A superintendent-commissioned report on issues dealing with race and racism in Loudoun County Public Schools found students complaining about frequent use of the N-word and teachers lacking racial literacy.
Earlier this year, LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams announced that he had hired national consulting firm The Equity Collaborative to draft a systemic assessment of racial equity within the school system.
The 23-page draft report was presented to the LCPS School Board's Ad Hoc Committee on Equity over the summer. After conducting a number of interviews and focus groups with students, faculty, staff and parents at 24 Loudoun County schools, authors of the report observed, "Despite efforts from the division, school site staff, specifically principals and teachers, indicate a low level of racial consciousness and racial literacy."
Though educator groups expressed "a desire to recruit and hire diverse school staff that reflect student racial and language backgrounds," the report states, policies and practices within LCPS regarding discipline "disproportionately negatively impact students of color, particularly Black/African-American students."
Members of student focus groups were quoted reporting numerous instances when English-learning students, African Americans, Latinx and Muslim students encountered racial insults or slurs during school hours. All quotes from students were kept anonymous.
"The N-word gets used ALL the time here," one student said of their school.
"One of my teachers told me to go back to my country. I was in shock. I was born here," another shared.
The report states students that experience racial incidents rarely tell their parents about them and trust only a few school-based personnel with concerns regarding race.
"This draft report serves as a call for additional action," Williams wrote to the Ad Hoc Committee on Equity in June. "We must make it clear throughout Loudoun County Public Schools that we reject this painful, racist language that encourages discrimination, hatred, and violence. Addressing these needs and others identified in the report will allow us to better fulfill our mission of empowering all students to make meaningful contributions to the world."
Still, Loudoun NAACP President Michelle Thomas and past president Phillip Thompson said the draft merely confirmed issues that have been evident in LCPS schools for years.
Thompson called for Williams' resignation – something he's consistently done in recent months – saying that the superintendent has let issues within the schools go unchecked too long.
"Dr. Williams needs to go," he said. "New leadership needs to be brought into Loudoun County Public Schools."
Thomas said, "The independent assessment that was done for equity did not reveal anything that the NAACP had not been telling Loudoun County Public Schools for the last two decades.” She added, “While Superintendent Williams wrote a very strong statement that was encouraging, that was forward-thinking and it totally was appropriate, because he had the data to back up such a strong statement, he probably felt a little more comfortable calling out things like white supremacy and talking about the dismantling of systemic racism. That's the language of the NAACP, and now it's being validated and backed up by data."
Thompson, the past president, asked for local government officials to break their silence on the issue.
"I challenge all of them to come out with statements saying something about this, from [U.S. Rep.] Jennifer Wexton down to members of our Leesburg Town Council. They've all been silent. This is unacceptable. It needs to be brought up," he said. "We've brought these issues to LCPS on numerous occasions. I've stood in front of that School Board and explained different things that have gone on. You wouldn't think this kind of crap would go on in 2019, but it's alive and well in Loudoun County Public Schools. It's extremely disheartening."
Thomas said one step the NAACP plans to take is to hold a series of town hall meetings in which members of the public can confront the issue of racial inequity in Loudoun schools. The first such event is planned for November.
In the meantime, Thomas hopes that LCPS will take the necessary measures to "implement the suggestions that they already have in hand," such as updating the curriculum to accurately discuss and portray the experiences of minorities and other misrepresented people groups. She also suggests planning field trips to destinations within the county that aim to educate visitors on the struggles of these people groups, including the Loudoun Freedom Center, which she founded.
"I'm hoping that they would take this seriously and begin to implement solutions and steps to dismantle racism that they've already been given," Thomas said.