The cadre of Loudoun schools critics who regularly line up at School Board meetings to lambast COVID-related closings and restrictions as well as the division’s equity initiative returned to another familiar subject Tuesday night.
During a 45-minute public comment period, several speakers read sexually graphic sentences from two books that are part of the classroom diverse book collections: ”Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson and “#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil.
“If this is inappropriate for me to read to you, this is inappropriate for our children,” said Patti Menders, after reading one passage. “We are here because we care. We care about our children. Please get these dirty books out of our schools.”
Concerns about the reading material began in 2019, but waned as the critics more recently focused on school closings and charges that administrators were inserting elements of critical race theory into teacher training and curricula, claims division leaders have denied.
The criticisms have spurred a formal recall effort against six of the nine School Board members as well as a push to keep Loudoun County in the national spotlight. The campaign targets School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reeser (Algonkian), Beth Barts (Leesburg), Leslee King (Broad Run), Denise Corbo (At Large), and Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge).
To bring a recall petition to Circuit Court, organizers must get the number of signatures in each district equivalent to at least 10% of voters who participated in the 2019 School Board elections—ranging from about 850 in the Sterling District to 11,600 for the At Large seat. If one or more recall petitions qualifies for a trial, the organizers must demonstrate the officer engaged in neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance.
Recall efforts in Virginia are rarely successful. Of the 19 such campaigns since 2010, only one resulted in a vote to remove the officer. Most fail to adequately document the required signatures or are dismissed by prosecutors or judges for insufficient evidence. The exception was Portsmouth Mayor James Holley in 2010. Holley, who was accused of using a city assistant for personal tasks, holds the distinction of being the first American politician to be recalled twice.
In Loudoun County, the most recent recall effort to reach the court targeted then-supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, who in 2014 was accused of misusing county resources to support fundraising for his political nonprofit. After a petition achieved the required number of signatures, the case was referred to a special prosecutor who convened a grand jury. The prosecutor ultimately requested the case dismissed because of the lack of clear and convincing evidence. Delgaudio sought reelection the following year, but was defeated.