Raucous Virginia school board meeting on transgender rights cut short

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Two people were arrested during a fiery public meeting Tuesday night of an embattled Virginia school board, which cut off public comments when a fight erupted during discussions on a proposal on transgender rights, according to reports.

More than 300 people attended the raucous meeting — many voicing opposition to the proposed Policy 8040, which would require teachers to use a child’s preferred gender pronouns, Loudoun Now reported.

Former state Sen. Dick Black also assailed the board for its push to include critical race theory in the curriculum, claiming that it teaches kids to hate others because of their skin color.

The crowd repeatedly cheered public speakers who slammed school board members and denounced the plan that would provide bathroom and locker room access based on students’ gender identities.

Transgender student athletes would be allowed to participate on teams based on their gender identity, and teachers and staff would be required to use students’ preferred pronouns.

District parents have assailed the proposed measures as potential left-wing indoctrination in the district, where 259 residents signed up to speak in the packed auditorium, but only 51 voices were heard, according to Fox News.

One student said that being a girl is not all in her head.

“Boys who identify as girls are no different from boys who identify as boys, except in their feelings about themselves. But boy, the feelings are not why we have separate bathrooms,” she said, WTOP reported.

“We have separate bathrooms because of what our bodies do in them. Bodies matter. Calling girls bigots because they don’t want to use the toilet and a stall next to a boy or get undressed next to a boy is cruel and wrong,” the student said,

“Girls’ bathrooms do not exist to validate identities,” she added.

A person who spoke in favor of the proposed policy said it doesn’t hurt anyone and helps some at-risk kids to feel welcome.

“Using correct names and pronouns for transgender and nonbinary kids is suicide prevention,” the speaker said, according to WTOP.

Another commenter, who identified herself as a doctor, said that “variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity. Gender Identity evolves as an interplay of biology development, socialization and culture.”

And an eighth-grader said that making pronouns more normalized can help with the acceptance of trans children.

“Things like putting pronouns next to name tags or having teachers teach students about pronouns make all the difference in normalizing it. Let’s keep moving forward instead of backward. So my friends and brother, feel safe in school. Thank you,” the student said.

Police declared an unlawful assembly when the crowd interrupted the proceedings and also sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

After some speakers expressed support for the measure, a woman who said she was a transgender student’s mom was booed after saying “hate” was “dripping from the followers of Jesus in this room,” the National Review reported.

After a five-minute recess, Black criticized the board over its alleged backing of the policies as well as its push to include critical race theory, which views racism as systemic in societal structures — but critics say the concept forges a narrative that sows ethnic and racial divisions.  

The district has repeatedly denied his allegation.

“I am disgusted by your bigotry,” Black said before his allotted time ran out and his microphone was cut off, WTOP reported.

He also slammed the board for its treatment of Byron “Tanner” Cross, a Leesburg Elementary School teacher who was suspended and then reinstated last month after saying during a May 25 board meeting that he wouldn’t recognize that “a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa” because of his Christian faith.  

“If his comments were not protected speech, then free speech does not exist at all,” Black said, the Loudoun Times reported. “It’s absurd and immoral for teachers to call boys girls, and girls boys.”

When residents cheered Black, the board closed public comments by a vote of 9-0.

Board Chairwoman Brenda Sterling also called for a recess when the crowd tried to drown out Kellie Herring, whose son is transgender, said that “hate … seems to be dripping off the followers of Jesus in [the] room,” according to the Loudoun Times.

Angry cries arose from the crowd, which called for Herring to be ejected from the meeting.

A little over an hour after the public comment began, board Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser made a motion to end the session – leading the crowd to boo and yell “Shame on you!” as the board members went into recess.

The crowd formed a line to continue with an informal public comment, but Superintendent Scott Ziegler ordered deputies to clear the room and many people resisted, according to Loudoun Now.

Ted Sjurseth, the former organizer of America’s 9/11, told the crowd, “We came here to dissent, and this is our house, we’re going to dissent.”

He refused to leave the room and was briefly detained before being released on a trespass summons, the news outlet reported.

Two people also got into an altercation that led to a man being taken to the ground by deputies. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Two other people also reportedly received medical treatment at the scene for minor injuries they suffered during the fracas.

“I do not believe I can let the disruption that occurred in our board room tonight go unanswered,” Sheridan said in a statement after the meeting, WTOP reported.

 “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,” she added.

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