Is it possible for reason to prevail?

Report on May 24 School Board meeting

At last night’s School Board meeting, some comments from board members suggest that they are realizing how limited their censorship options are if they want to avoid litigation.

Three speakers appeared (likely at the urging of Supervisor Delgaudio and similar characters), demanding that language be adopted to censor “even a hint” of sexual “nature,” that policy governing extracurricular activities be founded on the County’s abstinence-based Family Life Education principles, and that a committee of parents and “specialists” be formed to advise the board on policy. One speaker informed us that he is “instilling a very rigid sense of values” in his children, and demanded that the schools help him with this project.

Some of these comments were downright offensive, personal attacks, claiming that anyone who opposes this attempt at viewpoint censorship is part of a “fringe group,” isn’t concerned about raising “decent” children, or even doesn’t have children in the public schools; this after the many speakers in support of our students’ First Amendment rights have over and over explicitly identified themselves as parents concerned about the quality of education and their children’s ability to evaluate ideas and become ethical citizens. Not to mention the right of students to reject the offensive idea that they or their families are, by definition, a “prurient topic.”

The need to tell bald-faced lies about one’s opponents, as always, is a red flag indicating the absence of a legitimate argument. Comments from board members politely emphasized that a committee wasn’t something they were interested in, that they were spending a lot of time making sure that what they propose will pass legal muster, not just something that “feels good,” and that their intention is to set “reasonable” guidelines. The word “reasonable” became something of a theme, in fact.

Mainstream Loudoun, a local religious freedom and First Amendment watchdog group, presented a compromise policy that addresses freedom of expression for students, the responsibility of students not to use material that is obscene or libelous, and that relies on process rather than trying to identify content (no definition of content will satisfy everyone, and will inevitably result in legal challenges). This proposed policy includes as its core the educational mission of the schools and Superintendent Hatrick’s suggestion of a protocol for the approval of plays by principals, so it is difficult to see how the School Board could fail to embrace it. It appears to be the very definition of “reasonable.”

Tonight (Wednesday, May 25) the Legislative and Policy Committee will continue their deliberations over policy pertaining to theatrical presentations and other extracurricular activities. There are indications that some members want to change the focus of this meeting to Gay-Straight Alliances, so we will be watching very closely. The public is welcome to attend and observe, but no public comment is permitted at these committee meetings.

We encourage you to continue contacting School Board members with your concerns.

John A. Andrews, Chairman
Thomas E. Reed, At-Large Member
Bob Ohneiser, Broad Run District
Mark J. Nuzzaco, Catoctin District
Robert F. DuPree, Jr., Dulles District
Sarah B. Smith, Leesburg District
J. Warren Geurin, Sterling District
Joseph M. Guzman, Ph.D., Sugarland Run District
Priscilla B. Godfrey, Blue Ridge District

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