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Loudoun County School Board members appear to hate free speech

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora is a contributor for the Washington Examiner, a mother in Fairfax County, Virginia, an author, a member of the Coalition for TJ, and the Fairfax chapter leader of the Independent Women’s Network. This piece originally appeared on Washington Examiner.


The Loudoun County School Board has a concerning parallel to George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in 1984. After voting to turn off the cameras during public comment this week, the district’s school board members are now considering additional measures to further limit and silence dissent during their meetings.

The majority of the school board members would like to teach their beliefs, such as the acceptability of allowing males to use females’ school bathrooms and locker rooms, and suppress parents’ ability to say otherwise. On Thursday, Democratic-endorsed school board member April Chandler outlined more ways they might restrict parental input. Claiming that these ideas have precedent in Virginia, she raised the following for the board’s consideration: allowing only 20 minutes for public comment, requiring that members of the public speak only once on a topic, cutting the microphone if speakers become too emotional, requesting that speakers first take their problems to the superintendent before bringing them to the board, and requiring speakers to submit their comments to the chairwoman, who would then determine if the comments were fit to be made public.

Chandler seems to have much in common with dictators at all levels of government who have preceded her. She clearly does not understand the meaning of the word transparency and has conveniently forgotten that she works for her constituents.

Fellow Democratic-endorsed school board member Anne Donohue supported Chandler’s discussion of additional restrictions on parents’ free speech.

“I do fear that it can at times distract from or derail our work as we try to get through all of our agenda items in a board meeting,” Donohue said.

It’s really too bad when parents and other constituents are obstacles to the omniscient school board members’ agenda. We, the parents, should simply sit back quietly and trust that these elected officials know what’s best for our children — at least, that seems to be the suggestion here.

What Chandler and Donohue also fail to understand is that many of these dictatorial ideas are unconstitutional and violate free speech rights. Chandler did not specify which districts implemented the restrictions to public comment she hopes to emulate, but many of these new rules likely would face legal challenges in Loudoun County.

In 2019, for example, the Houston Independent School District School Board proposed a policy that would require members of the public to submit written comments 48 hours in advance of board meetings in order to speak during the public comment period. This measure did not even include the extra step Chandler would like to take, in which the school board’s chairperson would decide if the constituents had the right to share their thoughts after reviewing their written comments. The new policy faced backlash from community members and advocacy groups who argued that it violated their free speech rights and stifled their ability to discuss problems facing the school district. In the end, the school board decided to allow both written and verbal comments at its meetings.

The impulse to cut the microphone because parents are “too emotional” about matters such as their children’s safety in bathrooms and locker rooms is also concerning. It implies that emotional expression is not valid in public discourse. The father of the girl who was sexually assaulted in a Loudoun County school bathroom, for example, had a right to express himself publicly. It is important for constituents to be allowed to speak up, especially about something as personal as their children’s education and safety, without fear of censorship or retribution.

Someone ought to remind Chandler that she is an elected representative of parents and their students. She does not get to implement her tyrannical ideas and then prevent us from discussing them. And the more Chandler and other elected officials abuse their power to limit free speech rights and suppress dissent, the more public their dysfunction and tyranny will become.

Loudoun County School Board members are fighting against transparency

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora is a contributor for the Washington Examiner, a mother in Fairfax County, Virginia, an author, member of the Coalition for TJ, and the Fairfax chapter leader of the Independent Women’s Network. Suzanne Satterfield, IWN member and Loudoun County Chapter Leader, also contributed to this article.

Originally appeared on Washington Examiner.


Last week, the Loudoun County, Virginia, School Board voted against transparency when members decided to turn off the cameras during public comment. The decision was made along party lines, with the six Democratic-endorsed members voting to turn off the cameras, and the three Republican-endorsed and independent members voting in favor of transparency.

Many Loudoun County parents are speculating that this decision was based on the desire to silence debate. The chairwoman of the Loudoun County School Board, Malinda Mansfield, tried to justify the decision by claiming that the inability to control what members of the public wear and the signs they carry meant that they “could have all sorts of things that we could get in trouble with [the Federal Communications Commission] on.”

When a reporter asked if the FCC had contacted the school district in the last few years, there was no response. Parents in Loudoun County argue that what the board members are actually worried about is the presentation of signs with messages inconvenient to the board’s leftist initiatives, such as those objecting to bathroom use based on gender identity, or others pointing out students’ shockingly low proficiency in reading and math, and another that reads “Stop Funding DEI.”

Loudoun County School Board member Sumera Rashid suggested that turning off the cameras during public comment was to avoid drama and for safety reasons.

“I’m trying to avoid a Jerry Springer show type of episode,” she said. “So, for that reason, I can’t support that the camera be on the speaker, but mainly it’s the safety issue.”

Rashid’s comment is particularly ironic given that the motion to turn off the cameras came following parents’ attendance at the Feb. 27, 2024 meeting to object to males being in female bathrooms. According to Rashid, it seems the real safety issue is video cameras showing parents speaking — and not the sexual assaults that have occurred and are likely to happen again in their children’s school bathrooms under the district policy.

Another school board member, April Chandler, argued that turning on the cameras during public comment “invites and undermines the work of the school board and the transparency of the school board.” Clearly, someone needs to explain to her what transparency means and remind her that she works for her constituents.

It is also laughable that school board members take issue with speakers’ political grandstanding. At the meeting last week, Mansfield said, “I’m not interested in this being a political grandstanding, which has been happening a lot lately.” And yet school board members in Loudoun and Fairfax counties spend a great deal of time offering platitudes for symbolic resolutions. It’s not political grandstanding with which Mansfield and others take issue. These school board members simply do not like when they are not the ones with the microphone.

For that same reason, school board members in Loudoun and Fairfax counties also reduced speaking time during public comment as their priorities increasingly shifted from education to leftist politics. A few years ago, both districts offered speakers three minutes to share their thoughts. The Fairfax County School Board now offers only two minutes, while Loudoun County’s time allotment shifts anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes depending on the meeting and what seems to be the chairwoman’s whims.

In both school districts, the cameras now point to the dais in a widescreen shot rather than at speakers’ faces, likely to deemphasize their arguments. The Fairfax County School Board made an exception to this at a meeting where students involved with Pride Liberation spoke against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R-VA) Model Policies, which include bathroom use based on sex rather than gender. Apparently, some rules are flexible if the school board members agree with the speaker’s argument.

The flip side to that coin is that school board members might suppress testimony if they disagree. The Fairfax County School Board refused to play my video testimony, which contained arguments against shared-sex bathrooms and locker rooms in our district’s schools. After exposing the board’s suppression of my testimony, I resubmitted it, and members were forced to play it at the following meeting.

Indeed, when the camera goes dark during public comment at Loudoun County’s future school board meetings, and likely soon at Fairfax County’s school board meetings as well, given the two dysfunctional districts’ corruption competition, I will think of the slogan of a newspaper the school board members likely read: “Democracy dies in darkness.” And these elected officials are at the front lines willingly killing it.