Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging 2 diversity and inclusion programs in Loudoun Co. schools

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that alleged that two diversity and inclusion programs in Loudoun County, Virginia, schools are unconstitutional.

Part of Loudoun County Public Schools’ “Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism” — published in June 2020 — called for the creation of “student equity ambassadors,” or SEAs, and a bias reporting form.

Their lawsuit claimed that the two programs violate the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

LCPS parents who filed the suit say they and their children hold views about important public issues that they believe are in conflict with the schools’ definition of social justice — one of the criteria to be an SEA is a “passion for social justice.”

They are also opposed to critical race theory. Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. Loudoun County Public Schools board chair Brenda Sheridan told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last month that critical race theory is not being taught in schools.

The parents who brought up the lawsuit are concerned that if their children shared their views on critical race theory, race, sexuality and other political issues, they will be reported and investigated for bias incidents.

Judge Anthony Trenga ruled that it was not plausible that the SEA program was adopted with discriminatory intent. He also found that the recommendation that LCPS create student affinity groups does not make it plausible that it was intended at the expense of white students.

The lawsuit also claimed that the bias reporting system “chills protected speech.” Trenga said that that the parents have failed to allege that their children were reported or that they have been at greater risk of discipline through the reporting system.

Trenga said that the parents should bring their concerns to the school board and not the court.

“In sum, while the specific course chosen by the LCSB to promote a more inclusive, nondiscriminatory environment can be reasonably debated, addressing the effects of invidious discrimination within the educational environment is clearly a legitimate pedagogical concern and the SEA program, and its selection criteria for SEAs, are clearly rationally and substantially related to that purpose,” Trenga wrote in his ruling.

“As the Fourth Circuit has recognized, local school boards, not the courts, have the responsibility and obligation to assess how best to advance those pedagogical concerns.”

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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