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The Right Note: School Board Policy Changes

by Mark Kelly — July 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm 0

GOP county board candidate Mark KellyThe Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

This week the Arlington School Board voted unanimously to add gender identity to its employment and harassment policies. The School Board did so rather quietly, adding it initially to its consent agenda before eventually holding a separate up or down vote.

Also included as part of the policy updates, the School Board made three additional changes related to the hiring of staff that received no coverage either before or after the fact.

On both the goals policy, which describes the staff the School Board seeks, and the equal employment opportunity policy they added “economic status” to the list of things the Arlington Public Schools would not take into account in hiring decisions.

Certainly, this is a change that would have widespread support. It is also almost certainly a change with no practical impact other than to comply with suggested legal language. No one would imagine discrimination of this type currently exists in the Arlington Public Schools (APS).

On the goals policy, the School Board struck “political affiliation” and “affiliation with an employee organization” from the same list. The accompanying memo did not state a reason for these changes other than to “align language across policies.”

While those items were never a part of the equal employment opportunity policy, it seems odd that the School Board would find a need to strike them from our goals.

Does the change mean the School Board now thinks it is ok for APS to consider whether or not an applicant voted in only Republican or only Democratic primary elections?

What about requiring an applicant to be, or not be, a member of the Virginia Education Association or another state’s teachers union as a condition for employment?

No, I do not think Superintendent Murphy will put these items on the job application or that he will assign a staffer to do a political background check. Yes, it is possible a lawyer told them they were better off to have the two lists match exactly.

But goals are just that, goals. It is disconcerting that protecting an APS staff member’s First Amendment free association rights are now somehow less worthy of a mention.

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