LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — One man was arrested and another was issued a summons by police Tuesday evening during a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting about the use of preferred pronouns for transgender students in the district, according to Loudoun County Sheriffs Office (LCSO).
The man arrested was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after officers at the board meeting intervened after this man was acting aggressive towards another attendee, according to LCSO.
The man given a summons was detained after he would not leave the school board meeting room after it had been cleared of public discussion following the ruckus, LCSO said.
The Loudoun County school board chair is pledging to move forward to a vote on policies to protect students who are trans, despite alleged death threats.
The specter of "critical race theory" helped bring out a huge crowd -- even though the board chair says the schools don't and won't teach it.
A new video shows anti-trans rights protesters launching into the National Anthem and refusing to leave after the school board unanimously declared an end to a rowdy public comment period.
"This is an unlawful assembly," a security official said at the podium
"That's an unlawful order," a protester yelled back.
"You will be arrested for trespassing," the security official warned.
"You need to be arrested!" the protester shouted.
"This is an unlawful arrest, I have a first amendment right!" another man shouted as sheriff's deputies detain him. He was taken outside and released with a summons to court on a trespassing charge.
Deputies charged the other man -- 48-year-old Scott Smith of Leesburg -- with obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct after he allegedly physically threatened another person at the meeting.
Atoosa Reaser, the school board vice chairman, said she's personally received death threats.
"It has an effect on you that you can't really put into words, when someone describes the way they want to come into your home and end your life, and you start thinking about the people who live with you," she said.
But she said she won't let it deter her.
"I will only serve to strengthen my resolve to protect kids," she said.
"I think a number of organizations for political reasons hyped up a violent mob to intimidate trans people, parents of trans people, and the Loudoun County school board for political reasons," LGBTQ rights activist Robert Rigby said.
He said he will not be intimidated.
Loudoun County has been racked by conflict since a teacher, Tanner Cross, was suspended, and then reinstated by a judge, for refusing to refer to students who are trans by their preferred pronouns.
"I will not refer to a biological boy as a girl and vice versa because it violates my religious beliefs," Cross said at a school board meeting in May.
The school board chair pledged to move ahead without delay and vote on new policies to recognize transgender students on August 10th.
The contentious scene at the LCPS school board meeting happened as parents spoke about their opinion on the transgender pronoun discussion, and some about the treatment of Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher Tanner Cross by the district after the comments he made in late May.
Parents and community members on both sides of the discussion were interactive in the meeting, with some waving red signs and blue signs with Cross's name on it ... and some others waving rainbow/pride flag-colored objects.
The LCPS school board had to stop the meeting multiple times before deciding to end the public discussion portion of the meeting and move on to another topic of discussion that was scheduled.
While the meeting got heated inside the Loudoun County Public Schools building, supporters and opponents of the transgender policies gathered outside.
Nicholas Gothard, a member of Equality Loudoun, voiced concern about the impact to transgender students if they are not referred to by their chosen name and pronoun.
"To be able to educate teachers like Mr. Cross and make sure they understand the gravity of what it means to reaffirm our students' identities is the goal," Gothard said on Tuesday. "Loudoun County isn’t just watching but the world is watching. You can’t discriminate against students of color and LGBT students and expect people to want to come here.”
Others, like Scott Mineo, voiced support for Cross.
Mineo believed the school board went too far in punishing Cross and said the free speech rights for the teacher were violated.
"To really go after Tanner Cross is really unjustified. He didn’t do anything wrong. He didn’t curse anybody out," he said. "The other side only wants it one way but if you really look at the way they go after things, it’s our way or we’re going to attack you.”
The school board meeting is one of a few recent gatherings by the district's community and school board last month when Cross made his controversial speech.
"I'm a teacher, but I serve God first, and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa, because it's against my religion," Cross said during a meeting on May 25th. "It's lying to a child. It's abuse to a child. And, it's sinning against our God."
Less than two days after those remarks, LCPS sent Cross a letter, saying he was being placed on paid administrative leave.
But that did not last long after a judge ruled Cross be reinstated after making controversial comments about transgender students, which the school district appealed the decision and vowed to take the case to the Virginia Supreme Court.
After public comments were stopped, Tuesday's meeting continued later on in the evening.
Loudoun County School Board Chair Brenda L. Sheridan issued the following statement:
"I do not believe I can let the disruption that occurred in our board room tonight go unanswered.
During the month of June, Virginia recognizes Pride Month, a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA community and the progress we have made to be inclusive of all Loudoun County residents.
I am proud of all of our students and I stand with them.
And I am proud of our board members – some of whom continue to receive death threats. And some of whom received threats tonight.
I’m deeply concerned about the rise in hateful messages and violent threats aimed at progressive members of the school board. We recently saw KKK flyers in Fairfax, our own school board members are receiving graphic threats via email and voice mail, and parents who support our work are afraid to speak up.
I support differing opinions and spirited debates. I want us all to have productive discussions about making our schools the best they can be. That’s why I ran for the school board in the first place. But opponents of the school board who are pushing false stories about “Critical Race Theory” have severely hurt our ability to do the jobs we were elected to do.
Tonight, the Loudoun County School Board meeting was interrupted by those who wish to use the public comment period to disrupt our work and disrespect each other.
Dog-whistle politics will not delay our work.
We will not back down from fighting for the rights of our students and continuing our focus on equity.
We will continue to work towards making Virginia, specifically Loudoun, the best place to raise a family. We will continue to move Virginia forward. We will continue to celebrate our dedicated educators and great public school curriculums – and despite what the fear-mongering media tells you – Critical Race Theory is not being taught in our schools, period. Loudoun County is for learners and loud voices aiming to make our schools a political battleground will not silence the work for our students.
Public comment is not only welcome, but encouraged, during school board meetings. The start time for tonight's meeting was even moved earlier to accommodate the anticipated volume of speakers. In fact, 259 speakers signed up to address numerous issues on the agenda tonight.
This time should have been used for community members to share their views with the board and the public. Even after numerous attempts to ask for decorum, so everyone could speak, those attending insisted on continued interruptions in an attempt to delay and disrupt the proceeding.
These politically motivated antics ought to end. But if they don’t, know that they won’t delay our work."
The school board expects to vote on the transgender student policies on August 10th.