Shenanigans in Loudon County

A school board pushes through gender identity ideology

On Wednesday, August 11, the Loudoun County School Board passed a gender identity policy by a vote of 7-2, despite ongoing opposition from parents and community members. The policy, referred to as Policy 8040: Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students, removes sex-based protections for girls in sports, prioritizing instead a subjective ‘gender identity’.

“LCPS Policy 8350, Student Activities, states that interscholastic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities are part of the educational program and are subject to
school supervision and regulation. All students are expected to display good sportsmanship in competitive activities, whether they are participants or spectators, and they shall conduct themselves in a manner demonstrating respect for persons and property. LCPS staff shall allow gender-expansive and transgender students to participate in such activities in a manner consistent with the student’s gender identity.”

Policy 8040 also allows boys to self-identify into facilities for girls, with a stipulation that single-sex restrooms may be provided.

“All students are entitled to have access to restrooms and locker rooms that are sanitary, safe, and adequate, so that they can comfortably and fully engage in their school programs and activities. Students should be allowed to use the facility that corresponds to their gender identity.”

Jamie Kaine began the meeting by proposing an amendment to the policy, removing the words “mental health professionals” and replacing the term with LCPS staff, stating that she did not believe that a gender identity should be described as a mental health issue. The sentence as amended states that all staff will be required to undergo training:

“All LCPS staff shall complete training on topics relating to LGBTQ+ students, including procedures for preventing and responding to bullying, harassment and discrimination based on gender identity/expression.”

Loudoun County Public Schools was one of over 200 school systems in the state of Virginia drafting and implementing revised guidelines regarding gender identity after the state government passed a law in 2020 requiring them to do so, which one board member suggested was done in secret during the height of the US pandemic.

The vote by Loudoun County school board representatives had been delayed for a day following four hours of emotional testimonies and public comments which were heard on Tuesday. One commenter and concerned teacher, Laura Morris, who had worked at Loudoun County public schools for five years, delivered an impassioned statement resigning from her position, and described how teachers were being encouraged to report each other should they overhear comments from co-workers critical of the policy.

“After reading about your lack of consideration for the growing population of concerned citizens in this division, clearly evidenced by this empty room tonight, where you shut the doors to the public, as well as the e-mails sent by the superintendent last year reminding me that a dissenting opinion is not allowed, even to be spoken in my personal life, going so far as to send a form to my colleagues and I encouraging us to fill it out if we hear one another speaking against the controversial policies being promoted by this school board and adopted in this county. School board, I quit. I quit your policies, I quit your trainings, and I quit being a cog in a machine that tells me to push highly politicized agendas on our most vulnerable constituents, the children.”

Natassia Grover, a concerned mother, did not hold back her frustration and anger with the school board, saying, “Ask yourself why a third space has never been an option for transgender-identified children, but rather only access to opposite sex bathrooms and locker rooms. I’ll tell you why. Girls, and their spaces, are seen as nothing more than pawns to validate a tiny minority of male students’ and staff’s feelings.”

Ms. Grover has been home-schooling her 14 year-old daughter Jolene, who in June made headlines for her speech lambasting the Loudoun County school board.

“Your policies are dangerous and rooted in sexism. Boys are reading erotica in the classrooms next to girls, and you want to give them access to girls’ locker rooms, and you want to force girls to call those boys ‘she’. You do this in the name of ‘inclusivity’ while ignoring the girls who will pay the price. Your policies choose boys’ wants over girls’ needs,” Jolene said.

Ms. Grover also attended the school board’s vote on Wednesday, holding up a sign which read, “Girls’ rights or boys’ feelings? Pick one.”

Kara Dansky, who currently serves on the steering committee of the U.S. chapter of the Women's Human Rights Campaign (WHRC), accompanied Ms. Grover to the public commentary session on Tuesday. In a blog post, she describes how the entrance to the building where the session was conducted was surrounded by armed security guards and members of the public were patted down before being granted access, which was only permitted in groups of ten. Speakers would then be allowed to enter the hearing room one by one, and no public audience was present, limitations that were not put in place due to Covid restrictions.

“It is hard to know exactly what to make of all of this, but it certainly seems to be the case that the board knew that policy 8040 is extremely unpopular and was actively stifling public discussion about it by adopting unprecedented security measures designed to frighten concerned residents and parents into not speaking out. At a school board meeting,” Ms. Dansky wrote.

Presumably the strict safety measures were implemented in response to the heated debate that occurred during a school board meeting in June, when community member Jon Tigges was arrested after refusing to leave the building at the conclusion of the hearing. Mr. Tigges told Fox News that the meeting had ended early, and the room was open to the public for an additional hour and a half.

“The issue is this: we were invited there to speak. People came, had a number to speak, and they said they were going to hear it. Then suddenly, when people applauded for a position that they didn’t like, they voted to close the meeting. If you’re a government official, you’ve got to listen to things you don’t like. Five hundred people were standing very peacefully and actually presenting their cases in spite of the fact that the Loudoun County school board had walked out.”

When introducing the policy for Wednesday’s vote, board member Jeff Morse of Dulles was asked to read the text aloud, and refused outright in protest. Just before the vote, Mr. Morse gave a lengthy speech detailing his opposition, saying,

“Tonight’s a difficult night for our community. Under the guise of inclusivity, we are taking action on a policy that’s unnecessary, that’s ambiguous. It’s divisive, it’s anti-family, anti-privacy, anti-teacher, and it’s inconsistent with our sporting authority. It detracts from our focus on education, and most importantly, it hurts all of our children.”

Mr. Morse went on to question the very notion of a gender identity; however, early on in his statement the person responsible for filming the meeting for a local news station turned down the microphone volume and walked out of the room during the majority of Morse’s commentary, which can be heard faintly in the background with several interruptions in the video’s sound. Because the person filming fiddled with camera settings, it is not clear if the action was deliberate, though admittedly the timing is odd, given that Mr. Morse’s statement proposed the fundamental question of what a gender identity is, as well as challenged the vague language of its definition in the school policy.

The video below of the full hearing begins at 1:30:12 and depicts the moment the camera crew walked out of the building.

“‘A student is considered transgender if, at school, a student consistently asserts a gender identity different from the sex assigned at birth.’ What does ‘consistently asserts’ mean? Who assigns sex at birth?
‘Established gender identity can present differently.’ What does that mean? I’m not being facetious. I’m genuinely interested in trying to figure out how we’re going to navigate through this. ‘In the situation where the parents or guardians of a minor student, under the age of 18, do not agree with the student’s request to adopt a new name or a new pronoun, school divisions will need to determine whether to respect the student’s request, or abide by the parent’s wishes, or alternately respect both the parent and the student.’ At least the model policy included parents, but based on LCPS’s policy, and based on staff’s comments in the last board meeting, parents do not need to be notified.”

Though the audio is not clear, Mr. Morse also referenced a Facebook group which he claimed was tracking members of the community and detailing the personal information of students and parents who opposed the policy.

Just before the vote, board member Harris Mahedavi asked an administrator, “Can you identify any changes in the policy that were based on feedback from the community?”

Asia R. Jones, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services at Loudoun County Public Schools, responded, “Some of the talking points will inform the professional learning that will be provided to staff moving forward.”

This reply, though unclear, would seem to suggest that the criticisms expressed by parents and members of the community will be incorporated in staff training as a means of educating teachers how to argue against their points, rather than having altered the policy to address specific questions regarding the safety, privacy, and dignity of young girls at school.

What is abundantly clear, however, is that while there is strong opposition from the public to gender identity policies being drafted and implemented by lawmakers and officials, their concerns are consistently sidelined and dismissed, and even their right to express their views is being deliberately curtailed in defense of an ideology that is both dogmatic and extremely regressive. The rights of women and girls that were hard-won are quickly being rolled back, and it is women and girls who are being excluded in the name of a brand of ‘inclusivity’ that prioritizes the subjective feelings of a tiny minority over the material reality of half the population.

Full video of the 4 hours of public commentary on Tuesday, August 10, is available on YouTube. This piece has been cross-posted from Genevieve Gluck’s excellent Substack. Graham has an interview coming up soon with Kara Dansky and Natassia Grover.