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Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
March 26, 2024 - 4 minutes
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Opinion

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.

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
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