The Loudoun County Democratic Committee called the recent filings of removal petitions against School Board members “a national Republican effort to usurp democratic elections,” in a statement released on Saturday.
Petitions were filed toremoveChairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) on Nov. 9, and Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian) last Thursday.The group Fight for Schools drafted the petitions and solicited for signatures during a removal campaign over the past several months. The campaign spurred attention from Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, who teamed up with Fight for Schools Executive Director Ian Prior for speaking engagements several times on the campaign trail. Several polls cited education as aprominent motivator for voters throughout the commonwealth.
“Due to this campaign of lies, school board members have faced violent threats and harassment, culminating in the resignation of one board member already. Such efforts run in direct opposition to the voters and values of Loudoun County,” the LCDC statement said.
Former board member Beth Barts (Leesburg), who resigned on Nov. 2 citing a fear for her family’s safety, had been the focal point of the Fight for Schools effort. The petition to remove Barts was filed in Circuit Court in August. Judge Jeannette A. Irby granted Fight for Schools several motions, and disqualified Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj from prosecuting the case. Biberaj is facing a similar removal effort spurred by a conservative movement to remove progressive prosecutors in Northern Virginia. Prior is also involved in that effort.
School Board members came under fire in March 2020 fortheir involvement in a private Facebook group, which critics contend violates open-meetings guidelines for elected officials.Fight for Schools formed in response to that group, and gained traction as the school district’s progressive social policies came under fire from critics.
A sexual assault scandal in Loudoun schools again placed the district in national media headlines. Barts was regularly featured on Fox News and conservative blogs, and she said many of the threats to her children came from people who live outside of the country.
Fight for Schools redrafted its removal petitions when news of the sexual assault scandal surfaced; The new petitions allege that board members should be removed because after a student sexually assaulted a schoolmate in May, he was transferred to Broad Run where he assaulted a second student in October. Theremoval petition against Reaser gathered over 1,800 signatures in just 13 days, organizers said.
“Chair Sheridan and Vice Chair Reaser received a clear mandate from the citizens of Loudoun County with their electoral victories two years ago,” said LCDC Chairwoman Lissa Savaglio. “These recall petitions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. We expect these efforts to fail.”
The case against Sheridan is scheduled for a court hearing Tuesday morning in Loudoun County Circuit Court.
This article was updated Nov. 23 at 12:25 p.m. to correct a typo.