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The Right Note: School Board Sends Interesting Signal

The 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.

The Arlington School Board supports imposing new requirements on families with deeply held religious beliefs this holiday season.

On December 14, the Board voted unanimously to ask the legislature to require families who seek a religious exemption from compulsory school attendance to reapply every year to maintain it.

Currently under Virginia law, a one-time request can cover a child throughout their school-age years. However, there are already Attorney General rulings that give local school boards the ability to ask parents to reaffirm their desire to maintain the exemption on an ongoing basis. In other words, putting this into statute is completely unnecessary if the local school system wishes to implement a system to periodically check in with families.

This was a late addition to the legislative package. The School Board approved this provision by a voice vote and without a single Board member speaking to the necessity of including it. Arlington’s lobbyist did state the Virginia School Boards Association wanted it, but didn’t say why other than a nebulous desire for “accountability.”

No one told us how many families this impacted here in Arlington. Not a single Board member asked the lobbyist a simple question like, “has there suddenly been an outbreak of faked religious exemptions that we are unaware of here in Arlington?” And if not, why is the government seeking to impose an additional burden on these families?

It was just unanimously accepted by the all-Democrat Board that a new state law requiring annual certification in all jurisdictions was a necessary step to take, even in a community that does not want it.

All we can assume from the facts in front of us is that there is no demonstrable need to do this either in the interest of protecting children or in terms of Arlington Public Schools existing ability to check in with families every year. If you are a person of faith who gained the exemption, it sends a signal that Arlington Public Schools lead by the Democrats on the School Board remain suspicious of you and your First Amendment Constitutional right.

It really should not be that surprising. The School Board has consistently been opposed to any form of parental choice made outside of their control, including charter schools. And they continue to oppose any form of tax credits or deductions of tuition expenses for tax paying parents who believe their child’s needs would be best served outside of public education.

This is not a complaint against the quality of our schools here in Arlington. But our policy should be that every child has the opportunity to receive the education that best serves them.

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