The Fairfax County School Board failed last night to act on a controversial staff recommendation that would have banned organized charity drives based in the public schools.
Following more than an hour of sparring over amendments and proposed compromises, neither proponents nor opponents were able to assemble a majority vote. The proposal will be referred to a committee and reconsidered at an unspecified future date.
School administrators have been trying to eliminate the charity drives because of what they consider the excessive number and heavy peer pressure of such activities. "Parents are being inundated by 'thons'," said one staffer--"Bike-a-thons, hike-a-thons, jump-a-thons, walk-a-thons, what have you."
Virginia law prohibits door-to-door solicitation by elementary school pupils. Yet school officials say that at a conservative estimate, first through sixth graders in Fairfax County last year raised $200,000 for charities through such solicitation organized in the schools.
Charity officials say their policies encourage elementary pupils to solicit sponsorship only from family and "close friends," which is not illegal. One school board member commented on that argument by saying: "To an 8-year-old, everybody is a friend."
Dranesville board member Mary E. Collier, said "I do not believe that by not sending our children out to collect money that we're teaching them to be uncharitable." Chairman Ann P. Kahn said that her constituents overwhelmingly supported the proposed ban. She told the board: "the only groundswell I have seen . . . has been the letters that have come from the charitable organizations themselves."
But at-large-member Joy G. Korologos , who proposed allowing two drives a year in each high school, said "giving blood and mowing lawns is just not going to pay for the research that will save somebody's life."
Centreville board member Carmin C. Caputo said "we have a choice here: is there a certain enjoyment in seeing your child wear, as mine does, a shirt like this"--holding up a tiny t-shirt emblazoned "Jump Rope For Heart"--"or would you rather see him eating candy bars?"
In other action, the board , with the sole dissent of Kahn, gave final approval to the establishment of a pilot Naval Junior ROTC course to be offered as an elective at Herndon High School beginning in September.
Kahn said that because she expects to become vice president of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers next month,she will not accept renomination as chairman when her term expires in June. Kahn, who will continue to represent the Providence district, has been a school board member for 11 years and chairman for three.