Two sharply differing viewpoints on racial harmony in Fairfax County schools were presented to the school board last week -- one praising the schools on their progress and the other, a severe criticism of the problems still confronting the schools.
A report from the schools' human relations staff, while not entirely complimentary to the school system, was low-key and optimistic. By comparison, a citizens' report characterized the schools' efforts to improve race relations as "bandage solutions" to a "racial pus oozing through the scabs of administrative indiffernece and denial."
The latter report, from the Human Relations Citizens Advisory Council, cited several incidents of alleged racial injustice and benign neglect by school administrators to support its contention that racial trouble is brewing in the schools.
In particular, the council report said officials at Chantilly and Robinson intermediate schools misrepresented the racial situation there. The council contended that instead of the apparent racial harmony reported by administrators, continuing and widespread racial problems plague both schools.
School officials denounced the citizens' report, angrily contending that it was the result of one person's vendetta against the school system.
The report was written by Pat Blackwell, chairman of the citizens' council. Blackwell defends the report, saying it accurately reflects the frustration of council members.
"I talked to council members and reread notes from all the meetings before I wrote the report," Blackwell said in an interview this week.
"I tried to give an adequate reflection of the frustration each member has expressed at meetings during this year and previous years.
"We discussed what would be in the report and decided, 'this year let's do it -- let's take the gloves off.'"
Several council members contacted this week said they supported the report.
"I would hesitate to write it off as one person's temper tantrum," said one council member. "The language was (Blackwell's) but it was accurate as far as the frustration reflected."
The report from the school's own Human Relations Department praised the school system for progress made and listed areas of "concern" for the future.
The staff reiterated its commitment to the idea that "every effort must be made to let students and employes know that racial slurs, sexist remarks, teasing of the handicapped or other behavior based on prejudice will not be tolerated in Fairfax County . . ."
Both reports addressed indirectly the request of two Jewish students last year to change the graduation date at Woodson High School so it would not be on the Jewish Sabbath. The request was denied.
The citizens' report criticized the Woodson principal for putting the school's mandatory human relations committee "on hold" and contended that the principal isolated himself "in a scab of indifference" when it became clear that the request of the two sisters was sincere.
The staff report, however, makes only a veiled reference to the religious debate: "It is hoped that persons . . . will use the local school human relations committee as a forum . . . (so) that no school action causes any student . . . difficulty because of religious conviction."