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Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
March 22, 2024 - 5 minutes
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Opinion

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.

Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
Stephanie Lundquist-Arora
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