board, including Tina Hone (at large), Sandy Evans (Mason), Patty Reed (Providence), and Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon). Please encourage them by thanking them (go to our How You Can Help page for a link to their contact information.)
Fourth, we are creating a series of "white papers" addressing several needed changes: Identifying the problem, evidence that it exists, reasons change is needed, solutions, legal and regulatory issues, and citations of research and data to support it all. These topics are:
1. Involuntary transfers
2. Recording hearings
3. Parent notification and involvement
4. Miranda rights
5. Education rights & continuity
6. Applying special circumstances
7. Data needs and FOIA responses
8. Objective hearings process
9. Students with disabilities/special needs process
10. Principal accountability
11. Suspension reductions
12. Support during the process, and restoration
13. Equal protection
If you would like to contribute to any of these topics, please let us know. We have experts working on most of these areas. Remember: Nothing is certain until we see ACTION on all these matters. We will not rest until they are all addressed.
Fifth, we continually reach out to our supporters to ask them to stay engaged and show them how with our action alerts, posted on this website. We are gaining more supporters every single day.
Sixth: We are keeping the media and other parties informed of activities and our ongoing concerns.
Finally, in the long run, we want a transformation of culture -- from punitive to cherishing and restorative. This will take time -- and very likely a change in leadership. That is why we are very engaged with the school board election process.
We have an opportunity to vote in an entire slate of school board members who care as much as we do about reforming this system, being transparent about their decisionmaking, being honest, and engaging parents and teachers as full partners. Several candidates have made their positions clear, and we will be informing EVERYONE of our assessments when the time comes.
Thanks to all our stakeholders for your continuing support and for staying engaged. We believe 175,000 kids would thank you, too, if they could!
-- Caroline Hemenway, FZTR director and co-founder