A raucous Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting, packed with parents and students lined up to speak about the district’s promotion of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and transgenderism, ended with school board members shutting down comments and ending the public meeting.
But parents and students remained in the building, first singing the national anthem, then continuing to testify – without the board being present. A school board member finally declared the meeting “an unlawful assembly,” and Loudoun deputies eventually cleared the room and arrested two individuals.
Which brings up an important question: Do school board members have the authority to label a gathering “an unlawful assembly”?
The Daily Citizen contacted Candi Cushman, vice president of grassroots and communications strategies for The Family Foundation, a Focus on the Family allied Family Policy Council in Virginia. She told us, “One of the most moving things I’ve witnessed in a long time was the sight of the school board walking out of the room and parents remaining behind and spontaneously singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ I’ll also never forget hearing young, brave high school girls share about the trauma they experienced after being given explicit classroom assignments or feeling like their privacy rights are being taken away in the locker rooms.”
At the board meeting on Tuesday, June 21, 259 individuals signed up to address concerns with the school board. One item on the agenda was a draft policy on the “Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students.’ The latter phrase is described by the activist group PFLAG as, “An umbrella term sometimes used to describe people who expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond perceived or expected societal gender norms.”
PFLAG helpfully goes on to explain, “Some gender-expansive individuals identify as a mix of genders, some identify more binarily as a man or a woman, and some identify as no gender (see agender). Gender-expansive people might feel that they exist among genders, as on a spectrum, or beyond the notion of the man/woman binary paradigm.”
The proposed policy requires LCPS staff to use the name and pronouns chosen by “gender-expansive students” and allows students “to use the facility that corresponds to their gender identity.” Students who don’t want to share facilities with those who believe they are the opposite sex would be given alternatives by schools.
Cushman had a chance to speak against the adoption of the policy. In her one-minute testimony, given before the board shut down the meeting, she said, “We are asking you to put the protection of kids’ minds, bodies and hearts first and foremost, ahead of political advocacy. We are asking you to protect the Constitutional rights of the parents and students you were elected to represent, by not rushing through adoption of the transgender and gender expansive policy.”
Cushman told the board the agenda was being “pushed on schools by the Richmond-based Department of Education” and that it “seriously jeopardized students’ rights to expect physical safety and bodily privacy in their bathrooms and locker rooms.” In addition, Cushman stated that it threatened “parents’ rights to be involved in school policies and curriculum that has long-lasting impact on their kids.”
“It is possible to find compassionate ways to protect ever child fairly, without trampling on these core constitutional rights,” she concluded.
Cushman also told us how LCPS parents and students who oppose harmful policies in their district are having an impact across the country, “The ramifications of what’s happening in Loudoun County right now goes far beyond just that one school district. We are literally witnessing in real time parents and students taking a historical, courageous stand for their core freedoms in a way that’s having ripple effects nationwide.”
LCPS has been in the news many times over the past few years, with parents speaking out on issues like offensive and extremely graphic books in the classroom and libraries; CRT training for teachers; suspending a teacher who spoke out against forcing staff to participate in transgender ideology; school board members targeting parents for harassment; and partnering with radical groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center to teach “social justice.”
The Family Foundation is part of a growing movement in Virginia to #protecteverykid. The organization encourages parents and concerned citizens to sign a petition asking school board members to resist adopting guidelines that violate parental rights and endanger kids’ physical safety; use downloadable “Speak-Up” tools to spread the word; and share fact-sheet resources with school board members.
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Photo from EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS