Come 2020, seventh through 12th grade students of Fairfax County will have more opportunity to voice their opinion outside of the classroom, thanks to a recent policy change.
Washington, DC is known as the center of political discourse and social reform. So, naturally, hundreds of organized protests, rallies and walks take place within our nation’s capital each year, often during the school and workweek, limiting who can take part.
As of next month though, Fairfax County students in seventh through 12th grade will be excused from a half-day of school per year to participate in their choice of organized “civic engagement,” as named in the official regulation change. These events can include anything from marches to sit-ins to national conferences.
According to the official statement from Fairfax County Public Schools—one of the largest school districts in the country—the regulation change will give students the opportunity to “actively participate and share their voices and perspectives within the metropolitan Washington, DC area.”
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While youth activism is on the rise across the globe, seen through the Sunrise Movement—the youth-led climate change-advocacy group, as well as March for Our Lives, which brings young people together to fight against gun violence—this policy is the first of its kind in public school systems here in Northern Virginia and beyond.
“I think we’re setting the stage for the rest of the nation with this,” Fairfax School Board member Ryan McElveen, who introduced the policy, told The Washington Post earlier this week. “It’s a dawning of a new day in student activism, and school systems everywhere are going to have to be responsive to it.”
According to county spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell, a parents’ note of permission is required in advance, and school administration must approve the activity; however, there are no restrictions set in place on what the activity or event can be. The partial absence is key, as a complete day off from school would impact the school’s accreditation status.
The county-wide, school-board driven policy will officially take effect on Monday, Jan. 27. According to Caldwell, the complete details are still being finalized by FCPS.