Loudoun County School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) announced Tuesday night her removal of John Beatty (Catoctin District) from his role as chairman of the board’s Discipline Committee and from his membership on the Equity Committee, effective immediately.
Beatty became the focus of public controversy in February after reportedly making the following statement during a School Board equity training session: “It was worse for African Americans after reconstruction because they did not have the patronage of the master.”
At the Feb. 25 board meeting, several community members came forward to condemn Beatty’s reported statement. Wande Oshode, who chairs the Leadership Committee of the LCSB Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee, deemed his words “inexcusable” and called for his removal from the Equity and Discipline committees and that he leave the board altogether.
Katrice Nolen, who chairs MSAAC’s executive board, opined Beatty “lacks empathy and shows no respect for the African American community" and asked he participate in a "restorative practice circle," though she did not call for his resignation.
Beatty responded to the Times-Mirror’s request for comment Feb. 26 in an email, saying he “deeply [regretted] that a comment I made was construed as suggesting that I support slavery.”
"In reading the quote out of context, I agree that it is offensive. However, the point I was making was not, as I was speaking to the issue of being deliberate and thoughtful before taking any actions,” he added.
Community discussion of Beatty’s remarks continued for several weeks. Some firmly argued that Beatty “is not a racist,” while others — even some who did not necessarily deem Beatty’s remarks as explicitly racist in nature — called his remarks “worrisome.”
During the March 5 meeting of the Equity Committee, members voted in favor of recommending Beatty’s removal from both committees to the School Board. Beatty, Sheridan — who chairs the Equity Committee and is a member of the Discipline Committee — and Leslee King (Broad Run District) abstained from both votes taken.
The recommended actions were added to the information agenda of the board’s May 12 meeting, but discussion was postponed to May 19 due to time constraints. However, when the board arrived at the item during that meeting, Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) objected to the consideration of the item. The board affirmed that objection in an 8-1 vote, with Sheridan as the only one opposed.
“I did not vote in favor of objecting to the consideration of this item, not because I support removing Mr. Beatty from the Equity Committee or as chair of the Discipline Committee, but rather, as the chair of the Equity Committee, I feel it’s my responsibility to speak on behalf of the committee and bring its recommendations forward,” Sheridan said during her closing remarks at that meeting.
“The work we do, the difficult conversations we’ve had and will continue … we will find ways to address our priorities and we will move forward together,” she added, speaking directly to members of the Equity Committee. “I am confident that we as a committee can bring forward recommendations that the School Board can support.”
However, a number of community members criticized the board’s dismissal of the information item regarding Beatty during the virtual public comment sections of following meetings. Speakers included LCPS parents, members of MSAAC and local equality advocates, including Loudoun County NAACP President Michelle Thomas, who on Tuesday called for Beatty to resign and for Serotkin to be censured.
“We won’t accept racism, and we won’t accept the status quo,” Thomas said. “Mr. Beatty has proven that he has a lifestyle of racism and white supremacist ideology.”
At the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting, Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District) and Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District) issued apologies for their approval of Serotkin’s motion to object two weeks prior.
“It’s become clear to me from the many conversations that I’ve had over the recent few weeks that the way that we handled the requests from MSAAC and the Equity Committee have caused more pain to the community, including our own staff,” Reaser said.
“I sincerely believe in the work of the … Equity Committee. It’s made for a purpose, to address a number of systematic issues that we as [LCPS] have, and that needs to be continued for us,” Mahedavi added. “Not listening to the motion on [May 19] was poor judgment on my part.”
Sheridan briefly announced the action against Beatty after the board adjourned a roughly two-and-a-half-hour closed session Tuesday evening.
“I will work with board members to make changes to committee assignments as necessary,” Sheridan concluded before adjourning the evening’s virtual assembly altogether.
The actions come amid nationwide upheaval following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last week.
LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams released a statement Monday condemning racism and race-related violence.