A quasi-official body tied to the Loudoun County, Virginia, public schools on Friday pledged to “silence the opposition,” apparently referring to parents who question the schools’ adoption of controversial racial ideologies, as officials seemed to double down after revelations of a list, the stated purpose of which was to “infiltrate,” “hack,” and “expose” such parents.
The LCPS Minority Student Achievement Advisory Council (MSAAC) wrote on Twitter and Facebook:
There is strength in numbers and we believe wholeheartedly, that united, we can and will silence the opposition. We ask that you please support our call to action by engaging in these 5 small, but impactful actions to help us in our mission of Advancing Equity Through Action!
The “call to action” consisted of items such as: “refrain from opening/clicking or sharing any article/tweet/facebook post from any group that seeks to sow seeds of untruths, hate and distrust.”
MSAAC is an advisory board whose activities are hosted on LCPS property and which operates according to bylaws approved by the school system. Many of the racial policies at the heart of the controversy came from the school board’s Equity Committee, which is comprised of both school board members and citizens, with MSAAC appointing four of the citizens.
The “equity” policies, often consistent with a philosophy called “critical race theory” (CRT) that is opposed by many liberals and conservatives, have drawn unease from some parents, while some in the school system have responded with efforts at censorship. On March 4, Equity Committee member Tara Hewan called for “a system-wide ruling” banning students from wearing Donald Trump insignia because “it’s a marginalization.”
Beth Barts, an elected school board representative, promoted the “silence the opposition” message.
Taxpayer-funded educators echoed the call. Jen Evans, whose twitter handle @JenEvansLCPS lists her as “Supervisor, Student Assistance Services at Loudoun County Public Schools,” retweeted it. Susan M. Hayden, a fourth-grade teacher at Mill Run Elementary School who volunteers “with the LCPS Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee,” did as well.
The enemies list began after Barts was censured by the school board for failing to “welcome and encourage active cooperation of Loudoun County residents,” and then retreated to a private Facebook group called “Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County,” whose members include current and former teachers and elected officials.
“I am very concerned that this [anti-] CRT ‘movement’ for lack of a better word is gaining support. It is difficult for me to bring attention to it without calling out specifics which may violate our code of conduct,” she wrote to the group.
Members — including most prolifically former Loudoun teacher Hilary Hultman-Lee — listed parents who were critical of, or even “neutral” towards, critical race theory. Member Jen Durham wrote that the purpose of the list was to use “hackers who can either shut down their websites or redirect them to pro-CRT/anti-racist informational webpages” and “expose these people publicly.”
Barts cheered them on. “Thank you for the response to my posting this morning,” she wrote. “Thank you for stepping up. Silence is complicity.”
School public information officer Wayde Byard did not immediately return a request for comment.
On March 19, Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler sent a message to all parents saying “It has come to my attention that individuals, including some identifying themselves as LCPS employees, have made statements across social media about parents and their thoughts about the school division’s equity work. LCPS recognizes the right of its employees to free speech, but does not condone anyone targeting members of the community for their viewpoint.”
In September, Ziegler presented a policy to the school board that would have banned school staff from disagreeing with the school system’s views on “systemic racism” and other racial issues, even off-campus. “An employee’s First Amendment right to engage in protected speech … may be outweighed by the school division’s interest in … [protecting] class equity, racial equity, and the goal to root out systemic racism,” said the draft policy. It was withdrawn following media criticism.
On March 13, Barts wrote to the Equity Committee to name a parent who she said had donated to a parents’ advocacy group that opposes CRT.
On March 23, “the School Board met in closed session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting to discuss … disciplining of a board member,” Loudoun Now reported, but “no action was taken after the session concluded.”