August 1, 2020 Column Father De Celles

No “In-Person Education” in Public Schools? Can you believe that Fairfax County Public Schools has decided not to have in-person classes this Fall? Even though the CDC and medical health professionals say it’s absolutely necessary to get the kids back in the classroom? Amazing.

            According to the CDC: “As families and policymakers make decisions about their children returning to school, it is important to consider the full spectrum of benefits and risks of both in-person and virtual learning options.  Parents are understandably concerned about the safety of their children at school in the wake of COVID-19.  The best available evidence indicates if children become infected, they are far less likely to suffer severe symptoms. Death rates among school-aged children are much lower than among adults.  At the same time, the harms attributed to closed schools on the social, emotional, and behavioral health, economic well-being, and academic achievement of children, in both the short- and long-term, are well-known and significant.”

            In a recent FCPS poll, 60% of parents wanted in-person attendance. And originally FCPS had planned on giving parents a choice between in-person and online. But then the FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand changed his mind. As NBC News reported: “…Brabrand said the shift to a fully virtual start is based on health data. ‘The surge comes four to six weeks after the data…We’re seeing a surge across the nation, we’re seeing a surge in Virginia, and four to six weeks puts us squarely at the beginning of school.”

            I’m not sure what that means, especially in the light of the data I’ve seen. As Yahoo News reports: “Looking at week-by-week changes in new cases, Fairfax County had a notable decline from early June to mid-June. New cases have remained stable in the weeks since the decline. The peak — over 2,000 new cases — happened between the weeks of May 24 and May 31….Deaths have been in the single digits in recent weeks. The peak week-to-week change of deaths was 89 between the weeks of April 26 and May 3.” New cases in the last week of July were 426 cases, while new cases at the beginning of June were 1,345. Some surge. Is a 68% decline a surge?

            Maybe the decision was influenced by the teachers’ unions opposition to even giving parents—and teachers—a choice to return to in-person education. As the Washington Post reported in June: “A day after [FCPS] announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers [unions] within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy…”

I understand that many teachers are concerned about their personal health—the kids may not be at risk, but elderly teachers or teachers with health conditions might be. But parents and many teachers want the choice.

$2000 Scholarship to Help You Switch. On the other hand, Catholic schools are opening for in-person classroom education this Fall. And homeschooling is a great alternative for many families. I’ve been a huge critic of the county schools, a.k.a. the government schools, and have repeatedly urged you to find an alternative. Maybe the FCPS decision is the nudge you need to change now.

            And I want to help you with your decision. So, with the agreement of my parish Finance Council, I’ve decided to offer a one-time $2,000 scholarship for each child (a parishioner) who switches from public school (k-12) to Catholic school this year.

            We also will continue to give a scholarship to every parishioner who attends Catholic grade school ($500) or Catholic high school ($1,000), which is renewable every year. Moreover, assistance to cover direct educational costs is also available to folks who homeschool. Let me know if you’re interested.

First Amendment: 1st clause vs. 3rd clause. The first amendment to the constitution provides:

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Over the last few months I have stood in amazement that leftist politicians and media are effectively arguing that somehow the 1st Clause of the amendment (on religion) is less important than the 3rd clause (on assembly and petition). I say this because state after state, including our own, has restricted and even closed down church services during the Covid19 crisis, but at the same time stood by and even promoted violent riots and forceful occupations (e.g., CHAD in Portland). Even though the government is constitutionally prohibited from “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion, but not “prohibiting” violent riots or sedition/treason. NOTE: the 3rd clause protects “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” not to riot, or commit violence.

            Last week, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, eviscerated U.S. Attorney General William Barr for effectively protecting federal government buildings and federal law enforcement agents from violent attacks:

            “[U]nder your leadership, the Department [of Justice] has endangered Americans and violated their constitutional rights by flooding federal law enforcement into the streets of American cities, against the wishes of the state and local leaders of those cities, to forcefully and unconstitutionally suppress dissent.”

Barr responded: “Federal courts are under attack. Since when is it OK to burn down a federal court?….He continued: “If someone went down the street to the Prettyman Court here, that beautiful courthouse we have right at the bottom of the hill and started breaking windows and firing industrial-grade fireworks in to start a fire, throw kerosene balloons in and start fires in the court, is that OK? Is that OK now? No, the U.S. Marshals have a duty to stop that and defend the courthouse, and that’s what we are doing in Portland. We are at the courthouse, defending the courthouse.”

            On the other hand, last week, The Richmond Times-Dispatch criticized Richmond officials for not defending Virginians. “What is the end game to these protests? The violence seems to escalate daily… We’ve normalized too many behaviors that make Richmond — and the United States — a less safe and prosperous place to live…Individuals are desecrating property and being absolved of any wrongdoing…Banks and businesses are boarded up and…VCU …incurred $100,000 in damage….During the attack on the police station, multiple fires were set…Both police officers and firemen were assaulted with batteries, fireworks, hunks of asphalt, water bottles and other objects.”

            As I preached a few weeks ago, the violence is largely coming from Marxist-inspired groups that believe violence is a legitimate means of gaining power. Not all liberal politicians and journalists are Marxists, “but over …the last few years, we have seen liberal political and academic elements of our society being gradually taken over, or manipulated by, a smaller, ultra-radical, Marxist minority… And we see the mainstream media going along, and even advocating for it.”

            We have an election coming up in a few months, and polls indicate that the liberal party will gain the presidency and control of both houses of congress. With the rise of the ultra-radical-far-left-Marxist-inspired minority’s influence and even control of the liberal party, this is a very frightening thought.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles