ASHBURN, Va. — Crowds of protesters gathered outside the Loudoun County Public Schools building on Tuesday to rally against a transgender student policy approved in August and other controversial issues that have led to heated arguments between supporters and opponents.
The Loudoun County School Board approved Policy 8040, which requires teachers and staff to refer to transgender students by their chosen pronoun, last month.
On Tuesday, protesters held signs and cheered for speakers who pushed to remove members from the board.
"Just being a Christian, it’s lying to kids if you tell them they can be whatever gender they want," said Lauren Beal, a Liberty University student who grew up in Loudoun County. "We shouldn’t be silent about it and this proves that we’re not. It’s really cool to see like-minded people out here.”
The county has gotten national attention over the last several months after teacher Tanner Cross said he would not call transgender students by their chosen pronouns during a school board meeting earlier this year.
The comments led to Cross being suspended and the case being challenged in court.
Cross, who attended and spoke at Tuesday's rally, and two other teachers have since filed a legal challenge to Policy 8040.
"It’s now time the Loudoun County School Board started listening to the people, to the people they serve," he said.
The protest came shortly before the school board met inside the Loudoun County Public Schools building.
Heavy security greeted attendees in the parking lot, where officers guided drivers to lots, while other guards kept watch on the meeting inside.
Previous school board meetings brought heated exchanges from the public and arrests were made at one earlier in the summer.
On Tuesday, speakers were granted one minute to speak in front of the board.
Many focused their comments on the county's vaccine mandate and Policy 8040.
"It is not your responsibility to be concerned with our children’s morals. It is your responsibility to make sure they receive the education they deserve," said one woman. "It is time to stop the school board from indoctrinating students and forcing mandates."
Like previous meetings, some speakers pushed the public to remove some of the members from the board.
"The entire board and the superintendent need to step down for the good of Loudoun County and find another locale within which they can continue their failed political careers," one man said.
Open support for Policy 8040 was rare to hear at Tuesday's meeting, but one man who called in to speak approved of the board's decision.
"I’d like to thank the school board for the passage of 8040, which will ensure protections for our most vulnerable students," he said, before addressing Critical Race Theory. "We must teach our students structural racism in an academic setting so that they can identify the structural racism that has built this country over 400 plus years.”
While many spoke over a few hours, no one garnered as much attention as Daily Wire blogger and conservative commentator Matt Walsh.
Walsh traveled to Virginia and even rented a home so he could speak at the meeting, since the school board required speakers to be a resident, small business owner, or LCPS member.
"The truth remains the truth. Boys are boys and girls are girls no matter how anybody feels about it," he said during comments to the media after his speech. "I don’t think that a girls locker room where little girls are getting changed should include boys. I don’t believe that.”
Walsh's involvement in the local meeting underscored the national attention that Loudoun County has garnered.
Following his speech, Walsh said the opponents of Policy 8040 and Critical Race Theory would keep fighting for change.
"In the last few months, it seems like people are waking up to the fact that the real changes in our culture are happening and being driven under our noses in buildings like this, at school boards," he said. "This is what is determining the future of the country, the policies that these kinds of people impose on our kids.”