LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — Dueling rallies occurred outside of the Loudoun County School Board meeting Tuesday as school officials voted to approve a new student disciplinary policy.
The rallies lasted about two hours before the school board meeting took place at 6 p.m.
A local parent group, Army of Parents, organized a protest in the parking lot of the Loudoun County Schools Administrative Building to condemn the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is a framework to teach about history through the lens of racism.
Loudoun County Public Schools has repeatedly denied claims that it teaches CRT in its schools. However, Army of Parents President co-founder Elicia Brand said she still doesn’t believe it.
“They're trying to break up the Black community, but they're trying to divide Blacks and Whites, and particularly Blacks against White Republicans,” she said. “We can't have that we're one country. We're all Americans.”
Pastors and politicians attended the Army of Parents event. Hung Cao, a Republican, who is running against local Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, also spoke to the crowd.
Brand added her group is not against teaching what she calls “real history”.
“No matter how ugly it is,” she said. “It has to be taught and understood so, it never happens. Again, we want to talk about racism. We want to talk about Jim Crow. We want to talk about slavery.”
The Army of Parents event gathered roughly 50 people.
Across the parking lot, another couple of dozen Loudoun County parents came together for a protest of their own.
Loudoun County parent and rally participant Heather Gottlieb demanded public funds only be used to support public schools and not charter ones.
“[The other protest] is really just to sow discord and distrust in Loudoun County Public Schools so that they can get their voucher system,” she said.
Brand responded to Gottlieb’s claim.
“I believe the taxpayer dollars should follow the students,” she said.
Gottlieb also took issue with the Army of Parent’s stance on CRT.
“They started with the CRT stuff,” she said. “And, our message was really CRT is not taught in public school.”
A few arguments did occur between the participants of both groups, however, their rallies ultimately coexisted peacefully.
“We know what indoctrination is and it's not what our teachers are doing,” Gottlieb said.
Meanwhile, Brand looked for some common ground.
“We have people who are protesting our event today,” she said. “But what they don't realize is that we're all on the same side. We embrace their signs of love because we agree with that. And, we have one thing in common and that's our children.”
Loudoun board members did not schedule any items on their agenda regarding any of the topics of concern for both protest groups.
The board did act on another item, however, unanimously approving a new disciplinary policy.
The new guidelines give Loudoun County Public Schools more latitude to remove possibly dangerous students from their general population.
“Students may be suspended from attendance at school for sufficient cause,” the policy reads. “However, in no case may sufficient cause for suspension include only instances of truancy.”
The policy also states any student charged with an offense relating to Virginia’s laws, or with a violation of school board policies, on weapons, alcohol or drugs, or intentional injury to another person may be placed in an alternative educational setting which may be in-person, virtual, or a hybrid.
“[The policy] was heavily regulated by the Virginia State Code,” said LCPS school board member Tom Marshall.
Loudoun County Public Schools has been working on its new policy for the last year. The school district said it moved to do so after governance from Virginia General Assembly, not due to a sexual assault scandal that rocked the county in 2021.
Authorities arrested a 15-year-old LCPS student after he sexually assaulted two female classmates at two different schools. LCPS administrators moved the boy, who was later convicted in connection to both incidents, to another school in the system after his first assault.
Police arrested Loudoun County resident Scott Smith last year, during a school board meeting, as he tried to talk about the assault that happened to his daughter.
Authorities later charged Smith with obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. Both alleged offenses are classified as misdemeanors.
The obstruction charge against Smith was later dropped.
Smith had repeatedly claimed Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj is biased in the case against him. In May, his attorney Bill Stanley motioned to have Biberaj’s office removed from Smith’s case.
Loudoun Circuit Court Judge James Plowman later decided to replace the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office from Smith’s case in September. The Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney was chosen to step into the role.
Smith said he was pleased with the judge’s decision.
“It was a great morning to wake up and hear that ruling,” Smith said. “It's something we fought hard for and we're very thankful the judge probably made the right decision.”
Biberaj has not responded to a request for comment on Judge Plowman’s decision.
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