Education

‘Playing Games They Cannot Win’: Parents, Teachers Fear Virginia School Board Policy Revision Will Allow Schools To Punish Unwoke Staff

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Harold Hutchison Contributor
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A proposed policy revision being considered by the Loudoun County, Virginia, school board is raising questions about whether it targets teachers and staff who speak out against critical race theory or other controversial issues.

According to a draft of a revised version of Policy 7560, titled “Professional Conduct” that would apply to teachers and other employees of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS), “Employees should report violations of LCPS’s commitment to equitable treatment and all forms of discrimination or harassment based upon protected classifications of students and staff to their immediate supervisor or principal.”

The policy goes on to state, “Employees of the school division must recognize that they are in a position of public trust. However, nothing in this policy or any other policy shall be interpreted as abridging an employee’s First Amendment right to engage in protected speech or their right to a private life outside of their work responsibilities except as provided by law.”

Concern over the policy increased after Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, was placed on leave by LCPS after speaking during the public comment session of a school board meeting in opposition to a proposed policy on gender identity.

After Cross sued with the assistance of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a judge ordered his reinstatement, citing violation of his First Amendment rights. LCPS appealed the ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court. (RELATED: Where Did Critical Race Theory Get Its Start?)

A portion of the proposed revisions to Loudoun County Public Schools policy 7560 on “Professional Conduct.”

“It looks like Loudoun is again trying to silence teachers 1A rights. This time LCPS is trying to state that teachers can’t disagree with law,” the Virginia Project said in a tweet. (RELATED: ‘Dog-Whistle Politics’: Loudoun School Superintendent Sends Email To Staff That Says CRT Opponents Spread ‘False Stories’)

“It is the old story of the malcontent sitting in the back of the room. The malcontent questions the teachings and becomes the subject of bullying and peer pressure,” Sam Ettaro, a Fairfax County parent, told UncoverDC.com, speculating that there was the possibility of professional repercussions for teachers and staff who didn’t embrace critical race theory.

Critical race theory holds that America is fundamentally racist, yet it teaches people to view every social interaction and person in terms of race. Its adherents pursue “antiracism” through the end of merit, objective truth and the adoption of race-based policies.

The policy proposal Cross spoke against, known as Policy 8040, titled, “RIGHTS OF TRANSGENDER AND GENDER-EXPANSIVE STUDENTS,” states that students, teachers, and staff “who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy.”

The accompanying regulation states, “School staff shall, at the request of a student or parent/legal guardian, use a student’s chosen name and gender pronouns. However, in the situation when a parent or legal guardian of a minor student does not agree with a student’s request to use their chosen name and gender pronouns that reflect their consistently asserted gender identity, staff will discuss and may develop an alternative that respects both the student and the parent or legal guardian.”

In addition to the suspension of Cross in May, there have been other efforts to silence dissent from school board policies.

In March, Kiara Jennings, the chairwoman of the Minority Students Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC), called for the firing of teachers opposed to critical race theory. The committee also said that opposition “can and will be silenced” on social media.

One LCPS teacher who requested anonymity for fear of professional retaliation told the Daily Caller, “It upsets me because we have other policies in place that cover all races, genders, sex, etc and to report abuse. This policy is designed to report the right leaning only! The policy is racist and discriminating to those who have a more religious faith.”

Excerpt from the draft of Policy 8040, concerning transgender students. (Screenshot from PDF)

“Once again, Loudoun County Public Schools shows less than zero understanding of the American constitutional legal system,” Ian Prior, the executive director of Fight for Schools, told the Daily Caller. “The Constitution reigns supreme in the United States; that includes over federal and state laws. As written, this policy would prohibit a teacher from speaking out against an unconstitutional federal or state law that has not yet been challenged and defeated on First Amendment grounds. That is not how any of this works.”

“One day Loudoun County Public Schools will stop playing games they cannot win. Today is clearly not that day,” he added.