January 25, 2017
Written by Hilary Hultman-Lee
Safe Space blog contributor
At the November 2016 meeting of the Loudoun County School Board, Sterling, Va. representative Brenda Sheridan proposed a change to School Board Policy 7012 that would include language protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The board voted to delay their decision until the January meeting. Since that time, the issue has been debated very publicly on the Loudoun Times-Mirror opinion pages, including a contentious piece by Del. Dave LaRock (R-33rd), whose district covers much of the western part of the county.
When the Loudoun County School Board sat earlier this month, they heard arguments on both sides of the issue from numerous members of the community, including several LCPS employees. Several opponents expressed their religious views on the issue. Others asserted that the board had no legal right to add language of this sort (despite Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s direct instruction to the contrary). Will Estrada, chair of the Loudoun County Republican Committee, raised the specter of lawsuit, advising the board to “punt” on the decision until the Virginia Supreme Court rules in a discrimination suit against Fairfax County Public Schools. Noah Black, a recent alumnus of Potomac Falls High School, described Estrada’s argument as “abhorrent”, insofar as it elevates the possibility of legal fees over the rights, mental health, and safety of students and staff.
Despite the support of Herring and the ACLU of Virginia, the proposed language failed to carry in a 4-5 decision. However, the board did vote unanimously to include language proposed by Ashburn representative Eric Hornberger that the Loudoun County School Board values “the diversity of the students and border community it serves and encourages diversity within the workforce.”