Education

Transgender And Confederate Issues Shape School’s Board Race

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter

Transgender and Confederate issues are shaping the Tuesday election for a seat on the largest school system in Virginia.

The Fairfax County School Board election pits lawyer Karen Keys-Gamarra, endorsed by the county’s Democratic committee, against defense contractor Chris Grisafe, who is backed by the county’s Republican committee, reported The Washington Post. Michael Owens, a former teacher and current Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) president and Sandra Allen, a PTA volunteer, are also running for the seat.

The four candidates are vying for a seat abdicated by Jeanette Hough, who resigned in May and was one of three Republican-backed chairs on the 12-person school board.

Keys-Gamarra, the Democratic-backed candidate, represents children in court custody battles and opposes cuts to education proposed by President Donald Trump and the Department of Education. She supports allowing transgender students use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. Democratic fundraising has accounted for over $60,000 of Keys-Gamarra’s campaign donations.

“I believe that broad perspective and understanding is something that would allow me to help a lot of children and a lot of families at the school board level,” said Keys-Gamarra to WaPo.

Keys-Gamarra is also backed by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and the Fairfax Education Association.

“The quality, the value of property is all organized and essentially dependent on the quality of schools,” said Grisafe, the Republican-backed candidate who has raised less than half as much as Keys-Gamarra. “It impacts the desirability of community. … I think we need to be wiser with how we’re investing our money.”

Grisafe attacked the school board for what he viewed as a lack of community input regarding the decision to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School. Grisafe said he would only endorse name changes if the community also favored them. (RELATED: Virginia School Drops 3 Letters In Name To Try To Erase Confederate General Reference)

Grisafe wants transgender students to use private restrooms instead of ones that do not align with their sex. Fairfax County expanded its grade 7 to 10 sex education curriculum to include transgender and gender identity content in 2015.

“You have to come to the budget process with the perspective of a teacher and a parent,” said Owens, who professes a nonpartisan approach to the job, to WaPo.

“There needs to be a change in the current climate … making it more welcoming,” said Allen, the last candidate, who wants to help minority students and lower the Latino dropout rate.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to the Fairfax County school board clerk and deputy clerks for comment but received none in time for press.

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