Attendee at Prince William School Board meetings faces disorderly, trespassing charges

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

Prince William County school officials are pressing charges against a Woodbridge man for trying to disrupt two recent School Board meetings.

On Feb. 18, two misdemeanor warrants for disorderly conduct and one for trespassing were issued against 29-year old Nathan Archer, according to court records. One charge stems from an attempt to use a bullhorn to disrupt the Sept. 15 School Board meeting that was temporarily cleared for security concerns. The other is for trying to gain entry into the Feb. 2 board meeting via an employee-only back door entrance.

In both cases, charges were filed without police involvement through citizen’s complaints made by James Cox III, an investigator with the school division’s security services department.

Archer, who could not be reached for comment by InsideNoVa, has appeared at several School Board meetings over the course of the school year, encouraging others to push past division security staff enforcing capacity limits on the School Board meeting room. On Sept. 15, as the School Board was preparing to vote on changes to the board’s public comment rules and a vaccine or COVID testing mandate, Archer stood inside the board meeting room and called for others to ignore security and enter.

“We have every right to be in this room just like everybody else. We have equal right just like everybody else to be in this room, they can’t stop us,” he told a group heading into the board room despite security posted at the door limiting entry. “Come on guys, come on. … You can’t keep us from coming into this room.”

Later that evening, the Kelly Leadership Center, the division’s headquarters, was cleared of the public in what School Board Chair Babur Lateef said was a “security call.” After over an hour, the public was allowed back in and the meeting resumed.

At the Feb. 2 meeting, with the board voting on a measure to suspend the vaccine or testing mandate, the board meeting room reached the capacity set by Prince William schools security early, and over 100 people watched from an overflow room in the Kelly Leadership Center atrium.

At one point, Archer stood at a back entrance to the Kelly Center and encouraged others to enter from the back despite the security guards telling him to stop. “Only tyrants fear the people,” he said through his megaphone. According to the arrest warrant, Archer has been charged with “trespass upon the lands … of Kelly Leadership Center after having been forbidden to do so.”

Representatives from the school division declined to answer InsideNoVa’s questions about who signed off on pressing charges or whether legal action is being pursued against anyone else, citing the pending litigation.

The 43-person capacity limit kept on the board meeting room has come under criticism from a number of people after they were first enforced when large crowds appeared at School Board meetings to protest what they said was Critical Race Theory being taught in schools, mask mandates or rights for transgender students. Former Republican School Board Member Willie Deutsch has told the board numerous times during public comment that school boards shouldn’t cap capacity, claiming the board is trying to stifle dissent.

At February’s meeting, a security staffer told parents being kept out of school headquarters that the building’s capacity limit had recently been reduced to 123 people.

According to the warrants, Archer was arrested March 16 and will appear in Prince William General District Court on May 10. To InsideNoVa’s knowledge, no other arrests have been made in connection to school board meetings this school year. Last summer, the father of a Loudoun County Public Schools student was arrested for disorderly conduct at a Loudoun school board meeting. He was there to protest the division’s handling of his daughter’s sexual assault.

Cox’s complaint says that at the September meeting, Archer “told crowd to rush the door, push security out of the way.” The complaint from the February meeting claims that he “attempted to gain entry to school board meeting at back door employee only entrance … and refused to leave.” He was charged with both disorderly conduct and trespassing for the February incident. Both charges are Class 1 misdemeanors, and each carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

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