Antipathy among Loudoun County parents raged on during the Aug. 10 School Board meeting, as more than one hundred people signed up to address the board ahead of its vote on the controversial policy for transgender protections, which was ultimately delayed to Wednesday.
Crowds rallied ahead of the meeting, one side showing support for LGBTQ+ students, while the others protested the imminent vote, and the School Board’s efforts to improve working and learning environment for minority students and staff members.
The proposed Policy 8040 protects the rights of transgender and gender expansive students, and was drafted to comply with the General Assembly mandate that all school divisions implement such protections before the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Schools that do not adopt such a policy will be held liable for any incidents or litigation against the school districts in consequence of not providing the protections. The proposed policy entitles students to be addressed using their chosen name and pronoun, and to use gender-segregated facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The Fairfax County School Board adopted a similar policy last month.
After the unruly crowd resulted in the public being expelled during the board’s June 22 meeting, the division imposed new access rules Tuesday night. Members of the public lined up outside the schools administration building before being allowed inside in small groups to deliver their comments. There was no audience for the public comment session. The board listened to virtual comments before taking comments from people physically present, enraging some who waited outside for hours through a thunderstorm before getting a chance to address the board.
For many, the issues on the table were worth weathering the storm.
April Little, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, called for people on both sides of the issue to come together.
“I knew that there was going to be a lot of conservative folks here talking about their faith and I want to talk about mine. … All people are made in the image of God, who transcends gender … it just makes sense to me to affirm the pronouns and identities of trans and gender-expansive people,” Little said.
Charlotte McConnell said has attended every School Board meeting since 2016 to show support for LGBTQ+ and minority students.
“It’s hurtful to hear adults deny the lived experience of students who have been brave enough to say, ‘I’m tired of being called the N word or the F word’ and share their lived experiences in LCPS only to have adults say, ‘I’ve never seen racism in our schools, it doesn’t exist.’ Or, they talk about all children but not trans children,” McConnell said.
After her comment, McConnell and other pride supports spotted a rainbow outside the district’s administrative building.
“It’s a sign the 8040 should pass,” McConnell said.
Lucketts Elementary School teacher Laura Morris turned in her resignation during the public comment session, after delivering a tearful statement disagreeing with the district’s new policies.
“I’m giving up my position in a corporation that I have loved for five years, and I can’t be here anymore,” Morris told reporters. “I can’t do it.”
“A lot of the policies being talked about tonight, I’m a Christian woman and they’ve said they don’t want us here. I’ve found employment elsewhere. People that value me, people that want me and people that aren’t going to push these ideals are wrong for children.”
Morris said she has grappled with application of transgender recognition in the classrooms.
“I’ve had students who are not transgendered asking me in the classroom … she called me over to her desk and she said, ‘a student in our grade level changed genders, does that mean it’s not certain that I’m a girl,’ and with true confusion her face,” Morris said.
Morris’s comments quickly spread across the conservative Twitter sphere, even being shared by Donald Trump Jr., former President Trump’s eldest son.
The local controversy over the policy first grabbed the attention of the nation last spring when an elementary school PE teacher said he would not affirm students with their chosen pronoun.
The district placed Byron “Tanner” Cross on administrative leave in May after his public comments sparked objections by parents of students at Leesburg Elementary School, where Cross taught. Cross, represented by the Christian group Alliance for Defending Freedom, sued for and was granted his reinstatement. The district appealed Judge James E. Plowman’s decision to grant a temporary injunction nullifying the suspension, saying it overlooked schools’ responsibilities to protect students. The appeal is before the Virginia Supreme Court.
Other parents shared their concerns about the implications of, they say, members of opposite sexes sharing bathrooms or locker rooms.
“If it’s a boy’s bathroom, it should be boys, and if it’s a girls’ bathroom it should be girls,” Dale Gilbert, a father of two students, told the board.
Nearly all of the opponents of Policy 8040 scolded the School Board. One commentor praised Jeff Morse (Dulles) and John Beatty (Catoctin) for their opposition to the policy.
The board voted to adjourn the meeting until Wednesday at 5:30. The meeting was the final time the full board will meet before the school year begins on Aug. 26.