Following months of increasingly intense criticism claiming that the school district was doing little to combat racism and ensure the equitable treatment of minority students and after weeks of work by a special ad-hoc committee to dive deeply into those concerns, the School Board last week adopted a resolution that provides much higher performance expectations.
The policy statement was crafted by the ad-hoc Committee on Equity during its past two meetings after receiving a consultant report that found a “hostile learning environment” where students faced no consequences for hateful actions.
In the resolution, the “Loudoun County School Board and its division superintendent publicly declare the condemnation of White supremacy, hate speech, hate crimes, and other hate-based acts of violence, and any instances of hate, discrimination, and violence based on race, religion, national origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, appearance, and socio-economic status.”
Other elements state the administration’s commitment to ensuring the division is “respectful and culturally responsive” when teaching all students and interacting with families, providing training to mitigate the impact of implicit bias and racism, eliminating opportunity gaps, building a more diverse workforce, and to creating a safe and supportive environment for every student, family, and staff member.
The School Board’s debate on the resolution centered on a suggestion by Tom Marshall (Leesburg) to change the “condemnation of White supremacy” to the “condemnation of the ideology of white supremacy.” While some members said that change would make the intent clearer, Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), who chairs the Equity Committee, and Chris Croll (Catoctin), who also serves on the ad-hoc panel, said members of that committee were very deliberate in the construction of the policy’s wording, which should not be altered.
The resolution was approved unanimously, with Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) absent.
Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said that, while she was now more aware of the challenges facing some student and teachers, she also was concerned that the school system was being painted in an overly negative light.
“I got a lot of feedback from some people who were very upset with the assessment and they felt … this statement was saying that somehow LPCS is filled with racists and it’s filled with systemic racism. That is not what the assessment said. The assessment actually listed a great many programs and initiatives that LCPS has undertaken to address inequities in our school system,” she said. “But the assessment is important in that it highlights … we have to do something and that it is important say this now and to say that these kind of behaviors will not be tolerated. I’m glad to be supporting this. It is not saying that this county and this school division and our schools are filled with horrible acts and horrible people. Far from it. Our schools are filled with a great many wonderful educators, teachers, programs [and] opportunities.”