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Black PTA boss at Fairfax magnet school resigns, blames ‘progressive, hard-left’ mindset

Harry Jackson, elected in May as the first Black head of the Parent Teacher Association at Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, resigned Thursday, citing intractable issues with the PTA’s state officials.

Mr. Jackson won the office by campaigning against what he called misguided left-wing moves by the leadership at Thomas Jefferson, a magnet school in Fairfax County that has been ranked as the top high school in the U.S.

He opposed both a lowering of admissions standards at TJHS and the implementation of critical race theory-infused curriculum and professional development.

In office less than six months, Mr. Jackson blamed the “progressive, hard-left” mindset of the Virginia PTA, which tried to revoke the TJHS PTA charter after voters chose Mr. Jackson. Since his election, the state organization, according to Mr. Jackson, has tried to disrupt the work of the TJHS PTA and malign him.

“They were basically calling for a lynching,” he told The Washington Times. “They are looking to suppress speech and they are taking a very partisan, progressive, hard-left agenda on all sorts of issues that have nothing to do with education.”

Neither Pamela Croom, president of the Virginia PTA, nor Jenna Alexander, the president-elect, responded to emails late Thursday about Mr. Jackson’s resignation and their alleged role in his departure.   

In his undated resignation letter, Mr. Jackson vowed to continue his fight against an education establishment he believes is undermining rather than improving K-12 education in Virginia. 

Public education in Virginia, and particularly in Loudon and Fairfax counties, has become for many the defining issue in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election. Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has said he believes education officials should dictate what happens at schools, and that critical race theory is a right-wing bogeyman that does not exist in K-12 schools.

Fairfax County Public Schools told hundreds of its social science teachers in a virtual presentation in August that critical race theory is one frame to describe what they will teach in the current school year.

After saying he would not be silenced by “the Virginia PTA,” “the teachers’ unions,” and “the FCPS school board,” Mr. Jackson took a direct shot at Mr. McAuliffe and his supporters in his letter.

“And finally, I refuse to be silenced by education activists who believe, as does The Washington Post and certain politicians, that parents have no role in the education of their children.”

Mr. Jackson, parent of a freshman at TJHS, took office with three other new PTA members who were backed by the Coalition for Thomas Jefferson, a parents group opposed to what it regards as heavy-handed diversity, equity and inclusion measures. The group has filed a lawsuit against new admissions policies it says discriminate against Asian-American applicants.  

Since his election, Mr. Jackson said the Virginia PTA and its leadership have worked diligently to undermine him and silence voices that dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy.

When he spoke publicly about issues in the media, Mr. Jackson said he was careful to do so as a parent, not as president of the PTA, although that was one reason cited by the Virginia PTA in an Oct. 15 letter moving to oust him.

Both the Virginia PTA and some members of the Thomas Jefferson chapter then held a virtual meeting on Oct. 20, which Mr. Jackson said violates the PTA’s procedural rules, at which they also discussed ways to remove him from office.

Steven Berke, a parliamentarian hired by the TJHS PTA after Mr. Jackson’s election, declined comment Thursday.

The Virginia PTA is also upset that parents and groups are using FOIA requests to ferret information out of the public schools and the state group does not like various Facebook and social media platforms set up by opponents of a perceived leftward drift in K-12 education, according to Mr. Jackson.

“Everything which is totally legal,” Mr. Jackson said. “It’s really sad; the Virginia PTA targeted me.”

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