The Loudoun County School Board voted unanimously to prematurely end the public comment portion of its Tuesday meeting after a capacity crowd descended into shouting and after numerous requests that attendees remain silent were not heeded.
School Board Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District) made the motion to curtail public comment a little over an hour after the public comment began. Leslee King (Broad Run District) seconded the motion.
Loudoun County Sheriff's Office deputies cleared the boardroom after the vote. The meeting reconvened around 6:30 p.m., nearly an hour after the vote.
The vote came after remarks by former Virginia State Senator Dick Black (R-13th), elicited loud cheers and applause from many in the crowd.
Black, of Ashburn, lambasted the board for its treatment of Byron "Tanner" Cross, a Leesburg Elementary School teacher who was placed on administrative leave last month after offering public comment at the May 25 board meeting.
"If his comments were not protected speech, then free speech does not exist at all," Black said.
Cross told the board that he would not recognize students' preferred gender pronouns or names if they choose to not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. He based his comments on a draft policy that, if passed in its current form, would mandate such recognition by school employees.
"It's absurd and immoral for teachers to call boys girls, and girls boys," Black said. He also accused LCPS of "teaching children to hate others because of their skin color" by adopting critical race theory in its curriculum, an allegation LCPS has repeatedly denied.
Some attendees responded with boos, jeers and obscene gestures after the board's nine members voted in favor of Reaser's motion to end public comment.
The rapturous response to Black's comments was not the first to warrant a reprimand from the School Board on Tuesday. About 10 minutes of public comment had transpired when the crowd attempted to drown out commenter Kellie Herring, leading School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) to trigger a roughly 10-minute recess.
Herring, who said her transgender son attends LCPS, said, "hate … seems to be dripping off the followers of Jesus in [the] room." Angry cries arose from attendees, as well as calls to eject Herring from the meeting.
Only 51 of the 249 speakers who had signed up for public comment ended up speaking before Reaser's motion was passed.
This is a Times-Mirror news alert. Check LoudounTimes.com for updates.