The Virginia Senate defeated Governor Glenn Youngkin’s effort to require the entire Loudoun County School Board to run for re-election this year. Youngkin had amended Delegate David Reid’s (D-Loudoun) HB 1138, originally created to facilitate beginning a staggered election cycle for the various seats on the board. Earlier in April, Youngkin amended that bill, after broad Republican outrage over the district administration’s handling of sexual assaults and school equity initiatives.
In a debate during Wednesday’s veto session, Reid warned about the precedent set by allowing the governor to shorten elected officials’ terms.
“Imagine if, a couple of years from now, there is a Democratic governor with a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate, and there’s a piece of legislation that comes through that then actually says something about elections, and we decide that we’re going to change that so that maybe the entire board of supervisors in Hanover County is going to have to run on a shortened term. Or maybe there’s a sheriff somewhere that is having challenges,” Reid said.
“This could create complete chaos after every election,” he said.
The Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed the amendment, but the Senate rejected the amendment, with Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) joining Democrats against the amendment.
State Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) is representing the family of a student who was the victim of a sexual assault at the district. He told the Senate that the superintendent and the school board covered up the assaults and characterized the victim’s father as a domestic terrorist.
“Quite frankly, this will not undermine the electorate in Loudoun County. There has been an awakening of parents to be involved where the school board says they can’t, or should not be,” he said.
“I think it is well and good for democracy and local representation to have these amendments occur so that we can get very competent people that love their community, their public schools, their fellow citizens, to go in there with an open mind and open heart,” Stanley said.
Later in the debate involving several senators from both sides, Suetterlein said he hopes the LCSB is overwhelmingly replaced in 2023. But he said, “I think once it enters the realm of we oppose these folks so much that we are going to shorten the term, we have fundamentally changed our system that we have.”
After the amendment was defeated, organization Loudoun4All praised the Senate’s rejection of “Youngkin’s attempt to usurp democracy.”
“The Governor had tried, and now failed, to use his executive power to interfere in Loudoun elections, something which constituted a clear attack on democracy,” the organization said in a press release.
“While far-right groups continue to lose elections in Loudoun and try to overturn election results by frivolous lawsuits, abuse of the recall process, smear campaigns based on lies, and Executive overreach, Loudoun4all continues to believe that policy differences should be resolved by free and fair elections and will continue to do so,” the press release concluded.
Fight for Schools PAC has been working to recall LCSB members. In a press release, Fight for Schools Director Ian Prior said, “For the past two years, the Loudoun County School Board has demonstrated utter disdain for parents, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law.”
He said Loudoun County parents would not forget the Senate’s vote.
“Rather than give parents the opportunity to consider these issues and decide whether this school board represents the best direction for Loudoun County Public Schools, House and Senate Democrats chose to side with the most notorious school division in the country and roll the dice on the ‘competence’ of Superintendent Scott Ziegler and the school board, as well as the results of an active special grand jury investigation,” Prior said in the release.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Loudoun Schools” by Loudoun County Schools.