A long troubled school district made national news again after a school board meeting descended into chaos over policies for transgender students and Critical Race Theory (CRT).
The Loudoun County School Board, meeting in Ashburn, Virginia was met by about 200 anti-CRT protesters led by Scott Mineo, founder of Parents Against CRT. Also outside the building were about 100 people there to support trans student rights.
A new policy for trans students was on the school board agenda while Critical Race Theory, which is not part of the curriculum of Loudoun schools, was not. The Parents Against CRT group planned to address their concerns during the public comment period.
This tactic of introducing a non-issue at school board meetings has been deployed by conservative, White nationalist and White supremacist backed anti-CRT groups across the United States in 2021.
Reuters reporter Gabriella Borter reported on the scene outside the school before the board meeting began.
Borter also shared scenes from counter-protesters and those there to support trans students.
Once inside, over 200 people signed up for public comment.
A majority planned to address the non-agenda item, CRT, instead of the actual agenda item, setting policy for trans students.
The anti-CRT crowd was advised several times to keep loud eruptions to a minimum or public comment would cease.
When they failed to honor the school board's request, public comment was ended.
The anti-CRT crowd then disrupted the rest of the meeting in protest of the consequences of their earlier disruptions.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Department stepped in to end the meeting and disburse the crowd.
Two arrests were made.
Critical Race Theory is a graduate level elective course of study most often taken by people in law school. So far, no state K-12 curriculum has been found that actually includes Critical Race Theory (CRT) making the Republican sponsored ban legislation and these school board confrontations a waste of time and money.
Critical Race Theory examines racism as institutional and systemic rather than as a collection of individual prejudices or racist acts. CRT uses a number of examinations of the history of laws and government policies in the United States and how they intersect with issues affecting different racial and ethnic groups adversely or positively to challenge mainstream ideas of justice, equality and civil rights.
Conservative rhetoric, however, labeled anything children might learn about in history—like slavery or Indigenous genocide—that might make White children feel bad about their ancestors or uncomfortable as Critical Race Theory.
This is the argument being raised in multiple school board meetings and legislatures across the United States as a reason to maintain or revert to the sanitized, traditional White nationalist version of United States history the anti-CRT groups are clinging to.
Of course, teaching about the less pleasant parts of United States' history of racism, slavery, Indigenous boarding schools, government genocide and assimilation policies for Indigenous peoples, Japanese internment camps or Jim Crow laws in schools is not teaching Critical Race Theory.
The disruptions effectively derailed the discussion of setting an official district policy for trans students.
Board chair Brenda Sheridan said in a statement after the meeting:
"I do not believe I can let the disruption that occurred in our board room tonight go unanswered."
"Dog-whistle politics will not delay our work, we will not back down from fighting for the rights of our students and continuing our focus on equity."
A Loudoun district teacher made news in May 2021 when he declared at an earlier school board meeting he would never "affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa." Leesburg Elementary physical education teacher Tanner Cross stated he would refuse to address trans students by their correct pronouns, claiming it was his right to humiliate and misgender grade school children regardless of they or their parents' wishes.
Cross was suspended but later reinstated in June by court order after filing a lawsuit against the district. The judge ordered Cross must be allowed to continue working with children in the secular school while his lawsuit was pending.
Cross cited his Evangelical Christian faith as the justification for his transphobia and defiance of parents and the school's proposed policy regarding the names and pronouns to use for trans children. The district proposed the parents and child would determine their names and pronouns, but Cross stated he should be allowed to decide what gender a child is because of his Christianity.
Proposed district Policy 8040 would provide bathroom and locker room access based on a student's gender identity. Transgender student athletes would be allowed to participate on teams based on their gender identity and teachers and staff would be required to use students' preferred pronouns.
The school board is set to vote on the policy for trans students in August.