Letter: Tom Marshall, Leesburg

Editor: On June 22, I was there, sitting quietly waiting to give my input to the Loudoun County School Board in favor of Policy 8040, simply because I firmly believe that all of our students have the state-given right to an education without prejudice. In addition, I learned, as most interested parties should have known, that this protection was mandated by state law.  The School Board was simply going through pro forma motions to update school board policies in order to be in line with the laws of Virginia.  

The Loudoun “parents” reportedly want the School Board to listen to them and eight members were physically present and a ninth member was virtually present, electronically, making it a full house of listeners that were there to do just that—listen. The board even continued to listen as School Board members were personally vilified and threatened.  They listened after some speakers insisted that the school system was teaching Critical Race Theory, after they have said on many occasions publicly that they do not have any curriculum based on CRT. It appears that these “parents” are themselves incapable of listening or learning.

Could this meeting have been infiltrated by agents with a particular agenda? The aggrieved “parents” even brought out a retired political hack to help them spew insults and these professed “parents.” as well, had professionally produced placards to wave along with American flags to hold upside down (insurrection-like) when a speaker acknowledged their support for trans-students and Policy 8040. What was really sad is that these unruly parents or stand-ins used their warped ideas of religion to exert divisiveness in our Loudoun community, to tear people apart from one another. 

Faulty and extreme religious zeal has no role to play in the deliberations of the public’s School Board. Where is the love? It was painfully absent among so many in attendance June 22 who wrapped themselves in the cloak of a religious dogma egged on by false prophets that thrive on exclusivity.  Thank God, and I do believe in a loving God, for all those churches, synagogues and temples with families that actually practice their faith of love one another, kindness and who follow the Golden Rule, to treat others as you would treat yourself.

Due to a second round of outbursts, as was warned by the chairman, and witnessing the increased unruly and rancorous behavior in the audience, the board was forced to end public comment in the interest of safety. So much for public discourse in a divided society that my country, and now my county, has become.

Tom Marshall, Leesburg

7 thoughts on “Letter: Tom Marshall, Leesburg

  • 2021-07-10 at 11:04 am

    That meeting will last in infamy. Where is the love? Good question. I think it got wrapped up in politics.

    Our school system isn’t perfect, our county has been growing for so long. We are at a point where LCPS needs to help us grow TOGETHER. So many are leaving Loudoun because they gave up and didn’t like how alienating it can feel to live here. I don’t blame them. Too much politics, not enough public engagement is a natural way to create resentment. Shaming a political party, highlighting their own political party is still that…. politics.

    Education is about CHILDREN. Thankfully there is a Mental Health Task Force underway and I am familiar with both of the leads. I think we need to be respectful of the trauma so many people have endured throughout the pandemic. Blaming politics doesn’t create solutions, it creates divide. And school boards are supposed to be NONPARTISAN. They are supposed to be actively engaged in their communities to help alienated individuals feel engaged in the public education in order to help their children thrive. It has also led to extreme lobbyist enterprises that have complete dominance of the current school board.

    I miss being in the classroom. With the kids engaged and learning new materials. Listening to questions and seeing where the disconnect is and once the child had mastered that disconnect and could articulate it well to me, I would have that child help other classmates struggling over the same obstacle. The kids feel empowered and engaged by knowing others were struggling too. Maybe right now we need to focus more on humble humility, rather than pride, and recognize that wouldn’t have happened if people weren’t suffering. Let’s help them, not hurt them.. Let’s listen, not judge. And if there is a disconnect, let’s address it and not shut it down. Healthy dialogue is important in growth. And we ALL need to get along. Stop pointing fingers and start reflecting on what we could have done differently.

    Tom — what would you have done differently if you were on the dais? Have you ever encountered anything like that? If you were to address the disconnect — specifically the state required changes — would you have had private meetings with the public to try to help people understand it more intimately? I think the intimate smaller group conversations were what was missing this past school year and it shows. It built up. Thus the meeting was preventable if the public had been included along the way in TWO way dialogue. Would you have been on Facebook? Would you have shut off public comments? How would you suggest we move forward while also being respectful of the pain and suffering many endured by a pandemic well beyond the control of the school board and school system? I can be compassionate towards the school board, I just would like to know they won’t be treating the public with hostility and instead have a mea culpa to get people on the same page. Perhaps discipline is needed, but compassion is needed more. We are ALL hurting right now. Adding to others pain doesn’t make ours go away. Listening is a vital tool of all public officials. Too many changes happened during a pandemic and it showed that the timing was off. The policies needed to be updated, definitely. The timing (end of the school year) was the unfortunate part. I wish it had been discussed earlier in the year. And I don’t have a problem with transgender children wanting to be respected, we all do.

    I am concerned also about their safety when there are already unresolved safety issues in the public bathrooms. Who will look out for the transgender students (and other students)? Is it teacher staff or SRO? To make it not a big deal when change is happening but also be respectful of those who might feel a bit awkward. I hate to say it, but students aren’t always kind in middle school and high school. I would assume school counselors can help when there are issues and I just want the transgender students to feel accepted and welcome. And if some are just curious, perhaps the counselors can have meaningful dialogue with students about appropriate and inappropriate conversations with transgender students.

    I saw a lady with a sign, “give transgenders a hug” and I agree. I told her I needed a hug too. She spoke before me and was spot on. We need to learn more to be more inclusive, welcoming, and affirming. And we ALL need hugs. That showed too.

  • 2021-07-10 at 11:12 am

    Personally I would like to know what trauma support is available to the staff and to the school board, as well as to the transgender community. I think that is a VERY relevant discussion that the school board must have to humanize this issue beyond politics and more into human rights.

    Humans have rights. Transgender individuals have rights. And we must be respectful of their rights. It is a human rights thing beyond school boards and what they can or can’t enforce. In the military and in the veteran community we have transgender veterans. They served the same country I did and I consider them also sisters and brothers. We shared a common purpose — to protect our country. Now it is time to protect them too. It is the right thing to do.

    I do believe professional development is desperately needed for the school counselors who have not been well trained in the LGBTQ community and the PD needs to be shared and I hope the Vice President of Equality Loudoun helps in that regard. They are who I learned from before the equity committee discussed the policy. I was very grateful for the meaningful dialogue and being walked through the process, as well as how important parents are when children are evolving, it makes or breaks a child. I don’t want to break a child. I want to protect a vulnerable child. To me, it is that simple and I won’t let politics interfere with the hearts of children. Acceptance is needed, not judgment.

    • 2021-07-10 at 2:58 pm

      This retired military veteran could not agree with you more. The politics of exclusion and division hurt the country and every individual in it. Sadly, these ‘protests’ smack more of theater than grievance.

  • 2021-07-12 at 11:28 am

    “So much for public discourse in a divided society that my country, and now my county, has become.”

    Because the school board is so open to public discourse that they eagerly participated in secret hate groups targeting parents who raised concerns? The same school board that attempted, by policy, to suppress the First Amendment rights of teachers, on and off campus? Are we talking about the school board whose sponsored committees boast about shutting down all opposition to their extreme agendas, and how to manipulate school board members? The same school board who approved little worthless coins for teachers, while handing out 12 grand bonuses to fat cats at Education Court? They’re the victims, and everyone who has concerns is the problem? Is that what you’re saying Mr. M?

    Tell us again Mr. Marshall about the lack of “public discourse” you speak of. Let’s hear you lecture religious folks on their failure to live up to your personal religious standards. Do you really feel comfortable talking about political hacks?

  • 2021-07-12 at 2:20 pm

    Did the author have the same disgust and reaction to the African American woman who insulted and offended a portion of the audience and led to the 5 minute recess? My guess is no since he likely agreed with her divisive message.

    I don’t agree with the actions of those at the meeting on both sides but what I cant understand is why these meetings are happening at all. The state mandates the policy and the school board has no choice, so why?

    I support the teacher who was suspended for his comments and glad he is back “on the job”. However if his lawsuit is seeking damages I cant support that as it is the tax payers’ money and not that of the wrong doers. They should be personally liable.

    Finally, I think the School Board is a disaster but I don’t support a recall. The majority voted for these people and that’s our democratic process. This is way there are elections every few years to make changes, corrections or confirm previous decisions. Based on how Loudoun has voted in the last 10 elections the letter of the party the candidate represents on a national basis means more than the candidate’s plans and agenda on the local level. So here we are. I will be retiring soon and moving out of Loudoun. I will be interested in seeing what becomes of the County in another 10 years.

  • 2021-07-13 at 6:17 am

    Tom, Please tell the readers why the Plaza street area children were denied attending Frederick Douglas E.S. while you were on the board? Where was the love when it was decided instead of being able to walk to their neighborhood school they were bused out to three schools away from their neighborhood? Can you recall if any school board member said at the time “we can’t have too many of “them” in one school”?
    I agree with you on rowdy speakers at a school board meeting but I don’t remember limiting input to one minute nor firing a teacher for expressing an opinion contrary to policy nor our board expressing an obvious cultural bias against Asian children qualifying for advanced courses.
    How about suggesting the school board practice practice EQUITY and let “those” kids walk to Frederick Douglas E.S. before they preach their version of equity? 🙂

  • 2021-07-15 at 8:20 am

    A person at a public meeting said something that offended the rubes?

    Snowflake much?

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