Parents suing Loudon County Public Schools say the district’s policies violate their students’ right to free speech and equal treatment. In court documents, the school district said such claims were not founded.
A federal judge heard oral arguments Wednesday morning in the case. At issue is whether the Virginia school district created a discriminatory “bias reporting system” based on its plan to combat racism, create a student equity ambassador program and other efforts. Parents argue the school policies chilled student speech.
In June 2020, Loudoun County Public Schools revealed an “Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism” that included the equity ambassador program and encouraged students to report bias incidents to teachers and administrators through a form, according to a court document filed on the parent’s behalf.
“Loudoun County parents are defending their children’s free speech rights after Loudoun County Public Schools enforced a discriminatory and unconstitutional bias reporting system,” Emily Rae, senior counsel for Liberty Justice Center, told Chalkboard News.
The Liberty Justice Center is representing the parents and their children in the case against the school district.
“Not only did LCPS regulate what students could and could not say, but they imposed controversial political views on their students while aiming to punish those who did not agree,” Rae continued. “This is extreme and divisive. These school leaders must be held accountable and Loudoun County families deserve better.”
The school district declined to comment on pending litigation, but argued in court documents that the school does not have a bias system and stopped using a bias incident reporting form in 2021.
The school also argued that even if there was a bias system, the students and parents would not have standing because “the School Board never took any action — much less unconstitutional action — against Plaintiffs or any other student through a ‘Bias System.’”
The school district also argued that students could not show from the evidence provided that there was a bias system or that one currently exists within the school system.
The parents suing the school district are Patti Hidalgo Menders and Scott Mineo. Both are residents of Loudon County and had children in high school as of 2021, according to court documents.
Many school districts across the country have passed equity policies in recent years, with departments dedicated to closing achievement gaps and discipline disparities, but the guidelines have also faced criticism from opponents who say the language is divisive in states like Georgia where the state’s teacher training commission said it would no longer use words like “equity” in favor of words that promote fairness.