Fairfax County School Board Representative Abrar Omeish has become a magnet for controversy, one which has now attracted the ire of the Fairfax branch of the Republican Party.
The Fairfax GOP released a response to a tweet made by Omeish May 17 in response to a tweet made by Rachel Cohen, a reporter for the Intercept, May 16. Cohen reported that the Alexandria City Council had voted to remove five school resource officers who had been assigned to patrol public schools in the area.
Omeish responded to Cohen’s tweet while also congratulating the Alexandria City Council for their decision with the following:
“Justice is uplifting voices of those wronged by our systems. Our decisions must secure safety for every child. Congratulations @ACPSk12! Fairfax leaders, I hope we will also commit to divest and reinvest in mental health & student supports.”
According to Cohen, the funds that would have been spent on the SROs, which totaled nearly $800,000, would be reallocated to student mental health programs in the Alexandria Public School System. This move by the Alexandria City Council had been made in response to the social unrest experienced in the city last summer during protests of the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.
“I’ve always been of the mindset that the police officers don’t have to be on campus to be able to still efficiently do what they’re doing,” said Alexandria Councilmember Canek Aguirre in a story on AXLNow.com.
In a statement from the Fairfax GOP, chairman Steve Knotts responded to Omeish’s tweet by touting that SROs serve a critical role in many schools and claiming that their removal would endanger both students and educators. Knotts went on to claim that SROs also provide the service of being mentors and positive role models to at-risk students and offering advice on a number of law enforcement-related topics.
“Omeish offers a false choice: student mental health versus school resource officers,” Knotts countered in his statement. “There is no lack of waste in our multi-billion-dollar school budget. Why target law enforcement?”
Towards the end of the statement, Knotts offered an explanation for Omeish’s stance on the issue of which he termed as radical. Knotts referred to a video that was posted on YouTube of a traffic stop made March 5, 2019 by Fairfax County Police in the Mason District.
In the video, a blue Honda hatchback is seen making a roll-thru turn on a red light. While Virginia is a right-on-red state, the rule is usually to stop at the light before making a turn which the car didn’t do. Police then pulled the car over and approached the vehicle on the driver’s side. The officer asked the driver, a young woman, about the turn which she disputed. The officer then asked to see the driver’s license and registration multiple times which the driver is refused. The officer then asked the woman to step out of the car several times. When she declined, the officer removed her from the car.
The driver then resisted being removed from her car and the officer responded by pulling out a can of mace, warning the driver that if she doesn’t comply that he will use the mace. The woman doesn’t comply and the officer uses the mace and removed the driver from her vehicle.
While the faces of both the officer and the driver as well as the vehicle’s license plate are blurred out in the video Omeish confirmed to be the woman in the video during a June 2019 interview with the Washington Post. In the interview Omeish accepted responsibility for the traffic violation but she claimed the incident was an act of police brutality.
In May after the incident, Omeish pleaded no contest to charges of failing to produce her driver’s license and failing to stop before turning at a red light.
There is currently a recall effort being made by the FCPS Accountability Coalition to remove Omeish from her position as well as two other board members, Laura Jane Cohen of the Springfield District and Elaine Tholen of the Dranesville District. The Accountability Coalition is an arm of the Open FCPS Coalition.