Roundup: Fight for Schools Submits Petition to Recall Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts; Other Virginia School Board Updates


Fight for Schools PAC announced Wednesday it has collected 158 percent of the signatures necessary to ask a court to recall Loudoun School Board Member Beth Barts.

“For five months, Loudoun County has been at the center of local, state, national, and even international media attention. Much of this is due to the actions of Beth Barts. She has shown a complete inability to comply with the law, her own code of conduct, and the basic decency that accompanies being an elected official in the United States of America,” Fight for Schools Executive Director Ian Prior said in a press release.

Virginia’s recall law gives judges the power to remove an official after a trial prompted by recall petitions. That trial is prosecuted by Commonwealth’s attorneys, who have broad discretion to decide whether or not they will prosecute the case. In Virginia, the legal reasons for recalls are not focused on policy, but on misconduct and crime. That creates several points where recall petitions usually fail: something can be technically wrong with the petition or its wording, the Commonwealth’s attorney could decide not to prosecute it, or the judge could decide not to remove the official after trial.

Earlier in August, Barts’ lawyer Charlie King told The Virginia Star that successful recalls are rare in Virginia.

“These recall people are going to lose, there’s no way they can win,” he said. “The statute is designed for people that have committed crimes, people that are impaired, that have mental health problems or physical health problems, they stop coming to meetings, they move out of the area, they can’t follow the rules. But simply not following policy, simply being disagreeable, that’s not the statute.”

“We are about to start Loudoun’s version of the Scopes Monkey Trial, except the issue today is critical race theory, not evolution,” King told Loudoun Now on Wednesday.

Fight for Schools already has enough signatures for its petition against Ian Serotkin, and is collecting signatures for petitions against other members.

Other School Board Stories Across Virginia

School boards across Virginia are facing pressure as they make high-stakes decisions, including about a legally-required transgender policy and COVID-19 strategy. Fired-up communities and school board members are clashing in some places. On Monday, the Spotsylvania School Board had a special meeting with one agenda item, “State Health Commissioner’s Order Issued July 27, 2021.” The Free Lance-Star reported that was a document recomending universal masking in schools.

Not on the agenda was public comment, and some board members tried to amend the agenda to include it, leading to a three-way back and forth between board members who wanted to allow public comment, board members who didn’t, and the public. After a five-minute recess, the board voted down the change, and the meeting erupted again. The board went into another recess and ended the meeting. Video of the whole meeting on the Spotsylvania School Board website is only thirteen minutes and six seconds long. On Tuesday, county residents spoke at the county Board of Supervisors meeting, with some supervisors criticizing the school board, according to The Free-Lance Star.

The Rockingham County School Board had a similarly short meeting on Tuesday. WHSV reports, “The board approved the meeting’s agenda, held the Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of silence then adjourned.”

The board voted to adjourn after members of the public refuse to wear masks, which officials said were required under a Virginia order requiring everyone to wear masks in schools.

The Fauquier County School Board said they would enforce the Virginia school mask mandate, but required staff to publish information about how to apply for exemptions. Board Chair Donna Grove said that the board needed to make it easy to request an exemption, according to WJLA. In the first week of school, hundreds of students were quarantined because of COVID-19 exposures, according to WUSA9.

On Sunday, the district sent a letter to parents telling them that doctor’s notes are now required for medical exemptions, and religious exemptions require an extra form, according to The Fauquier Times. The letter said that the ability to be in-person, five-days-a-week was in jeopardy due to the high number of COVID-19 cases.

“To keep schools open five days a week, Fauquier County Public Schools will require all students and staff to wear a mask starting Monday, Aug. 23, unless a medical exemption is on file and accompanied by a doctor’s note,” the letter said. “Masks will be provided to students who do not have one or for those who do not have appropriate documentation on file. Daily reviews of data will occur and this current mask requirement will be in effect for the next two weeks at a minimum.”

On Tuesday, the Virginia Beach School Board postponed a vote on transgender policies, due to a requirement that the policy be heard publicly twice before a vote. WTOP reports that technically places the district in violation of the law requiring districts to adopt the policy by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

The Winchester School Board unanimously approved its transgender policies on Tuesday.

“We aspire to be an inclusive community that empowers all students to thrive. All means all. The policy revision last night by the WPS School Board aligns with state law and best practice and our dedicated, professional staff will continue to support our students,” Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum told The Winchester Star.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Beth Barts” by Loudoun County Public Schools. Background “Loudoun County High School” by A.J. Jelonek. CC BY 3.0.




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