FCPS School Board Writes Letter to VHSL Following Debate Team Boycott

(Courtesy cnn.com) Jerry Falwell Jr. speaking at convocation at Liberty University.

(Courtesy cnn.com) Jerry Falwell Jr. speaking at convocation at Liberty University.

On April 28, all nine members of the Fairfax County School Board, representing all districts along with the chair and vice chair, wrote a letter to the executive committee of the Virginia High School League (VHSL) explaining why the league should no longer hold events at Liberty University following comments made by the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., during a convocation speech in December 2015.

The school board’s letter comes only a week after three Fairfax County high school debate teams, McLean, Hayfield and Lake Braddock, made the decision to boycott the VHSL Debate State Championships, held at Liberty University, on April 22-23 for the same reason. The school board was influenced by the debate teams’ decision to boycott the event, and wanted to support students in their attempt to take action against Falwell’s comments.


After issuing a press release in December following comments made by the president and raised concern from Virginia high schools, the VHSL voted to move the majority of their state championships from Liberty University, including their December high school football finals to Zable Stadium at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The executive committee, based in Charlottesville, Virginia where VHSL headquarters are located, also voted to host their Group 4A and 3A spring sports championships in Salem, Virginia in 2017 as well as 2018. However, Director of VHSL Ken Tilley explained that the decision was made because of facility needs and geographics, not Falwell’s comments.

While three FCPS schools boycotted the event, two members of the West Potomac debate team attended and competed in the debate championship. Senior John Muchnikoff and junior Sebastian Ruiz represented West Potomac in the state finals.

“We knew other schools would be boycotting [the event],” said Muchnikoff. “I felt similarly towards this instance as I do towards any involving a large group, it’s not right to hold an entire organization responsible for one person’s actions, especially when those actions had been made so unclear as to their intent by multiple sources.”

He said that the idea of boycotting the state championships didn’t come up for the debate team, but rather the implications of he and Sebastian competing in the first place.

“The question was more about whether we wanted to travel to Liberty to compete for West Potomac rather than about our opinion on a statement made by one man,” Muchnikoff said.

Falwell’s comments on “ending those Muslims” sparked controversy, and ultimately caught the attention of the three FCPS debate teams and soon after, the school board.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” Falwell said, to a crowd of over 10,000 students during the convocation in December, only two days following the San Bernardino shootings in California. Convocations at the school are mandatory for all students living on campus to attend, and have been the location of other headline-making decisions made by Falwell, including his endorsement of presidential candidate Donald Trump in January.   

(Courtesy christianpost.com) Jerry Falwell, Jr. shaking hands with Donald Trump.
(Courtesy christianpost.com) Jerry Falwell, Jr. shaking hands with Donald Trump.

While he clarified that his comments were explicitly about the San Bernardino and Paris attack terrorists, he said that he would not take back and does not regret what he said at the convocation.

Muchnikoff said that he would not have changed his mind about going to the state finals, despite learning of the Fairfax County teams’ boycott and the school board’s letter.

“Given the fact I didn’t personally see or hear any racial remarks, I don’t believe so [that he would change his mind on attending],” he said. “Everyone, both competitors and residents alike were quite cordial throughout the tournament.”