F.C. School Board Chair Calls for Civility After Flurry of Harsh Comments

Bronwen Rankin.  (Photo: News-Press)
Bronwen Rankin. (Photo: News-Press)

At Tuesday night’s meeting of the Falls Church School Board, chair Justin Castillo made an appeal for civility in the heated discourse that has developed in the recent period, especially in the wake of the report that another School Board candidate (in addition to Castillo) in the upcoming Nov. 3 election. Becky Smerdon, has sued the School Board in the Arlington Circuit Court. Castillo condemned “vituperative, angry and hostile” comments, nothing that he, himself, was told by a citizen he’d “be better off dead” after a candidate’s forum last week.

“People are becoming fearful and security measures are being required,” he said. Last night,at a meeting of the School Board’s Advisory Committee on Special Education (SPEAC) that Smerdon chaired, a Falls Church police officer was on the scene as a precaution.

In that meeting, a motion and a second by a board member to call for a vote seeking the resignation of Smerdon, in light of her lawsuit, was disallowed by Smerdon.

Bronwen Rankin, who made a statement last night supporting the call for Smerdon’s resignation, appeared before the School Board tonight She reported that “since my statement yesterday, I have received an unsolicited email from a close supporter of the SPEAC chair to gain information about me to discredit my comments. I have no professional affiliation with the schools as a psychologist, and I make my statements as a parent of a special needs child. Today the chair named me on the Falls Church News-Press comments to discredit my public statement. I believe that a committee chair should listen to feedback. I have the right to make public comment without punishment from the chair and her associates,” she told the School Board.

She also reiterated that Smerdon “refused a seconded motion for a vote on her resignation,” saying, “Five committee members cited difficulties in the leadership and a climate of meetings making it hard to move forward as a productive group.”