In response to his removal last week from the Loudoun County School Board’s Equity and Discipline committees, John Beatty (Catoctin District) gave a follow-up statement during the board’s virtual meeting Tuesday evening.
The action against Beatty was the result of months of controversy after he reportedly made the following statement during a School Board equity training session in February: “It was worse for African Americans after reconstruction because they did not have the patronage of a master.”
Beatty began his statement Tuesday by saying he has “been under attack since February by activists unconcerned with the truth and only looking to score political points,” adding his critics “continued in their blind partisanship” even after he met with them one-on-one.
“Do we want to further tear apart our collective dialogue by allowing baseless lies to poison our community?” he continued. “Like a game of telephone, this lie has become distorted with each passing day, warped to represent the worst. Each accusation carries the flimsiest logic and is riddled with bad-faith assumptions.”
Critics of Beatty’s reported February statement include Wande Oshode and Katrece Nolen, two members of the division’s Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee, or MSAAC.
Public figures and racial justice advocates have also criticized Beatty’s comments over the last few months, including current NAACP President Michelle Thomas and former President Phillip Thompson, the latter saying during a peaceful protest Sunday in Purcellville that Beatty has “got to go.”
“We won’t accept racism, and we won’t accept the status quo,” Thomas said during the public comment section of last week’s School Board meeting. “Mr. Beatty has proven that he has a lifestyle of racism and white supremacist ideology.”
LCPS Equity Committee members voted in favor of recommending Beatty’s removal from both committees on March 5, but when that recommendation was brought before the School Board on May 19, Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) objected to the consideration of the item, earning an affirmative vote of 8-1, with Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) as the only opponent.
“The board knew the truth, and they supported me. They were able to look beyond simple, ugly partisanship,” Beatty continued Tuesday. “So now it’s time for me to do my part. I’m going to double down against racism. I’m going to double down that I abhor slavery and its ugly legacy. It’s time to stop and reset. This acrimony and negativity is hurting our children, who are our ultimate responsibility.”
Beatty ended his statement by speaking directly to his detractors: “As for the people who started and spread these lies, I just want you to know that I forgive you and I pray for you each and every day. Thank you.”
Shortly after Beatty’s statement, Serotkin acknowledged and apologized for the “significant mistrust, anger and harm” his successful motion to object at the May 19 meeting caused in the following weeks.
“I did so primarily because I believed, and still do, that the School Board as a whole didn’t have the authority to take action on the recommendation,” he said. “[LCPS policy] gives the power of committee assignments exclusively to the board chair, and it’s with that authority that Chair Sheridan chose to remove Mr. Beatty from two of his committee assignments last week.”
Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Beth Barts (Leesburg District), who represents several of the same schools as Beatty, seemingly criticized the lack of remorse in his statement.
“I had hoped tonight that the families at our schools would hear his words of regret for his comments that were hurtful to a lot of our families,” Barts said. “Unfortunately, that is not what was said tonight, so I’m going to share his words as quoted in the media with our school families, so that they hear these words from their representative.”
She then read a portion Beatty’s response to a Times-Mirror request for comment on Feb. 26: “I deeply regret that a comment I made was construed as suggesting that I support slavery. I do not! I abhor slavery and all the injustices that have occurred since then.”
“I think it’s very important that our families hear those words, and I trust that, going forward, sharing our schools, that we can work together to make sure all our children get the best educational experiences possible,” Barts concluded.
Sheridan offered the meeting’s final comments, saying she plans to make new appointments to the Equity Committee in the next week, and addressing community “dissatisfaction and unrest” in response to the board’s dealings with Beatty over the last few weeks in particular.
“I usually end the conversations with frustrated members of the community by quoting Maya Angelou, and that’s what I’m going to do now. ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,’” Sheridan said.
The School Board also issued a written statement condemning racism Tuesday night, which all board members signed.
Tuesday’s Loudoun County School Board meeting is available to view in full at vimeo.com/427396614.