FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — In a roundtable discussion aimed at tackling systemic racism within Fairfax County Public Schools, the questions flooding into the Fairfax NAACP virtual event had a COVID-19 theme.
"All these long-standing issues of racism, which racism would usually be so important to so many of our families, they can't even think about that because they got to figure out what are we going to do for school," Fairfax NAACP Education Chairperson Dr. Sujatha Hampton said.
Hampton said the conversation planned with FCPS superintendent, and other district officials, was scheduled pre-pandemic and is the first of many future open dialogue conversations to end racism.
"We need to have a radical transformation, a paradigm shift as they said many, many times yesterday, towards anti-racist philosophy, as opposed to all of us constantly saying we're not racist," Hampton said.
During the virtual roundtable discussion, FCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand said the system needs to move faster to address these issues and gave his personal commitment to see it through.
"I know I've been conditioned, I've grown up as a white male of privilege," FCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand said. "And how do we create the opportunity for every child to have and experience success here in Fairfax? I have said it to the division, and I want to say it here that racism and hate have no place in FCPS."
Hampton said she believes the superintendent wants to address the district’s issue of racism and said it would need to be a collaborative effort working toward an end where children are valued and no potential is lost.
"That is what we're pushing for -- radical transformation in anti-racist curriculum and anti-racist philosophy undergirding the whole conversation,” Hampton said. "If it was working, I wouldn't be just gobsmacked day after day at the kinds of things our children are being put through. I think they want it to work, but until you first are able to do that very ugly work, you're not going to get anywhere."
Hampton said during the pandemic at least students aren’t getting expelled or suspended, but said this is a serious concern to the NAACP.
She also said during the pandemic that not all students have been able to have the same virtual learning experience, explaining some students lack resources.
In the virtual town hall, the superintendent made a commitment to plan the district’s report to school with an equity lens in terms of instruction, access and engagement, and social-emotional support.
"FCPS ensures that all potential Return to School scenarios for Fall 2020 are reviewed, and contemplated, with an equity lens," a statement from the district said. "This means that our technology, connectivity, and resources are clearly communicated- and made available- to ALL FCPS students, families and staff. This is in line with our One Fairfax framework that is used to consider equity in decision making and in the development and delivery of policies, programs and services. We must look intentionally, comprehensively, and systematically at barriers that may create gaps in opportunity during this challenging time, as we must in all times."
"We know we need to move faster, and we know that COVID, frankly, is almost like a stopwatch on the speed," Brabrand said at the town hall. "It's got to go from days to minutes to seconds in the speed of transformation. We know, we know that."
As for moving forward in a collaborative effort with the NAACP, Hampton said that’s what she's hoping can happen and the organization is ready to help to do that.