With the help of the Founding Freedoms Law Center (FFLC), parents have filed a lawsuit against the Loudoun County board and superintendent, alleging that they violated Virginia’s open meeting laws. The suit claims “officials kept parents and citizens from fully participating in publicly held meetings,” violating their rights.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) have been in an uproar for the past several years, as parents:
- Discovered vulgar and obscene books in school classrooms and libraries.
- Found out that the school board and superintendent covered up sexual abuse – leading to another student being molested.
- Fought back against school board members and other parents who tried to dox them and labeled them “racist.”
- Spoke out against a transgender mandate that endangered students, threatened girls sports, and violated students’ and teachers’ free speech.
At one raucous Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in June 2021, school board members shut down comments and ended the meeting. When parents continued to speak to those assembled, without the board’s presence, LCPS Superintendent Scott Ziegler labeled the meeting “an unlawful assembly,” and sheriffs cleared the building.
The LCPS board went on to continue their meeting – without any community participation.
In a press statement, FFLC Legal Counsel Josh Hetzler said:
The Loudoun County School Board and Superintendent are out of control. By excluding citizens from their public meeting on June 22, and then at nearly every meeting since then, the Loudoun County School Board has violated the rights of the citizens guaranteed to them by Virginia’s open meetings laws. These unlawful actions cannot go unchallenged.
Virginia law states, “All meetings of public bodies shall be open,” offering a few, limited exceptions. The law allows people to photograph, film and record any meetings required to remain open. It also states:
No closed meeting shall be held unless the public body proposing to convene such meeting has taken an affirmative recorded vote in an open meeting approving a motion that (i) identifies the subject matter, (ii) states the purpose of the meeting … and (iii) cites the applicable exemption from open meeting requirements provided in [other laws].
The parents allege that the LCPS board did not follow those procedures.
In addition to shutting down that June meeting, according to the suit:
The Board now routinely only allows one member of the public at a time to be present in the large Meeting Room to speak for exactly one minute, and then they must leave. Thus, the Loudoun County School Board has continued to suffer a violation of their rights through at least November 9, 2021.
Founding Freedoms Law Center is the legal arm of The Family Foundation, a Focus on the Family ally that advocates “for policies based on Biblical principles that enable families to flourish at the state and local level.” They are involved in issues such as marriage, life, religious freedom and parental authority.
FFLC was launched in 2020 and “exists to engage in the legal arena to preserve and promote the fundamental principles of life and liberty in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The parents in the lawsuit are asking the Circuit Court of Loudoun County to protect their rights and declare the board and superintendent’s previous actions unlawful. They’re also asking that individuals who violated the laws be fined and for their costs and attorneys’ fees to be paid.
Related articles and resources:
Read the lawsuit here.
Photo from EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/REUTERS.