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Petition Filed Seeking Barts Removal from School Board

Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, addresses a crowd at the County Government Center announcing the filing of a recall petition for School Board member Beth Barts (Leesburg).

Fight for Schools, the group leading the charge in the efforts to remove Loudoun County School Board members, filed a petition in Circuit Court today to recall Beth Barts (Leesburg). The group said its submission includes1,860 signatures from Leesburg residents.

Barts was one of several School Board members involved in a private Facebook group that sparked controversy when some members sought to compile a listof Loudouners who seemed to oppose the school district’s racial equity work. Fight for Schools formed in response to that Facebook group and concerns that Critical Race Theory influences the school district’s teacher training and curriculum. In March, the School Board voted 7-0-1 to censure Barts and strip her of her committee assignments, citing her behavior on social media beginning in June 2020 through February 2021.

The group also is collecting signatures on petitions to remove other School Board members, except for John Beatty (Catoctin) and Jeff Morse (Dulles). The petition for Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) has more than the number of signatures needed, but has not yet been filed, the group stated.

Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, described Barts’ behavior as “so far beyond the pale of anything that is acceptable for an elected official in this country.”

In the 24-page filing, Prior alleges that a School Board member discussing public matters in a private Facebook group is a violation of rules governing conduct of elected officials.

The uproar surrounding the group and the ensuing culture war among parents came with national conservative media attention, and Loudoun County has been the focal point of conversations surrounding Critical Race Theory in schools. Superintendent Scott Ziegler has clarified that CRT is not being taught to students, and presented findings from an investigation conducted by the Equity Collaborative that show systemic racism exists in schools in the district.

The petition also requests the court to recuse Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj from the case, as Biberaj also has been identified as a member of the Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County Facebook group. Biberaj is facing a similar recall effort introduced by the conservative group, StandUp Virginia, for her office’s alleged mishandling of criminal cases in the county.

Charlie King, Barts’ attorney, said he is confident that the petition will be dismissed.

“We are about to start Loudoun’s version of the Scopes Monkey Trial, except the issue today is critical race theory, not evolution,” said King. He referred to a 1925 case in which a teacher was accused of breaking a Tennessee law outlawing teaching about evolution.

King said he will ask for a court date as soon possible, and expects local judges and Biberaj to recuse themselves from the case.

In neighboring Fairfax County, a similar petition to remove School Board member Elaine Tholen was dismissed last week.

To remove an elected official, a petition must have a signature county equal to 10% of the votes cast in the previous election for that office. The petition is then reviewed by a judge, and, if accepted, the Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes the case.