News and Commentary

Virginia Parents File Lawsuit Against School Board Over ‘Equity Ambassador Program’

The lead plaintiff called the new reporting system a “tattle-tale feature.”
Kindergarteners prepare to leave Creighton's Corner Elementary School after a half day on Friday, February 28, 2014, in Ashburn, VA.
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A group of Virginia parents filed a federal lawsuit against Loudoun County Public School (LCPS) district’s school board for allegedly “violating students’ free speech rights.” 

According to a press release from the plaintiff, the school has created two programs that allegedly push a progressive ideology on all students. The first program is the “Student Equity Ambassador Program” and the second is a “bias reporting system.” The plaintiffs consider both to be “illegal.”

“Over the past two years, the board and administrators have incorporated controversial and radical political theory into school curriculum,” the press release reads. “Now they are asking students to be vocal supporters of these political views or face being excluded from school leadership positions and reported through a new ‘bias reporting’ system.” 

The “Student Equity Ambassador Program” is a program designed for minority students to inform on their peers about potential racial insensitivity or “microaggressions.” The “bias reporting system” falls under the purview of the equity ambassador program, though any student can anonymously report on a peer. 

According to the lawsuit, only “students of color” or those who can “expressly attest to being ‘allies’” are eligible to participate in the ambassador program. Students who are chosen to be ambassadors must report to the school’s “Supervisor of Equity.” 

Parents are represented by Liberty Justice Center’s senior attorney Daniel Suhr. Suhr told The Daily Wire that the programs violate the fundamental principles of free speech and equality under the law.

“Freedom of speech … means freedom from the thought police and freedom from the speech police. What we’re seeing in Loudoun County right now is a program to punish students for voicing their ideas in the school setting,” Suhr said. “School should be a place where learning and critical thinking and civil dialogue are encouraged. Instead, what Loudoun is doing is shutting down student voices with this bias response system.” 

Patti Hidalgo Mender, the lead plaintiff and the mother of an LCPS high school student, told The Daily Wire that the bias reporting system is a “tattle-tale feature.” She explained that the reporting system allows students to choose from eight types of “bias incidents.” 

The eight bias incidents include: 

  • Harassment/Intimidation
  • Racial slur
  • Teasing or taunting language/verbal exchange
  • Lack of inclusivity
  • Bias against gender expression
  • Bias against ability status
  • Bias against religious practices
  • Bias against sexual orientation

Suhr also pointed out that the bias reporting system goes beyond the scope of school grounds. Under the current policy, if a student comments outside of school or on social media, they can still be reported. 

“If a student makes a comment on social media or makes a comment outside of school, there’s nothing in this system that limits the scope of what counts as a ‘bias incident’ to the school setting,” Suhr said. “So the assertion of power over children’s lives is uniquely broad with this program.” 

There is an existing legal precedent against bias reporting systems. In February, the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign was forced to amend a handful of policies that were allegedly used as mechanisms to silence on-campus speech after a free speech organization filed a lawsuit. The free speech group claimed that bias reporting policies were prejudiced against students with unpopular beliefs.

Suhr told The Daily Wire that the precedent has yet to be set for a middle school or high school campus. 

“We are seeing these bias incident systems across higher education in the United States,” Suhr said. “But, this is the first time that I’m aware that they’re applying this system to children as young as sixth grade.” 

The court case was filed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on June 2. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Virginia Parents File Lawsuit Against School Board Over ‘Equity Ambassador Program’