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Loudoun County School Board member seeks more separation in schools

School Board member Eric DeKenipp has repeatedly railed against what he calls “santuary policies.” Times-Mirror File Photo
Loudoun County School Board member Eric DeKenipp believes Loudoun County Public Schools should do more to separate older adult students from teens in Loudoun County classrooms, an issue he has repeatedly linked to what he calls “sanctuary policies” that pose a homeland security risk.

Following what was initially believed to be a rape of a 14-year-old girl in a Maryland high school bathroom carried out by older students who reportedly enrolled in the school after they arrived in the United States illegally from Central America, regional debate heightened around illegal immigration and whether older adult students have the right to be in the same high school as younger students.

DeKenipp joined the debate and has since become an outspoken opponent of federal policies he says protect students who may not be in the country legally.

The Catoctin District School Board member says he plans to speak with LCPS staff later this month to see how the school system can better serve adult students, particularly those who are English language learners (ELL), in what he called more age-appropriate settings.

He believes having adult students in the same classroom as their younger teen peers is a “recipe for disaster.”

LCPS policy states that anyone who has not reached the age of 20 on or before Aug. 1 of the current school year is eligible for public education.

Although DeKenipp said he thinks all adult students, including those who are U.S. citizens, should not be in the same class as their younger peers, he has continued to tie the issue in with “sanctuary policies.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform describes “sanctuary policies” as “ordinances, resolutions, executive actions or any initiatives that prohibit local officials from inquiring, acting on, or reporting an individual's immigration status—even when there is reasonable suspicion that an individual is in the country illegally.”

In a recent social media post, DeKenipp indicated that doing more to remove adult students from classrooms is the “first of many steps to eradicate sanctuary policy at the local, state and federal levels of government.”

In Maryland, charges against the two students accused in the incident have since been dropped, but DeKenipp said that doesn't change anything.

“What that incident did for us was highlight gaps,” DeKenipp said. “It wasn't the incident in itself. For me what it was is it prompted me to ask questions about what we're doing in Loudoun County … The fact that the charges were dropped, I think, is irrelevant to what I've identified through that research process,” DeKenipp added.

Snapshot of recent Facebook post on sanctuary policies from Catoctin School Board member Eric DeKenipp. Facebook

According to an email DeKenipp provided the Times-Mirror from LCPS Assistant Superintendent Cynthia Ambrose earlier this week, she indicates school officials could be eyeing the Loudoun Academy of Science as a space to put adult ELL students.

“We plan to bring forward recommendations for the space that the Academy of Science is vacating when the on May 23 [sic], and as a part of the discussion this program (Adult ELL Education) is included in the review of division needs,” Ambrose's email reads.

Prior to that, DeKenipp said LCPS was looking primarily at the Douglass School as a potential place for the school system to house more older adult students.

DeKenipp admits he has no data or evidence to suggest there have been more disciplinary actions taken against adult students, but he said that doesn't matter and he doesn't want to wait for an incident like the one in Maryland to happen in Loudoun.

“Frankly, I don’t need data to know that 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds don’t belong in a classroom with 13- and 14-year-olds,” DeKenipp said. “I don’t want to wait to find out that one of the 20-year-old students is having a romantic relationship with a 13-year-old. I don’t want to wait for a situation like Rockville to occur … I don’t want data to show these things.”

The School Board member's call for more oversight of adult ELL students comes as LCPS recently approved in its budget the flexibility to hire 39 more full-time ELL staff at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

According to data from the Virginia Department of Education, of the 1,225 students who were involved in misconduct incidents that occurred in the 2014 to 2015 school year, LCPS says 35 adult ELL students were suspended for a number of misconduct incidents.

In the 2015 to 2016 school year, out of the 1,287 students involved in misconduct incidents, LCPS says 35 adult ELL students were also suspended for similar incidents.

DeKenipp has also been critical of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records if the school receives funds from the U.S. Department of Education. He said the policy prevents school divisions from disclosing or collecting citizenship or visa status information on prospective students.

Homeland security risk?

DeKenipp said he and state Sen. Dick Black (R-13th) recently sent a letter to the secretary of Homeland Security to express concerns about the “homeland security risk” FERPA poses.

“We give these terrorists ideas and they realize the security gap we have, they’re going to take advantage of it,” DeKenipp said. “Radicalized terrorists come here that’s 18, 19, or 20-years-old, they can simply register for school and not only are we going to provide them with a free education, but we’re going to provide them protection from federal officials; That’s a huge gap and something that I hope the secretary of Homeland Security will look into.”

In March the School Board swiftly rejected a motion brought forth by DeKenipp requesting the board work with LCPS staff to understand the school system’s current enrollment process for “new undocumented students.”

Loudoun’s Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC) has previously said it was “vehemently opposed” to similar remarks DeKenipp has previously made about FERPA and sanctuary policies.

MSAAC said DeKenipp’s comments “perpetuate an exclusive culture in Loudoun County, subjecting all students to an environment that is further racially charged, unsafe, and in opposition of an inclusive, supportive, and encouraging learning environment.”

When asked if the school system agreed with DeKenipp’s sentiment on sanctuary policies and FERPA as a homeland security risk, LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams did not respond.

But LCPS spokesman Wayde Byard said in an emailed statement: “School Board members are elected officials, and their social media accounts are their own.”

Meanwhile, DeKenipp’s social media followers have had mixed reactions to his continuous posts on sanctuary policies and adult students.

Some have praised him for his interest in the issue, while others have criticized him for what they called an “anti-Latino stance."

“Excellent questions, Mr DeKenipp!” Valentina Humphrey wrote in April in response to DeKenipp’s Facebook post updating his constituents about the progress he had made in eradicating sanctuary policies. “Children should be taking classes with peers their own age, not with adults. It's about providing a safe, healthy environment for children to focus on their education.”

Others disagreed with DeKenipp’s line of questioning.

“And what does this have to do with 'sanctuary policy?'” Hilary Hultman-Lee wrote in response to the same post in April. “Although, of course, we're all aware of your anti-Latino stance.”


It is amazing how the LTM allows Lawman to spew his hate for white people on an almost daily basis.

Hispanic is not a race. Stop with the racist talk.  You just call everyone that because you are angry

Ditto BobOEsq’s remarks.

Loco-not sure if you are saying there are 1,000 older students in the system or not?  That number seems incredibly high but you might not be claiming it.  The schools I know about personally do not have a problem.  DeKnipp and the others here are inventing an issue that does not exist.  So much trouble for a few dozen students out of all the high schools.  Not to mention that they are in school because they want to be there and to learn.  They are not camping out waiting to prey on the other students.

So if I understand this, the school board and the exact same ones that dismissed the Dominion High school Principal due to a letter of recommendation? But this takes less precedence? I personally do not think so!! These people that are of age 19 or 20 sitting in a class with 9 and 10 graders need to go!!

Relax Eric, white people are going to be the minority at some point in the near future.  So it may not be a good deal to piss off the soon to be majority because they might not take the white people’s lead and be so nice and courteous and kind to the white minority as white people have been to the Native Americans, African Americans Latino Americans and Asian Americans throughout the history of this country.

If Mr. Deknipp kept his issue and commentary strictly to an age-related item, I would agree w/ greater rules about their interactions with much younger children (that’s common sense actually, but it’s understood, state dictated mandates are not centered in common sense). But he has used this topic as a means of front-and-centering his political views on immigration, thus diluting his salient argument and imploding the topic.

The immigration topic is FAR beyond what we ask of, and elect for, our local school district members to be responsible for. Leave immigration to the proper authorities. Let schools be a “sanctuary” for peace and learning.

Dante—I believe 200 “kids” came here through the Obama DACA program initially in 2014, and a few hundred more have come here since.  I believe it might be about 1,000—Fairfax County has 4,000.  How many are “adult age,” only the Schools would know.  I think 1,000 is a lot.

1 Shame on the paper for not using the official LCPS school board photo
2 Shame on everyone who stopped believing that ALL LCPS employees inside a school are responsible for ALL THE STUDENTS attending that school
3 Shame on LCPS management for not instituting a reasonable input feature so all of the community especially parents can affect the performance evaluation of employees of LCPS
4 Shame on LCPS management for not adjusting the mechanism for paying teachers so the best can earn more and the less than that can leave instead of continuing with a longevity focus based salary schedule which also ignores it is a 180 day pay period minus vacation, sick leave and snow days. How about publishing what the pay is per hour in the school including pension contribution and benefit subsidies.
Bob O__ Esq.

OK, so aside from the fact that LTM published a picture of DeKnipp that makes him look like Ray Liotta about to break into your home, let me ask everyone out there this question:

Do you want your 14-year old daughter sitting in a classroom or the cafeteria or school library next to a 19-year old guy, no matter who he is under any circumstances?  No issue of race here…ANY 19-year old guy?  This is excepting of course special needs kids who may be in the school beyond 18 years old for additional training?

I didn’t think so…you can dress this up as a discrimination or race issue, but it’s really an issue of not placing adults in unguarded, close proximity with children, which is something that almost every parent would agree with.

from Sterling Local: “because we have just as many adult illegal aliens posing as teenagers in our high schools as Montgomery County”

Do you have any facts to back this up?  How many adult illegal aliens are in our county and how many are posing as teenagers?  You made the statement so we can only assume you have facts.

what are they?  OR are you simply wrong?

“Is this really a big problem in our schools?”

Great question.  The school board should do an analysis and find out.  Problem is, they know the answer and don’t want it public.

Is this really a big problem in our schools? How many over-age illegal immigrants are posing as younger students to attend our schools? Surely there are more pressing matters for our school board to be addressing rather than taking a political stance on US immigration policies under the guise of student safety.


“If you don’t think like me, then you’re stupid.” The amount of fact-less assumptions about “falsified documents” and the intentions of people you’ve never met is abhorrent. The LTM mods should do a better job at filtering out bigots.

Things I know about Eric DeKnipp:
He proudly displays a photo of himself w Donald Trump on social media.
He and Dick Black are of like minds.
He doesn’t like data.
He thinks a peaceful protest outside a school is an unacceptable distraction, but a gaggle of politicians and lobbyists staging a photo op INSIDE the school is not.

So LTM finds the worst, most out dated picture of DeKenpp and tries to vilanize him.  If he is a racist, 99% of Loudoun County is too but most pretend to be these liberal folk until it is their kid.  Bottom line is this.  He is not talking about The Sped population or the regular ELL population.  He is specifically referring to the undocumented illegal ADULTS that most likely were brought here because they were found at the border and placed with a family member.  They most likely have no desire to get an education in the US but rather came here to make money to send to their families across the border! I know for a fact that zero if any of these almost 18 year olds or older actually stay in school until they are 22.  So why do we pretend that we are going them a favor by allowing them to sit in freshman classrooms with 13-14 year old kids, with little or no ELL services?  A racist Mr. Dekenpp is not- a realist,  yes and it is about time a local official steps up and brings it to light!

stated reason for concern in march was unsubstantiated claim later dismissed by prosecutors in may, yet results in a letter about radicalized terrorism?  bizarre

I agree that adults should not be placed in the 9th grade. It’s absurd. I hope Mr. DeKenipp continues to keep up the hard work for our children.
On another note…Why did the Loudoun Times choose to use such a menacing picture of Mr. DeKenipp??

Recent arrivals who were hustling on the streets of El Salvador 6 months ago but are now here somehow do not belong in the same class room as our young teenage daughters. Deknipp seems to be the only one who recognizes that we need to get ahead of this problem now because we have just as many adult illegal aliens posing as teenagers in our high schools as Montgomery County. If you think otherwise your either too liberal for your own good , or your living in a gated community.

DeKnipp had a good point up until he started politicising the immigration status of these adult learners. I’m on board with specialized learning settings to help enrich these adult learners no matter their immigration status. Local municipalities and states should not be performing the job of the federal government. Let’s not throw good money after bad with a solution in search of a problem.

Some of these “students” are really in their early 20s but lied about their age to get in.  Some have no interest being in school and just want to work and send money to their families.  Money under the table, no doubt.  Finally, someone in elected office has the guts to stand up for what is just common sense.

ChocolateDinosaur-  interested in what other “racist” history you are referring too.  I guess I am racist too then if I also believe that ADULT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS( with falsified documents)who come into our schools, who are placed in 9th grade classes (as holding spots -usually until they turn 18) belong in a different ADULT facility for ELL Students that are better prepared to assist these adults with their education ( should that really be what they are seeking).  From what I know,  MOST if not ALL of these almost 18 year olds-20 year olds who enroll in our public school system do so because they CAN and then once they turn 18 or find work ( because the reality is, that is why they come here illegally- to make money to send home to their relatives, that is) the public schools never see them again.  If we really wanted to HELP these Illegal ADULT immigrants, we would really HELP them by providing them with an ADULT learning center FULLY EQUIPPED WITH ELL STAFF to best help them actually complete their education should they so desire.  Guess I am a racist too….

I do not think DeKnipp is a racist. This is only common sense.  Why should these adults be in our schools?  Are they working?  Are they paying County and State Taxes?  Please do not tell me that we the “TAX PAYERS” are paying for them to sit in a class room and never Graduate?

If the adult students are only there for ELL and not the complete HS curriculum then it’s reasonable to shove them all together in an environment that caters solely to what they’re trying to learn. Let’s not get this wrong though, DeKnipp sounds about as racist as a person can be if you look at his history on this and similar topics.

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