Patch has asked the candidates running for an at-large seat on the Fairfax County School Board a series of questions on discipline policy reform - a topic fast becoming a key issue in this race.
1. Do you think the recent reforms passed by the school board changing the discipline policy were appropriate?
The recent reforms passed by the School Board were a good start in what I hope proves to be an on-going dialogue with students, parents, teachers and administrators. These policies have been on the books for years, since I was a student. As the only candidate who’s been through FCPS within the past decade, I’ve seen first-hand the deleterious effects these policies have had on my peers. Mistakes that students make in their K-12 years shouldn’t ruin their prospects for attending college—they should be learning experiences. I think the policy changes passed by the school board are a good first step in that direction.
2. How would you have voted on this issue?
The FCPS discipline policy needs to be transparent, follow due process and allow for students to learn from their mistakes. To ensure a transparent process, I support giving parents the option to receive copies of disciplinary proceedings and have a court reporter present to transcribe the hearings. To ensure due process, I would advocate that students who might be referred to law enforcement be notified of their right to remain silent and that parents or guardians of students under 18 would be contacted before questioning. Finally, to give students the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, I would’ve voted with the school board to require administrators to consider alternatives, like community service, before transferring students to other schools.
3. What is your opinion on the involuntary transfer policy that allows schools to move students to other schools as punishment?
When you take students away from their close friends and activities, you take away what’s most important to them. It’s no surprise that students have a difficult time adjusting to new schools. Transfers no doubt hinder the student’s learning experience and leave them without the support necessary to regain a solid academic footing. However, in egregious violations of SR&R, when students harm other students, faculty or staff—for example, by bullying or fighting—principals should retain the transfer option as a last resort to ensure the educational environment is not disrupted and community members are not harmed.
4. Do you think the discipline policy needs to be further reformed? If so, what recommendations would you make?
Suspended students need to have access to learning opportunities during their suspension so that they don’t fall behind in class work. This can be accomplished by allowing distance learning using basic video conferencing software such as Skype without requiring a great investment in technology. If students are appealing their suspension, they should be allowed to attend school after they’ve served their time—they shouldn’t be forced to stay at home and fall further behind while they’re appealing.
- Ryan holds a B.A. in Anthropology and East Asian Studies from the University of Virginia and a Master’s of International Affairs from Columbia University with a concentration in human rights.
- Ryan currently works in the International Operations and Policy office of The Boeing Company and is a Mandarin Chinese tutor.
- He has led grassroots student advocacy efforts for diversity initiatives, curriculum internationalization, and academic freedom at the state level.
- He was a finalist in the Washington Post’s 2010 “America’s Next Great Pundit” contest.
- He speaks Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Korean.