A Virginia-based parent organization advocating for the ouster of five Loudoun County School Board members scored a small victory in its bid to remove one member after a judge ruled that the group's recall petition could advance to trial.
A Loudoun County Circuit Court judge ruled Tuesday in favor of the group's singular recall petition against board member Beth Barts, denying her motion to dismiss. The judge also agreed to the group's request to appoint a special prosecutor when the case goes to trial in the coming weeks.
"Today, we were given a seat at the table and a fair process. We are grateful for the Court’s decision and finally have some hope," said Ian Prior, a Loudoun County parent and former Justice Department public affairs director who founded the group Fight for Schools.
Fight for Schools has advocated for months against the district's equity initiatives, becoming the face of parental opposition against critical race theory. Concerned parents allege part of the district's curriculum pushes CRT, which claims racism is systemic in academic curricula, arguing the framework doesn't align with values they want taught to their students.
Prior's group alleged Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj, who would typically represent petitioners, had a "disqualifying conflict of interest" due to her "personal friendship" with Barts.
The organization's victory comes as U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sent a memorandum to the FBI this week to take on "threats of violence" and "harassment" against school boards and teachers amid growing parental anger over curricula, mask mandates, and other polarizing issues.
However, there have been scant reports about acts of violence against school officials from parents concerned about teaching materials, according to Bill Jacobson, who runs conservative news blog Legal Insurrection, which follows CRT developments across the country.
"Generally speaking, from what I've seen, the only time there's any level of violence is where somebody is at the microphone and the school board cuts them off and the school board calls in the police to remove a person," Jacobson told the Washington Examiner. "I've not seen reports of school board members being attacked, and if they were, it shouldn't happen, and local law enforcement is well equipped to deal with it."
Prior said the Justice Department's memorandum to federal authorities would have a "chilling effect" on parents seeking to raise issues with school curricula across the country, telling the Washington Examiner that words such as "harassment" and "intimidation" are "very broad terms and can be used and abused against parents based on the subjective impression of school board members."
"This kind of thing from the Department of Justice is going to make people even more uncomfortable," Prior added. "And maybe that's their goal. It certainly seems that that is what their goal is, but it's completely inappropriate for the federal government to be doing that."
Prior suggested that members of the public be mindful when protesting against school officials.
Be "firm in your communications," he said, adding, "Don't attack people personally, don't attack people for their appearance, [and] certainly do not threaten people, but do not be afraid to go out there and exercise your First Amendment rights to stand up for your children."
This week, Prior and his group also gathered enough signatures to file formal recall petitions against two other board members, collecting more than 10,902 signatures against Denise Corbo and 2,727 signatures against Ian Serotkin. Virginia law requires recall petitions to garner signatures equating to 10% of the votes initially cast to elect the official, a threshold surpassed in both cases, according to Virginia's Department of Elections.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese