The Board of Education Should Investigate “Privilege Bingo” at FCPS

Courtesy of Fairfax County Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

Hard to sweep this under the rug.

Pat Herrity of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday released on his Twitter account this picture of a teaching aid used in a Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) classroom.

There is no indication yet of the grades in which “privilege Bingo” is being offered, or of the rules of the “game.” We know for sure which kids are the losers. All of them.

The kids who check the most boxes are singled out as privileged, thus not responsible for their success.  Perhaps they are oppressors.  We’ll need to find out exactly what was said.

The kids who check the fewest boxes are humiliated in front of their peers.  Whatever may be the words coming out of the teacher’s mouth, those kids are learning false lessons:

  • that the world won’t work for them;
  • that they have little chance to succeed no matter how hard they try;
  • that personal agency is a myth; and
  • that school is a waste of time.

The common threads in this “game” for all children, that privilege at birth is destiny and that personal responsibility and effort play only minor roles in success, are as devastatingly false and hurtful as anything one can tell a kid.

Virginians demand a fair investigation. If a violation of a state-granted license or licenses is found, we will demand accountability.

I note that division superintendents are licensed by the Board of Education https://www.baconsrebellion… should that prove the source of the problem in this case. 

8VAC20-23-720. Revocation

 A. A license issued by the Virginia Board of Education may be revoked for the following reasons:

7. Conduct with direct and detrimental effect on the health, welfare, discipline, or morale of a student or minor;

That regulation sets forth the procedures for filing and acting on a complaint against a license holder.

C. Procedures

1.A complaint may be filed by anyone, but it shall be the duty of a division superintendent, principal, or other responsible school employee to file a complaint in any case in which he has knowledge that a basis for the revocation of a license exists, as set forth in subsection A of this section.  The person making the complaint shall submit the complaint in writing to the appropriate division superintendent. If the subject of the complaint is the division superintendent, the person making the complaint may submit the complaint to the chair of the local school board. [Emphasis added]

2.Upon receipt of the complaint against the holder of a license, a division superintendent or his duly authorized representative shall conduct an immediate and thorough investigation of any complaint alleging that a license holder has engaged in conduct that may form the basis for the revocation of his license. If, on the basis of such investigation, the division superintendent finds the complaint to be without merit, he shall so notify the complaining party or parties in writing and then close his file on the matter. This action shall be final unless the local school board, on its own motion, votes to proceed to a hearing on the complaint. 

FCPS cannot be permitted to conduct the investigation. It is not clear that anyone charged with a violation in this case can be assured of a fair investigation and hearing from that organization. Reasons:

  • This is already a case of national interest, carried on the major news networks last evening.   Leaving the investigation to FCPS will put that body under tremendous scrutiny and thus pressure;
  • FCPS is hopelessly conflicted.
    • A finding of guilty sets it up for massive civil lawsuits.
    • A finding that a complaint is “without merit” will risk damaging the reputation of both FCPS and the profession of teaching.
    • The Superintendent may turn out to be responsible.

And FCPS knows it.

Fortunately there is an alternative in the regulation.

H. Revocation on motion of the Virginia Board of Education.

The Virginia Board of Education reserves the right to act directly to revoke a license when the Virginia Board of Education has reasonable cause to believe that subsection A of this section is applicable. The Superintendent of Public Instruction may send a petition for revocation to the license holder as provided by subsection E of this section. The license holder shall have the opportunity to present his written answer, if any, to the petition within 14 days of delivery or attempted delivery of the petition, as certified by the United States Postal Service.  [Emphasis added]

The Board of Education has in hand reasonable cause to believe subsection A number 7 was violated. The evidence pictured above and the testimony of Supervisor Herrity exceed that threshold.

There were witnesses at the meetings that resulted in the development of this “game.” There are lesson plans. There are teachers who presented it. There are students who sat through it.

A fair and thorough investigation will discover whether the lesson rose to the level of a violation that warrants removal of licenses.

Deputy Attorney General for Health, Education and Social Services Coke Morgan Stewart can provide legal assistance to the Board. That will increase citizen confidence in the outcome.

The people of Virginia need this “game” fully explained. Neither FCPS nor the Board of Education should plan to hide the details other than names under a “personnel matters” blanket.

Updated Jan 21, 2022 at 9:31 AM