As school boards around the state add LGBTQ people to their list of protected classes in schools and employment, one NOVA county is dragging its feet despite public support.
Last night’s public Loudoun County School Board meeting played host to public comment on the issue of making sure kids and teachers couldn’t be harassed or fired because of who they love or their gender identity. The issue had been stalled after board members were concerned over their legal authority to add the policy.
Since that opinion was released, Fairfax, Arlington and Albemarle County School Districts have added LGBTQ to their nondiscrimination policies while the cities of Alexandria, Charlottesville, Richmond and Virginia Beach have also added measures offer some kind of expanded protections.
Equality Virginia has reported as much as 25% of Virginia’s LGBTQ students and educators are protected thanks to the local policies.
But concerns exist – the conservative AG Ken Cuccinelli, Herrings predecessor, released a similar opinion during his tenure saying schools could not protect LGBTQ students and teachers because of the state’s Dillon rule which limits powers given to localities based on those provided by the General Assembly. Because Virginia doesn’t offer protections for LGBTQs in state law, opponents, like Del. Bob Marshall have worked to fight counties that have followed Herring’s advice and expanded protections.
Still, at last night’s Loudoun County School Board meeting, there was overwhelming support from the public to make the county more inclusive.
Holly Patterson, the mother of a trans child, was among the 26 people who spoke in support of the issue according to the Loudoun Tribune.
“My son is a survivor of your lack of policy. He survived a suicide attempt because your policy was not there for all students,” Patterson reportedly told the Board. “We had to leave our home and move across the county to find an administration that would support him. We are the founders of Loudoun Teen Pride … We are helping more 70 families with LGBTQ students survive your lack of policy.”
Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) was among those who spoke against the policy. He, along side Del. Marshall, authored a bill during the 2016 GA which would specifically deny school boards the ability to add LGBTQ protections.
At last night’s meeting LaRock said such policies would endanger female student’s privacy as well as be unconstitutional because of Virginia’s status a Dillon rule state.
After public comment, Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) moved to table the policy until further legal council had been sought. The boards legal council was reportedly on leave and had missed the last two meetings where LGBTQ protections were brought up.
“We are fulfilling the rule because we are reviewing the policy and technically we’ve already reviewed it,” he said. “We’re looking at now either to adopt changes but there’s no rush to do it and I think we need to make sure we do it right.”
The board voted unanimously to table the issue again, though no date to readdress the issue was mentioned.