Is Fairfax Above the Law?

Fairfax doesn’t like Virginia’s mandatory school attendance law, so they object to the regulation that proposes to enforce that law.

Va. Code  § 22.1-269 requires that the Board of Education “see that the [mandatory attendance laws] are properly enforced throughout the Commonwealth.” Notwithstanding that mandate, the Board still neither collects nor publishes data that would allow the public to assess its performance of that duty.

The Board did not publish a proposed truancy regulation until December 21, 2009. The history of that regulation is set forth on the Town Hall website.  In short, the regulation completed its fourth(!) public comment period on 12/2/2015; the proposed regulation still fails to discharge the Board’s duty and the Board has not yet acted to either adopt the proposed regulation or to repair it.

Yet, in the Peoples Republic of Northern Virginia the proposed regulation is defective insofar as it does attempt to require compliance with State law.

In comments dated 12/2/15, Dr. Karen Garza of Fairfax County Schools says:

[T]he draft regulations require the creation of an attendance plan after the fifth unexcused absence, as specified by Code.  But instead of allowing time for that plan’s implementation or for any sort of evaluation of a student’s progress toward addressing issues identified by the plan, the regulations (again in compliance with Code) require additional significant interventions after only a single additional unexcused absence.  One more unexcused absence beyond that potentially triggers a court petition and legal intervention.  Simply put, this timeline is fundamentally flawed and undermines the potential usefulness of the required attendance plan by giving it little to no time to actually work.  Unless the underlying Code constraints are addressed, regulatory changes will be of limited worth in truly moving student attendance policies in school divisions toward evidence-based best practices.

In short: “The State law is fundamentally flawed and we object to your regulation that would seek to enforce that law.”

The Fairfax schools’ Web page tells us that Dr. Garza is the Superintendent up there.  Her comments tell us that Dr. Garza needs to be fired and replaced with a Superintendent who is willing to apply Virginia law as it is, not as she wishes it to be.


PS to Superintendent Staples: In the likely event that Fairfax won’t fire her, you and your Board can.