Fairfax County Public Schools Sues Judicial Watch To Keep “Transgender” Policy Records Secret before Key Election
Fairfax County School Board Hires Private Law Firm, Court Today Questions Lawsuit as “Form over Substance”
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that on Friday, October 30, the Fairfax County School Board sued Judicial Watch rather than turn over records prior to Election Day concerning a controversial change in policy accommodating “transgender” students. The board filed suit in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, Virginia (Fairfax County Public Schools v. Judicial Watch, Inc. (No. 2015 14395)). At a calendar hearing this morning, the court questioned the lawsuit, calling it “form over substance.” The transgender policy issue has become a major one in tomorrow’s election in Fairfax County.
In May 2015, the board voted to add “gender identity” to its nondiscrimination policy with little consultation with local parents, who voiced concern that the policy would allow male students and teachers who identify as transgender to use the girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms, as well as the reciprocal concern for females using male facilities.
In April and May of 2015, Judicial Watch partnered with concerned Fairfax taxpayers and submitted seven Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking records of communications about the transgender policy and related issues. On May 4, May 6 and May 12, the board acknowledged receipt of Judicial Watch’s requests, and could have begun processing the requests but demanded a processing fee. On August 21, Judicial Watch agreed to pay the fee. The board, by law, should have provided relevant records to Judicial Watch no later than August 28. However, the Fairfax board only partially produced documents last week on October 27.
After stalling the production of the records, the board alerted Judicial Watch last October 27 that it found nearly 2,000 pages of additional records but that it wanted to produce most of them only tomorrow or on Friday, November 6. (Some of the 2,000 new pages were produced on Friday, October 30.)
Judicial Watch tried to negotiate the release of most of the 2,000 pages documents before Election Day, but the very school board up for election tomorrow sued Judicial Watch this past Friday, an effort that, if successful, would prevent public access to records prior to the election. The Fairfax County School Board also hired an outside firm – at taxpayer expense – for the lawsuit.
At the court hearing this morning, Fairfax admitted that their response is now untimely. The court stated that the Fairfax board’s request for an emergency hearing seemed like “form over substance.” The court declined to schedule an early hearing and set a hearing for this coming Friday, the court’s usual motions day – and the day that Fairfax promised production of any remaining records. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. or sometime thereafter and is limited to 30 minutes. The Fairfax County School Board plans to bring a witness to testify about the school system’s difficulties in abiding by the law.
The Washington Times reported that the documents produce thus far to Judicial Watch and its Fairfax citizen partners show that the Fairfax County School Board “administrators had already begun implementing controversial transgender policy changes before the vote even took place” on May 7:
On the night of the May 7 vote, school board members informed concerned parents that a consultant would be hired to advise FCPS administrators on “best practices” for implementing the new policy, which was rushed through to a vote in the spring.
But several emails and documents obtained by concerned parents through Freedom of Information Act requests filed by Judicial Watch this week, revealed that on the night of the vote, school administrators had already hired a consultant.
In addition, school board members have been paying the consultant with taxpayer money without a written contract.
“Politicians on the Fairfax County School Board actually went to court to sue Judicial Watch in order to keep documents about its transgender policies from citizen requesters until after the election. This election-eve ploy is as abusive of transparency law as anything is we have seen in DC. We’ve litigated hundreds of FOIA lawsuits and submitted thousands of requests. Through the years, we have seen all sorts of games, and this move by Fairfax County School Board politicians is up there with the worst of it,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These desperate measures show that the Fairfax School Board must have something to hide from voters.”
Judicial Watch Inc. is a nonpartisan education foundation and does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office.