The Loudoun County School Board met Tuesday to discuss ongoing equity efforts amid high tension between groups of parents on addressing issues of race in classrooms.
The school board considered a report released in 2019 that highlighted ways Loudoun County Public Schools could do more to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion.
"Issues such as poverty, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation are perceived as not only difficult to traverse or poorly traversed, but better left untouched or ignored," the report said.
News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey has been covering this side of the state since joining NBC4 in 1992. She's joined by reporter Drew Wilder.
School leaders are grappling with the report's findings as the county makes national news over a back-and-forth drama over whether this effort includes the teaching of critical race theory, which the school denies.
Amid strong emotions on the issue, extra law enforcement officers have been on hand for recent school board meetings.
Interim School Superintendent Scott Ziegler directly addressed questions about whether critical race theory is being taught in Loudoun County Public Schools.
“We’ve had ongoing misinformation and citizens concerned that critical race theory was being taught in our schools. I will say again tonight that it is not,” Ziegler said.
Loudoun was one of the last school systems in the United States to desegregate. Now, white students make up less than half of total enrollment.
In 2019, the school system commissioned the audit of its racial climate by a consulting group, The Equity Collaborative.
One group of parents, concerned about growing opposition to diversity and equity programs, believed that other parents were spreading false claims about these initiatives on social media and in local and national news.
Some members of a Facebook group started a list of the opponents as a way of tracking the claims and countering them. They say they did it for protection, because they faced harassment themselves.
The county school board held a work session Tuesday about the report on equity.
The Systematic Equity Assessment of Loudoun County Public Schools identified five of what it calls “emergent themes.” They include:
- A low level of racial literacy on the part of school staff
- Need for more diverse hiring
- Need to better address economic diversity as it relates to school
- Unequal discipline policies
- Instances of racial insults and slurs
One recommendation from the 2019 assessment is that the district include a condemnation of “white supremacy, hate speech, hate crimes, and other racially motivated acts of violence" on individual school’s webpages and in a twice-yearly message to parents.
The work session featured no in-person public comment, but board members did hear from students.
“Anything that can prevent you from further progress solely based off your race, in my opinion, is racism,” said one student, Christian.