Controversies discussed at Fairfax County School Board meeting

School board members and the community discussed several controversial policies Thursday at the Fairfax County Schoolboard meeting.

Board members are considering a proposal that would allow middle and high school students an excused absence to take part in a protest, walkout or another form of activism. The measure was not decided Thursday but will move forward for consideration.

School board members hope to have a policy in place in time for next school year. It came out of a wave of activism in the form of walkouts and protests after the Parkland shooting.

Some school board members prefer students to take part in civic engagement on their own time, but Ryan McElveen, at-large board member came up with the proposal.

"Students absolutely have the option to do it outside of school hours and many of them do but a lot of times events coincide with school hours and so it's important for them to at least have that option," McElveen said.

The protest absence policy will be decided at a later date.

In public comment, speakers thanked the school board for its support of a court case which has so far been decided in favor of a former Gloucester County transgender student Gavin Grimm.

The board voted to send an amicus brief, supporting a ruling that would allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. The case remains pending after the Supreme Court sent it back to a lower court.

A parent interrupted the meeting, shouting that Fairfax Schools locks children in cages, in reference to discipline used on her autistic student. The outburst followed reporting from WAMU radio highlighting the county's use of seclusion and isolation for students with special needs. The reporting revealed a video which appeared to show a child pushed into a room as they struggled to get out.

A school board member responded to the parent, saying the tactics are only used in the most serious cases.