School board members in Loudoun County, Virginia, have been receiving violent threats for months, a public schools spokesman said.
Wayde Byard told WTOP the threats range from “laughable,” with people cursing and “being childish,” to serious, which get reported to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
“We probably get anywhere from 15 to 20 a day, up to 100, after a school board meeting, after we’re featured in media. So it’s been quite a volume lately since about May or June,” Byard said.
He added that the members getting targeted varies.
“It’s whoever is featured in immediate reports for the day, if there’s an issue that comes up, and a school board member, or a school board staff member is quoted, they tend to be the target of the emails,” Byard said.
The focus of the threats tends to revolve around the school system’s transgender policy, which allows students to choose bathroom and locker rooms based on their gender identity and requires teachers and staff to use a student’s preferred pronouns.
“I think that there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Byard said, adding that people are getting information from Facebook or social media and taking “things as fact that may not be fact. And that has led to a lot of anger.”
According to Byard, calls come from as far away as Texas, Iowa, Illinois and Florida.
“There are probably 50 to 60 reports nationwide. We’re a favorite on talk radio, from Texas to California, to some local stations, but mainly Texas and California. Jackson, Mississippi, we got a lot of play there. And people call in after hearing talk radio or seeing something on television and, sometimes, with misinformation — and they’re very, very angry,” Byard said.
For some threats, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office gets involved.
“We trust their professionalism and their ability to see the investigation through to its logical conclusion,” Byard said. “I know in some cases, I’ve heard anecdotally that people in Colorado have gotten a call, because they’ve called us back and said, ‘Why is your sheriff’s office calling us?’ Well because you made a threat.”
The Loudoun County School Board has also faced criticism recently over its handling of two sexual assaults in school buildings.
During a Tuesday meeting, some parents and residents called for the board and Superintendent Scott Ziegler to resign.
In addition to protests over the school system’s transgender policy, the school community recently learned of a sexual assault in a high school bathroom in May.
A Loudoun County juvenile court judge Monday ruled that a high school student sexually assaulted a schoolmate in a bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in May. The teenager, now 15, was later charged with sexual battery and abduction of another female student on Oct. 6 at Broad Run High School.
On the same day that the female student at Stone Bridge High said she was sexually assaulted in a bathroom in May, Ziegler sent a brief, confidential email to school board members.
School boards across the U.S. have seen a spike in threats.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal authorities to hold strategy sessions in the next 30 days with law enforcement to address the increasing threats targeting school board members, teachers and other employees in the nation’s public schools.
In a memorandum, Garland said there has been “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools.”
Garland said the FBI would work with U.S. attorneys and federal, state, local, territorial and tribal authorities in each district to develop strategies against the threats.
WTOP’s Dick Uliano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.