ASHBURN, Va. — Parents and other protesters braved wind, rain, and one of the coldest nights the area has seen this fall to gather at the Loudoun County School Board meeting on Tuesday and speak out against the board and Superintendent Scott Ziegler.
One of the administrators present told me that 120 people were signed up to speak. Many of them waited together in front of the building for their turns, holding homemade signs and speaking animatedly with each other.
A lineup of speakers took the stage of the parking lot rally, kicking off with a recital of the national anthem by one of the young girls in attendance. I heard someone chant “Let’s go Brandon” at another point.
Here’s what parents, students, and other protesters told me about why they showed up.
Chuck Izzo, a U.S. Army veteran from Purcellville, showed up to give public comment at the board meeting and slammed “the way that the cover-up [of sexual assaults in the school district] happened, and just the lack of integrity” in the school board. “My intent is to go up there and just voice my opinion and say, ‘You were all either under duress or you knew about this and either way you lied and you’re not representing us effectively, so you have to go.'”
Izzo’s daughter, a senior at Woodgrove High School, participated in the walkouts that occurred throughout Loudoun County schools earlier in the day to protest the school board’s complicity in recent revelations of sexual assault. He noted problems within the school district that had frustrated him even before the assaults, however.
“The first thing that was brought to my attention was when [recently resigned school board member] Beth Barts and the other folks had their secret little Facebook group trying to doxx parents who were opposed to the policies … that’s really secret police kind of stuff,” he told me. “And then when the gym teacher came out and spoke his conscience in an open public forum and then was punished for it that added up, and when the news came out about the sexual assaults, it was just really shocking.”
Kara Dansky said she is a lifelong Democrat and self-described “radical feminist” from Washington, D.C. “We really want to see the school board rescind the policy, there is absolutely no justifiable reason to have a policy that allows boys into women’s bathrooms,” she said. “It’s just not acceptable, it’s anti-feminist, it’s misogynistic, it’s politically regressive.”
“All of the women standing behind me and near me are radical feminists, most of us are Democrats,” she told me, gesturing to about six other women standing beside her. “We are here because we are on the political left and we stand in support of female-only spaces.”
Dansky said she came to Loudoun in August for a rally the day before LCPS instituted its gender identity policy that allows co-ed bathrooms, after which a sexual assault by a “gender fluid” boy of a female teen in the girls’ bathroom was reported. “I was very proud to stand with Loudoun County parents and students and I’m very proud to stand with Loudoun County parents and students here today.”
Parents and protesters, including self-described Democrats, gather to oppose the Loudoun County School Board tonight: pic.twitter.com/pBBa4hs1Y1
— Elle Reynolds (@_etreynolds) October 26, 2021
Erin Roselle Poe
Erin Roselle Poe has a 10th grader and a fifth grader in Loudoun County Public Schools.
“I stood on these grounds 20 months ago and fought to get our schools open, and that like most parents opened our eyes to actually what was happening here in the county,” she told me. “When you have two kids here that are constantly exposed to everything going on, all you can do is fight.”
Poe also signed up to speak to the school board, to tell them “that they’ve failed this county, they’ve failed students, they’ve lied to our faces, they’ve left our children very vulnerable and unsafe, and they continue to preach policies that are more coverups for their actions.”
“We’ve got to get the evil out of the schools,” she added.
Anthony Mace used to be a Fairfax County resident, but moved to Loudoun County last year and has a son who is a senior in high school in LCPS. “I thought Fairfax was getting a little out of control so we moved out this way, and this is even more ridiculous,” he told me. “The longer I’m here I can’t believe what Loudoun has become. It’s just a shadow of itself.”
Mace, who considers himself an independent, said he was present “to really support the parents of Loudoun County that aren’t being heard.” For the school board “to blatantly lie to the parents, it’s criminal and they should all resign.”
“As long as I live in Loudoun I will be coming to the [school board] meetings, I will be supporting the parents,” he said. “They should have a say in their children’s education.”
Nick, Crunchy, and Maddy
Nick and Crunchy used to attend LCPS until about a year ago. “We’re here to support the cause against them,” Nick told me, gesturing to the school board’s building. “Especially Ziegler,” Crunchy piped in. “Especially against Ziegler, because he knew about that rape charge,” Nick finished. He showed me his red, white, and blue sign, emblazoned with the words “Dear NSBA and Ziegler, sorry ain’t good enough! You must be FIRED, you LIED to promote your agenda!”
Maddy is an eighth-grader who’s currently in private school but will be going to public school in Loudoun County soon. She’s been to board meetings before, but spoke for the first time at one of the meetings Tuesday night.
“I’m here because I’m concerned about the public safety of the public schools in Loudoun County,” Maddy said.
Her mom added that they started getting involved with the school system when schools closed during COVID, “and then I started seeing the behaviors of some of the board members.”
“When the sexual assaults came out now every day I think … do I have to worry about her safety?” she added. “This is definitely weighing on my mind.”
I spoke with Erin Smith as she exited the building after giving public comment, and she told me the speakers were “annihilating” the board, while she hadn’t heard anyone speak in support of the school board. “Each person has their own little speech about what’s important to them,” she said. “There’s plenty of things to talk about.”
In her speaking time, she focused on “the email that Dr. Ziegler sent everyone on May 28.”
“Did anyone respond to the email? Did they just get the email and not care? Was it just a normal day to them to have an email about sexual assault in a high school and nobody care about it?”
“I’ve been fighting to get a voice heard with the LCPS for over a year now,” she said. “It started back last year when they promised to open schools and didn’t, it’s been a snowball effect ever since.”
The host of “The Joe Mobley Show” said he showed up “to urge the school board to resign, because they lie, about everything!” Mobley cited the email Ziegler sent on May 28 to the board acknowledging the sexual assault that happened that day, a month before the board publicly denied the crime’s existence.
“With all this COVID bullcrap, they’ve said ‘we care more about you than your parents do,’ and they’re telling me as a parent that the government cares more about my kids than I do, which is absurd, but at the same time they’re sending sexual predators into the classroom,” he said.
“I’m just one of many parents, I have four kids,” he added. “We’re lucky enough to homeschool but our kids are going to have to work and interact with these kids and we’d prefer for them not to be Marxist, but even if they are going to be Marxist, we have to insist that they’re taught truth and that truth is at least exposed to them.”
While the board’s recent policies only allow a few speakers inside the building at a time, many gathered outside to watch a livestream of the meeting on a projector in the parking lot. A small contingent of people supporting the school board and sporting “diversity, equity, and inclusion” signs also showed up, but were far outnumbered by the school board’s critics.
While the school board only allows a few speakers inside at a time, many stand outside in the cold and watch a livestream of the meeting waiting for their turn to speak: pic.twitter.com/eNaLn45BSm
— Elle Reynolds (@_etreynolds) October 26, 2021
Beth Whitehead contributed to this report.