The embattled Loudoun County School Board is now the target of a $500,000 advertisement campaign by the Free to Learn Coalition, which the school district claims is packed with false and misleading statements.
A contingent of parents and residents in Loudoun has grown increasingly agitated with the School Board’s socially progressive agenda over the past two years, including racial sensitivity training for teachers, and the adoption of the controversial Policy 8040, which protects the rights of transgender and gender expansive students.
The $500,000 campaign featured a spot during the Washington Football Team’s Sunday afternoon game and will run several times over the course of the next two weeks.
Organizers describe the organization as a nonpartisan effort to remove the influence of political activists from schools. It has mounted similar TV ad campaigns targeting Fairfax County Public Schools, Grace Church High School in New York City, and the Peoria Unified School District in Arizona.
The ad features video clips from School Board meetings, highlighted by two parents being detained by deputies during the June 22 meeting, during which Superintendent Scott Ziegler declared an unlawful assembly after the public comment session turned chaotic.
The voiceover claims that the district has doled out $500,000 to cultivate a politicized curriculum.
That’s a figure that has been linked to hiring of the Equity Collaborative, a California-based consulting firm, to conduct an investigation that found racial inequity exist in throughout the school district—ranging from the way minority students are disciplined, to how staff and teachers are hired.
The ad also highlights the participation by some School Board members in a private Facebook group, in which some participants suggested compiling a list of people opposed district’s anti-racist work. That list, and the board members’ participation in the group, has been cited in the effort to remove several School Board members. Beth Barts (Leesburg) is the only one involved in active litigation, following the filing of a voter petition organized by the group Fight for Schools.
The ad also refers to Byron “Tanner” Cross, the PE teacher who was placed on administrative leave after his comments opposing the then-proposed transgender student protections spurred objections from some parents at his school community. Cross, and two other teachers, are in a legal battle with the school district over what they argue is a violation of their First Amendment rights. While the school district does not comment on ongoing litigation, a spokesman listed the ad’s claim about Cross as one of the “untrue or misleading” allegations made in the ad.
Ziegler has repeatedly said that students are not being taught Critical Race Theory, the advanced academic analysis of the role that race plays in law and in society.
“LCPS’ work on equity is a journey that requires the commitment of staff at all levels. I feel the staff’s work, which has been sustained, honest and undertaken in good faith, has been misrepresented recently by some members of the public,” Ziegler said during the June equity workshop.
However, some parents say that the teacher and staff trainings on racial equity include vernacular borrowed from CRT, which they said is racially divisive.
“Culturally responsive training, diversity, equity, whatever you want to call it, they’re all components of Critical Race Theory. That’s exactly what it is—a theory,” Patti Menders, a LCPS parent and president of the Loudoun County Republican Woman’s Club, said to the School Board during its Aug. 10 meeting.
The ad also claims that parents who have attempted to speak up against the School Board have been silenced. The video shows a photo of Barts and an excerpt from a since-deleted social media post from Loudoun County Public Schools Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee.
“LCPS recognizes the right of members of the community to free speech, and does not condone anyone targeting members of the community for their viewpoint,” said Ziegler of the claim.
The ad charges that “powerful education unions are using dirty political campaign tactics to go after parents.”
Free to Learn cites the National Education Association’s alleged initiative to research anti-CRT organizations—projects not directed by officials in Loudoun County.
“LCPS supports the rights of parents to speak out to their children’s teacher or principal when they have a concern in the classroom,” said a spokesman for the district. “LCPS further supports the rights of parents to contact their School Board member when they have concerns about division-wide policies. LCPS is not aware of any group using dirty political campaign tactics to ‘go after’ parents.”
“Much like Loudoun County Public Schools, we wish the claims in the ad were not true. But they are,” Alleigh Marré, president of Free to Learn, said.
The ad will run on various channels throughout the Washington, DC, market over the next two weeks.