Political Divide Boils Over in School Board Room

After months of increasingly divisive rhetoric reached a tipping point Tuesday night when a School Board public comment session was abruptly halted, and two audience members were detained by county deputies. 

Contentious input sessions have been staples of the School Board’s bi-monthly meetings for more than a year as a vocal group of parents criticized the pandemic school closures. In recent months, those speeches have focused on the school division’s equity initiatives and the proposed adoption of a state-mandated policy concerning the rights of transgender students. 

The latter was the featured topic on Tuesday’s meeting agenda.

The meeting room was packed with speakers supporting a proposed policy for transgender students and critics who oppose that policy and the school division’s equity programs.

Nearly 250 had signed up to speak during the public comment period. 

Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) repeatedly warned the audience to refrain from cheering or clapping during the comment session—which, with each speaker allotted one minute to talk, was expected to take four hours. After one outburst, she called a brief recess. The session resumed until, following remarks by former state senator Dick Black criticizing the board’s actions, the crowd erupted again.

Atoosa Reeser (Algonkian) made a motion to end public comment, approved by a unanimous board vote. After board members left the dais, members of the crowd and began to chant “shame on you.”

The crowd formed a line to continue with an informal public comment, but deputies were called to clear the room.

A second man was arrested after getting into an altercation with another audience member and then a scuffle with deputies. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He and one other audience member were treated for minor injuries.

The School Board resumed its meeting about 30 minutes later with only school staff and media in the room. 

A National Battleground

The School Board’s public comment forums have helped make Loudoun County a high-profile battleground for national debates over inclusivity for transgender people and education about structural racism. Last Friday, the national morning news program “Fox and Friends” broadcast a live remote from Leesburg during which reporter Lawrence Jones interviewed a number of local conservative activists and parents about the controversies.

Two Loudouners have been elevated to larger spotlights especially in conservative media after appearances at School Board meetings went viral in recent months.

Brandon Michon, a parent who with his family spoke regularly at School Board meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic, became a Republican celebrity after video of his appearance at a local School Board meeting, screaming at them to “figure it out” and reopen schools, went viral and became a rallying cry. When Republican candidate for governor Glenn Youngkin came to Purcellville during his primary campaign, the event was just one of several that featured brief remarks from Michon.

Earlier this month, an elementary school P.E. teacher, Byron “Tanner” Cross, saw his case picked up by Arizona-based Christian nonprofit advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom and his story picked up in national media after he was placed on leave following his comments opposing the protections for transgender students. After saying he would not follow the new policy to refer to those students by their chosen names and gender identity, he was placed on leave over concerns about disruptions to the school environment, then successfully sued for a court order to be put back to work. The school system has announced it plans to appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court.

‘Learning is Not Political’

Just before Tuesday’s board meeting, competing groups held rallies outside the School Administration Building.

Organizers of the Loudoun for All rally sought to demonstrate support for the LGBTQ community. Nearby, Fight for Schools, which is leading an effort to recall School Board members, protested against the proposed policy for transgender students and the school division’s equity programs.

Tensions were high, as Fight for Schools advocates jeered LGBTQ supporters, and cheered as a bus covered in signs calling for Beth Barts’ (Leesburg) recall drove through the parking lot. 

Before the meeting, Ted Sjurseth, organizer of America’s 9/11 Foundation that led annual motorcycle ride to all three 9/11 crash sites, said he was there to “voice my disgust at what’s going on in the Loudoun County school system. It’s changed a lot in the last five years. … They’re forcing this stuff down their throat.”

Nearby, Jack Agates, a 2019 Heritage High School graduate, waited in line to enter the boardroom. 

“I’m here to support acceptance and equity for Loudoun students. I feel like Loudoun County is a place where everyone should feel like they are accepted and learning is not political, it should never be politicized,” he said, adding that never felt that an agenda was pushed on him when he was a student.

This article was updated with a correction regarding arrests at 10:19 a.m. June 23. A previous version incorrectly stated Ted Sjurseth had been detained.

32 thoughts on “Political Divide Boils Over in School Board Room

  • 2021-06-23 at 12:58 am

    All we are asking for is that LGBT kids be safe in schools. Why are these people buying into the hatred? We lose LGBT kids to suicide too often. Do we need churches, teachers, and hate groups driving them to it?

    Stop it. Stop your lies, your diversions, your chants. We get it, you don’t care if trans kids hurt themselves or die. We reject you.

    • 2021-06-23 at 12:25 pm

      Nobody is trying to hurt LGBTQ kids. It’s just that radical trans activists like you are trying to recruit more kids to the trans cult regardless how much it hurts them. Despite the definition of transgender individuals requiring multiple instances of overwhelming desire to be the other gender, we heard the LCPS attorney last night say that “gender fluid” kids could just pick the restroom they wanted to use that day. This is what your radical ilk are pushing for regardless of how much it invades the privacy of precious adolescent girls. You couldn’t care less about anybody but your recruitment of more members. And don’t give me the immutable nonsense.

      The fact that (1) 70% of supposedly trans kids outgrow it by age 18, (2) clusters of girls claiming to be trans exist (shows it wasn’t immutable for peer pressure), and (3) supposedly “gender fluid” which is nothing more than a preference that changes over time proves that this is often just a mental illness.

      Nobody will ever accept that a man dressed up as a woman who neither (i) acts like a woman, (ii) looks like a woman, nor (iii) is a woman is truly a woman. They humor them. And LGBTQ activists don’t have the courtesy to tell them to cut it out and just be gay/lesbian. Nobody wants to hurt kids. You hurt kids by hiding from them what rational people will really think of them if they transition. And you want to force “acceptance” of this delusion upon the entire public. It will never happen because it is unnatural and folks have a physiological aversion to it. So just cut it out.

      • 2021-06-24 at 7:57 pm

        Dressing, medical care, and surgeries are all different. Unless you think you are getting foot surgery every morning when you put on your shoes. Where did you get these BS statistics? Are you willfully ignorant?

    • 2021-06-23 at 1:55 pm

      Let me guess… you think four and five year olds should be forced to go through gender reassignment when they come up and announce to you that your son says he’s a girl or your daughter says he’s a boy. Of course the following day he says he’s a dinosaur and she says she’s an elf… but that doesn’t matter to you. Your child is transgender because of that one announcement that one day instead of recognizing that they’re playing and using their imaginations.

      Should kids who are uncomfortable in their own skin be ignored? No… but they won’t know that until they get close to or enter puberty… and even then we the adults have to be the ones with cooler heads. Don’t let them make decisions that can ruin their lives. Some are happy with their changes, others regret them. That will ALWAYS be the case. Here we have a chance to offer some help while preventing them from making a mistake from which they will never be able to recover, and that will only make them more miserable.

      • 2021-06-23 at 11:24 pm

        What a stupid statement. The hat groups that are training you are fluent in lies and diversion. That’s what actually makes them hate groups.

        NO ONE is saying that 4 year olds should get gender reassignment surgeries. But you don’t really care do you? You just hate them trans folks.

        • 2021-06-24 at 2:08 pm

          Nobody? You really don’t pay attention to the news. As an example, there is a 2019 case in Texas of a 7 year old boy with divorced parents whose mother insisted he was transgender because one day he announced something about being a girl, called him by a girl’s name at her home, attired him in dresses and such… but when he went to his father’s house he was addressed by his given name on his birth certificate, did not wear dresses and such. It went to court and was a long drawn-out battle that at last report required joint custody especially when it came to medical and transitional decisions. If the mother had her way, a grievous error could have been caused because she was forcing the gender switch because a child blurted something out and she acted in haste on it.

          And you can take “You just hate them trans folks” and stick it where the sun don’t shine. I have several friends who are trans… befriended them as men and stayed as friends now that they are women. They made a decision… AS ADULTS… for themselves. I’m happy for them… that they found themselves and are pleased with their decisions. We all should be so lucky.

          • 2021-06-24 at 7:51 pm

            Dressing, medical care, and surgeries are all different. Unless you think you are getting foot surgery every morning when you put on your shoes.

          • 2021-06-24 at 7:58 pm

            Oh, and on your trans friends. I just don’t believe you. In Loudoun County? Throw some first names out there.

    • 2021-06-23 at 4:41 pm

      When in the last 30 years has there been a trans kid in LCPS who was not SAFE? Admit it… That isn’t what you want. You want to force everyone else to accept and praise the trans stuff as normal. It isn’t. Gender dysphoria is a severe mental illness, and forcing it on kids is nothing less than child abuse.

      • 2021-06-24 at 9:47 am

        EVERY trans kid that I personally know that attends or attended LCPS faced bullying. Both verbal and physical. All of them.

    • 2021-06-23 at 6:00 pm

      It might be time to investigate the nexus of these trans kids. Perhaps it indicates the need to investigate some of these “woke” parents for child abuse. These issues have no place in the education system as the US falls further and further behind. This School Board is poised to limit higher math courses to the 11th grade! Equity, as envisioned by Brenda Sheridan and her cohorts, appears to be a race to the lowest common denominator. Pity.

    • 2021-06-23 at 11:18 pm

      IamWhatIam: The suicide rate among trans kids is high not because of bullying, but because many of them are conflicted about themselves and when overzealous, looney parents demand that a kid who is going through a curious phase about being a member of the opposite sex, be identified as that opposite sex and they feel forced to live with a decision they do not want and are afraid to go back. How do I know this? I had a nephew who liked to wear dresses, and his mom had to go crazy and buy him all girls clothes and demand that everyone call him by a girl’s name that she made up, etc. After a suicide attempt when he was 12, he finally was able to get the help he needed- and had the courage to tell his mom she should have just let him ride out the phase. He is now a healthy, happy, 24 year old male with a girlfriend. Helicopter parents are mostly at fault here.

      • 2021-06-24 at 9:49 am

        Nope. In supportive environments the suicide rate is very low. I would classify your statement as deliberate disinformation. A characteristic of the hate groups supporting this conflict.

      • 2021-06-24 at 12:29 pm

        Ditto John M. Somebody needs to protect these kids from their adult LGBTQ activists looking for more “members” to make them feel less guilty.

  • 2021-06-23 at 7:09 am

    Once again, we are talking about outrageous school board member behavior. They shifted the sign up time and start time of last nights board meeting. They bussed in non-Loudoun residents to speak in support of letting boys use the girls bathroom as well as boys competing in girls sports.
    This is outrageous.
    All nine voted to suspend public comments because there was clapping in the audience.

    All nine are cowards along with the new superintendent, Ziegler.

    All nine should be focused on Loudoun youth, but instead they spit in our face and push through a radical & racist Critical Race Theory agenda.

    All 9 plus Ziegler are a national embarrassment . Recall them ALL.

    • 2021-06-23 at 11:31 am

      yah, so this sounds like a diversion. Ignore the pain you’re causing to LGBT youth and center on personalities and procedures.

      But please, in your eyes, what are the principle points of CRT? Could you please be specific about what points are wrong or bad? I mean, we enslaved blacks. Kidnapped and enslaved indians.

      • 2021-06-23 at 2:57 pm

        The Emancipation Proclamation was signed on 9/22/1862.

        Just shy of One Hundred Sixty years ago.

        “We” didn’t enslave blacks. No one is alive that had ANY INVOLVEMENT in slavery. Not even several generations removed.

        Good grief.

        • 2021-06-23 at 11:28 pm

          Except that, you know lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the overthrow of the Wilmington NC black government, The Tulsa massacre, voting tests, voting taxes, gerrymandering, voting restrictions, segregation, mixed race marriage bans,….

          Oh wait. Maybe some CRT could help cure your ignorance?

          • 2021-06-24 at 9:33 am

            Sidestepping your own miscue… I suppose that’s a strategy.

            However, when you state that I’m “ignorant” you’re only proving that you have nothing of value to offer. You’re simply throwing bombs and calling people names.

            Not to worry, I will continue to call out your mistruths, half truths and outright lies.

    • 2021-06-23 at 12:26 pm

      Can we deport all 9 SB members from Loudoun County too?

    • 2021-06-23 at 4:44 pm

      If they won’t let us speak at public meetings, go to their HOMES. We pay their lousy salaries. We DEMAND to be heard. Let’s bring along a few busloads of OUR supporters to keep deputies busy while we make a point.

  • 2021-06-23 at 11:35 am

    The Afro-American Major that called for the arrests was a constant source of complaints over the years. Everything from speeding to recklessly shooting his daughter, yet under Sheriff Chapman, this was all swept under the rug. As a supervisor over the School Resource Officer section, this Major(when he was a lieutenant) once ordered the SRO’s not to take any action against minority students without his express permission. He was quietly pulled aside and reminded that “lieutenants don’t make policy”. Chapman made a deal with this guy that he would take care of him (fast track his promotion) as long as he shilled for Chapman with the minority community. When a deputy is offered a promotion now, the top staff inform him/her that their number one job is to ” protect the Sheriff”. The number one job of the deputies used to be – Protect the Public.

    • 2021-06-23 at 11:29 pm

      Checking my notes. Chapman is a Republican, isn’t he? Just checking my notes….

    • 2021-06-24 at 6:37 am

      You must be in the wrong place.

      The old cranky white guys who hang here LOVE them some Sherrif Chapman. I’m not sure if it was his long history of helping implement the biggest failure in domestic policy in our lifetime during his carer in the DEA- I suspect it’s the uniform? Those who lean authorization with a side of fascism love uniforms with sidearms.

  • 2021-06-23 at 6:49 pm

    What I saw was that the first 5 minute recess (which actually was 11 minutes) due to an outburst from the crowd. When the meeting reopened the Chairwoman remind the crowd to be respectful. I support that. However, the Chairwoman failed to acknowledge the fact that the speaker at the time of the outburst was insulting and disrespectful to the crowd which the crowd esponded to.

    The Chairwoman’s oversight appeared to be intentional. I don’t believe in recalls because I support the voice of voters. My kids are no longer in the school system but WOW-JUST-WOW.

  • 2021-06-23 at 9:09 pm

    Schools have to be the one place where the “progressive” agenda flourishes absolutely unfettered by reality. A HUGE plurality, if not vast majority, of administrators, staff and teachers are self-avowed Bolsheviks and SJWs who fully embrace the LGBTQAI+ world view and cause.

    Tell me exactly who in public schools is abusing what has to be a relatively small number of “transgendered” children? Maybe the school board should be forming secret FB groups to find out who is creating the evidently unbearable “hostile environment” in the public schools and deal with them.

    I can assure you it isn’t the “vast right-wing conspiracy” creating whatever supposed “hostile environment” might exist in the county schools. There are no “right-wing conspiracy” in county schools.

    It is well beyond time to recall the entire school board. I am hoping that every public meeting has people collecting signatures for the recall.

  • 2021-06-23 at 11:44 pm

    It is not the school boards job to have LCPS jam sexual preference down the throats of student’s. As far as boys using girls bathrooms and vice versa, no way, it will be abused for the wrong reasons. I don’t care if you are gay or trans, just as you shouldn’t care if a person is straight. As far as race, yes this country’s past needs to be taught, it was horrible, but not in a radical way. This school board is a complete embarrassment, LCPS has made national news too many times recently for the wrong reasons. All of the board members should be embarrassed and resign, you are better than that. Listen to your constituents and stop pushing your radical left agenda.

  • 2021-06-24 at 6:35 am

    A cardinal is red for a reason. Exposing children to politics and propaganda seems to undermine parents. If you don’t like what is going on in our public schools, push for school vouchers? Ask your grandparents and extended family to help with paying for private school. Consider homeschooling your children. You can have formal teaching on your days off or an hour in the evenings. God Bless.

    • 2021-06-24 at 3:11 pm

      Why should a Tax Payer surrender and not fight exposing their children to Propaganda? If the parent removes the child from the public schools, the taxpayer’s money is still being spent in a manner in which they disapprove.

      So, if the BOS decides to spend money in a manner Taxpayers disapprove of no Taxpayer should express their concerns?

  • 2021-06-24 at 9:00 am

    Government tyranny on full display…..school board shuts down free speech, arrest anyone with an opposing view, or in tanner cross case retaliate because he would not conform….If you haven’t signed the recall petitions you are part of the problem….BTW, this has to do with school closures for no reason, pushing sexually explicit reading material on 8th graders, tanner cross case, teaching racist and hateful critical race theory, bonus for school administrators that don’t deserve it. Holding big event for unveiling of an electric bus, but nothing planned for kids graduations, then the coercive demands to speak a weird language of pronouns and lying to kids about what their gender is….parents I came across at meeting have no issues with the LGBTQ lifestyle or choices and were supportive, they just don’t want it glorified and pushed on kids without their knowledge and accused of being called a homophobe simply because they disagree with having boys in the girls bathroom….how about the tans kids use the administrators office facilities etc. I doubt there are 1,000s of trans kids out there in a school system of 80k students….

  • 2021-06-24 at 9:28 am

    Schools do not need to know a student’s sex or gender as all publicly-funded programs should be gender neutral. Any place where a student needs to undress should be private and secure so other students can’t do genital checks on each other either. Some simply want to divide us into groups to facilitate discrimination.

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