District Responds to Half-Million Dollar Condemnatory Ad-Buy

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. 

13 thoughts on “District Responds to Half-Million Dollar Condemnatory Ad-Buy

  • 2021-09-14 at 10:50 am

    The answer to all the problems is school vouchers that empower parents to make the best educational choices for their child. The money needs to follow the child.

  • 2021-09-14 at 11:17 am

    The ad in question is most regrettable. Does the Free to Learn Coalition know anything about Loudoun County? The ad gives the impression that someone from LCPS said to Tanner Cross, “We’re disciplining you because of your religious beliefs.” That’s absurd. Just look at the court papers. LCPS never gives religion as a reason for disciplining Mr. Cross. What true religion forbids a teacher from acknowledging a student’s gender identity? Moreover, the ad contains footage of a creepy looking man with a telephoto lens videotaping children playing in a tot park. Without proper context, the ad indicates that LCPS condones child abuse. That’s another canard that should be rejected. I hope producers of the ad will use better judgment if anything further is to be aired.

  • 2021-09-14 at 11:45 am

    “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.”

    “…advanced academic analysis?” You know something stinks when the explanation has to be continually rehabilitated.

  • 2021-09-14 at 12:26 pm

    Loudoun County residents are sick and tired of radical right-wing groups using our schools as a pawn in their bizarre culture war.

    The article says “Free to Learn” is a “non-partisan” group, but of course it’s intensely partisan. Alleigh Marre is a long-time Republican operative who served on far-right Scott Walker’s governor’s campaign in Wisconsin, where she met her husband Zack Roday, who also served as press secretary for former Speaker Paul Ryan’s political operation and has held many other senior communications roles advising dozens of conservative political candidates around the country. She got a patronage position at the Air Force in the Trump administration (where she barely lasted two years).

    These are OUTSIDERS to Loudoun. The fact that they’ve leveraged their connections to raise more than a million from other OUTSIDERS to fight a strawman battle against LCPS is beyond the pale. We see right through it. We’re not impressed by their lies. And we reject what they’re saying.

    • 2021-09-15 at 7:27 am

      Is that why 6300 students have left (-7% enrollment) LCPS over the last two years despite LCPS increasing its funding by an astronomical $196M in that time (+15%)? Is how a radical Leftist like yourself would explain trends that would get anyone in the private sector fired long, long ago?

      • 2021-09-15 at 11:05 am

        You’re never going to get an answer to that one SGP. Somebody is far too worried (distracting) about scary monsters from… someplace to address real questions.

      • 2021-09-15 at 12:30 pm

        Why, no, Brian Davidson. That’s not why. We’ve had this little thing called a pandemic that has raged out of control for nearly two years, largely because low-information Republican/conservatives have held the country hostage opposing vaccines and whining about face-coverings.

        Also, I work in the private sector and can attest to the fact that Corporate America is deeply invested in things like diversity & inclusion and many of the other racial equity issues LCPS is emphasizing. This is done because … capitalism! That’s the biggest irony of you clueless lot — what LCPS is doing is completely 100% in line with future expectations for its children.

        It’s cute that you think the phrase “radical leftist” is damaging. It’s not. I’m fully mainstream. You’re the cuckoo who is wildly out of step with the values of the majority of voters in Loudoun County. The recent election votes is proof enough of that. That even have to import agitators to disrupt school board meetings is further evidence.

        Maybe stop being so ridiculous and get a clue.

  • 2021-09-14 at 2:20 pm

    Has the “Equity Collaborative” consulting firm ever failed to discover racism on any of their engagements?

    Second question: Why doesn’t the esteemed, and highly impartial, writer of this column find out how much was ACTUALLY paid to the “Equity Collaborative” instead of calling into question anyone who mentions the $500K figure?

  • 2021-09-14 at 3:14 pm

    So far as I can tell, Alleigh Marre and her husband, Zack Roday, both of whom are seasoned Republican operatives (she worked for Scott Walker and he worked for Paul Ryan’s political operation) don’t even live in Loudoun County. They live in Mosely, VA. And unless they had children out of wedlock, they only got married 4 years ago so probably don’t have children in our schools.

    Pray tell, why are they meddling in our affairs with this proxy war nonsense funded by other outsiders?

    • 2021-09-14 at 5:14 pm

      Apparently, like those who started the disgraceful Face Book page to target parents, you feel free to attempt to malign people YOU disagree with. The TV ad is spot on and supported by hundreds, if not thousands, of parents and grandparents of LCPS students. We eagerly await the outcome of the court hearing regarding Board Member Beth Barts tomorrow morning. One has to wonder, bigdaddyva (since you hide your identity) if YOU have children in the school district and what party you identify with. I’m guessing Democrat.

      • 2021-09-15 at 11:25 am

        I’ve started no Facebook groups. I have two children in LCPS. Of course I vote Democrat — today’s Republicans hate America and all that it stands for. I haven’t voted Republican since the Contract on America in 1995.

        As for Beth Barts, my guess is will end up just like Gavin Newsome’s recall.

        Look, if you’re gullible enough to buy into the lies in this ad, so be it. But you’re completely deluded if you think anyone other than a small fringe of malcontents agree with it. But I guess consensus bias is par for the course with conservatives these days. BTW, check the voting records — Biden crushed Trump in Loudoun, which is now a bright blue county.

  • 2021-09-14 at 4:34 pm

    A little research will show that Alleigh Marre is previously a press secretary for the Republican Senate Committee and served on Trumps Transition Team, then served in several appointed positions with the Trump administration. Point is she’s anything but apolitical and much like Ian Prior is just trying to stay relevant with the passing of the Trump presidency.

  • 2021-09-14 at 6:18 pm

    The LCPS general counsel needs to proof some of these public statements. If parent feedback regarding a teacher was seriously valued there would be a process to INCLUDE parental input into the performance evaluations of LCPS staff including teachers. Its’ a word dance to say parents have a right to talk to the teacher or the principal knowing that many parents fear retribution against their child if they make a verbal fuss but a formal process which is denied to parents would guarantee no reprisals. It is truly sad to see how the school board and LCPS leadership has spiraled downward from the national award winning position they inherited from
    Dr. Hatrick and prior school boards! 🙂

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