Loudoun Co. schools change rules for public participation in board meetings

In response to a rising national trend of disruptive, sometimes violent, local school board meetings, the school board in Loudoun County, Virginia, has changed their guidelines on who is allowed to participate.

The school system said in a news release that starting at the next board meeting on Sept. 28, those wishing to offer public comment at school board meetings must meet the following criteria:

  1. They must be residents of Loudoun County (including its incorporated towns);
  2. Owners of businesses located in whole or part in Loudoun County;
  3. LCPS students;
  4. Parents and guardians of LCPS students that live outside of Loudoun County; or
    LCPS employees.

In their written statement, the Loudoun County Board emphasized the change was to protect the interests of their own residents.

“The School Board is making these changes in order to ensure that the voices of our parents and the LCPS community are heard rather than out-of-town agitators who would make Board meetings a platform for national politics or to enhance their own media profiles,” said School Board Chair Brenda L. Sheridan.

Those wishing to speak at school board meetings must also provide legal ID, or other proof of eligibility, including:

  • A valid Virginia driver’s license indicating Loudoun County residency;
  • A utility bill from 2021 with the resident’s name and a Loudoun County address;
  • A mortgage or rental lease agreement displaying the resident’s name and current street address of residency or business;
  • A current Employee ID or Student ID;
  • An email or letter from Loudoun County Public Schools to the parent from the 2021-22 school year regarding a currently enrolled LCPS student, or
  • A student report card or progress report.

“An informal survey of our neighboring jurisdictions shows that the Loudoun County School Board is one of the few governmental bodies that has minimal restrictions on speakers,” Sheridan said. “Even with these changes, the School Board has some of the most open public comment practices in our region.”

Debates over hot political issues, such as Critical Race Theory, COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates and LGBTQ rights have spilled off of social media and into the local town halls and school board meetings. But the outrage presented is not always ‘grassroots’ and, in many instances, those protesting the loudest are not even from the community.

On Sept. 15 at a school board meeting in neighboring Prince William County, Virginia, the public comment portion was suspended after an unruly crowd caused the meeting to stop.

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Joshua Barlow

Joshua Barlow is a writer, composer, and producer who has worked for CGTN, Atlantic Public Media, and National Public Radio. He lives in Northeast Washington, D.C., where he pays attention to developments in his neighborhood, economic issues, and social justice.

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