Following a two-hour closed session Tuesday night, Loudoun County School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) announced that she would remove John Beatty (Catoctin) from his seat on the division’s Equity Committee and as chairman of the board’s Discipline Committee.
The action follows weeks of escalating tensions between the board and members of the Equity Committee, Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee and the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP who have pressed for sanctions against Beatty.
Beatty came under fire for comments he made in February during an equity training program designed to allow participants to better understand concepts of white privilege and implicit bias—among the elements seen as fueling systematic racism in the school system. During the session, Beatty said formerly enslaved people may have been less well off after their emancipation without having their needs provided by the former slave owners. In the weeks that followed, the Equity Committee and MSAAC formally requested that Beatty be removed from his leadership positions because of the remark.
The School Board remained silent on the issue until two weeks ago, when it formally voted to not consider the sanction request. That action came through a seldom used procedural mechanism that allowed the board to drop the issue without discussion. At the time, only Sheridan, who also chairs the Equity Committee, opposed that action.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, conducted as a video conference, two members—Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) and Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn)—apologized for supporting the move to avoid discussion of the issue.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas and other speakers criticized that inaction as a broken trust in the effort to address inequities within the school system.
Thomas said, because Beatty has refused to retract his statement in subsequent talks with concerned community leaders, that he should resign as a School Board member.
School Board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) also has come under fire for making the May 19 motion to not consider the request to impose sanctions on Beatty.
Aside from the Reaser and Mahedavi apologies issued Tuesday, school board members have not addressed the criticisms during their public meetings since the call for sanctions began in March.
And they made no comments following Tuesday’s closed session, except for the statement by Sheridan that she would rescind the Beatty committee appointments she made in January. Those actions do not require a formal board vote.