Parents group says they’ve been targeted for opposition to teachings of critical race theory in Loudoun Co. schools

A private parents education-reform group in Loudoun County, Virginia, says they’re being targeted for their opposition to racial equity education in schools.

The group, Loudoun Parents for Education, says parents, teachers and “six-out-of-nine” Loudoun County school board members are part of a closed Facebook group titled “anti-racist parents of Loudoun County,” which is doing the targeting. The group reportedly has over 600 members.

“There was a solicitation by one of the members of this group to target people that had opposed the school’s commitment to critical race theory concepts,” said Ian Prior, spokesperson for Loudoun Parents for Education.

Critical Race Theory was a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. It is described as teaching “equity” and examining systemic racism in school education. The curriculum addition comes after the rise of social justice and civil rights movements over the summer.

“I am on a list — not Santa’s list — but a list of enemies created by a group led by the marching orders of one of your colleagues,” Loudoun County parent Austin Levine said at a March 23 school board meeting. “This list included names, places of work, where they lived and their perceived wrongs.”

The board member was Beth Barts, Levine said.

“All of this precipitated from a call of action from Beth Barts,” Levine testified. “Unintended actions, those are forgivable, but intended consequences are not — so when they happen there should be severe punishment.

“The lists, the crimes, the docs were all your intentions. The ‘thank you’ post on the Facebook group provides undeniable evidence that the outcome met your approval,” he said. “I should not have to live in fear because my opinions differ from elected officials.”

Parent Erin Dunbar accused any other involved board members of being complicit to the targeting of parents.

“Those of you who saw personal information about families in this county being posted and did nothing, shame on you,” Dunbar said emotionally. “Because after all Ms. Barts, silence is complicity, right?”

Prior said that the actions by the Facebook group constitute a violation of the First Amendment and other laws, as members of the school board are involved.

“We believe in free speech, in the marketplace of ideas,” he said.

Prior said Loudoun Parents for Education plans to run a campaign to recall the school board members allegedly involved in the Facebook group, and the group plans to have a new election for those seats.

“We’re going to do our best to bring people together to run a campaign to recall those six members that were taking part in this group and clearly were not serving the community,” Prior said. “It’s clear that we have a school board that is quite simply not up to the task.”

LCPS interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler issued a response Wednesday to the school community via video.

In his comments, Ziegler defended the county’s position of providing “a welcoming, inclusive, affirming environment for all students.” He said recent media reports and social media posts have misrepresented the school’s effort to achieve these goals.

“In explaining LCPS’ equity priorities, it might be helpful to state what they are not. They are not an effort to indoctrinate students and staff into a particular philosophy or theory,” Ziegler said.

He added: “LCPS has not adopted Critical Race Theory as a framework for staff to adhere to. Social media rumors that staff members have been disciplined or fired for not adhering to the tenants of critical race theory or for refusing to teach this theory are not true. … [S]tudents do not receive equity training.”

In response to allegations that school board members targeted parents who oppose structured racial equity teaching, Ziegler said while LCPS recognizes the rights of its employees to free speech, it does not condone targeting members of the community for their viewpoint.

His goal, he said, is to ensure “every student, employee and member of the community is treated in an equitable, respectful manner.”

LCPS provided an updated response reaffirming its position to WTOP Sunday.

WTOP’s Glynis Kazanjian contributed to this story.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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