Several Fairfax County, Virginia, school board members are facing recall efforts after constituents were unhappy with how they refused to reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
A coalition of parents angered by the months-long suspension of in-person learning in Virginia’s largest school system has submitted thousands of signatures petitioning for the recall of a school board member.
The petition submitted Monday to the Fairfax County Circuit Court by the Open FCPS Coalition accuses Elaine Tholen of neglecting her duty when she and other board members opted against in-person learning for roughly 12 months during the pandemic.
Petition organizers say the extended reliance on online learning ran contrary to scientific advice and desires of a majority of parents.
The parents’ group said it submitted over 5,000 signatures, more than the 3,500 necessary.
During her campaign, Tholen was endorsed by the Fairfax Education Association — the teachers union — according to her campaign website. Unions favored keeping schools closed and students at home amid the pandemic.
The government-run school district weighed in against a recall, calling the effort “misguided.”
“The decision to provide learning through a virtual format last year was a direct result of the circumstances and the health and medical advice available at the time,” a district statement said, WTOP reported.
“The School Board and FCPS [Fairfax County Public Schools] leadership was responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of its 189,000 students during the unprecedented circumstances of a pandemic,” it continued, calling the decision “to conduct classes online” difficult, but “the right one.”
Proponents of the recall, Open FCPS Coalition, noted the district surveyed parents in 2020 and found 60 percent supported returning to in-person learning, but that the school board “ignored the majority vote and took away that option completely.”
Open FCPS Coalition said it is “a bi-partisan, grassroots, volunteer group of concerned parents and citizens.”
WATCH Zia Tompkins on @AmericaNewsroom, announcing the Open FCPS Coalition will submit signatures today requesting the recall of Elaine Tholen. The first of many to come in Northern VA! It's time to get politics out of our schools! #OpenFCPS #kidsoverpolitics #openschools #recall pic.twitter.com/9M2PWyOjyT
— Replace FCPS School Board (Open FCPS Coalition) (@fcpsopen) July 19, 2021
“The choice to shutter our schools was done even though the head of the Fairfax County Health Department advised the board that is was safe to open,” the group said.
It argued, “A successful collection of our signatures on the removal petitions will send a message to the entire board that voters do not support policies that hurt our children!”
In addition to Tholen, the group is working to also recall Laura Jane Cohen and Abrar Omeish.