By Matthew Vadum
Loudoun County, Virginia, has become “ground zero” in the fight against critical race theory-based indoctrination in schools nationwide, according to the co-founder of a parents’ group taking on the local education establishment.
Critical race theory (CRT) must be uprooted because it “seeks to view everything through the lens of race and believes all institutions, traditions, language, and history of this country are systemically racist,” said Ian Prior, a parent who helped to found and is executive director of Fight for Schools, which is registered in Virginia as a political action committee.
Prior was principal deputy director of public affairs at the Justice Department in the Trump administration. He is now CEO of his own political consulting firm, Headwaters Media, and co-founder of the website The Daily Malarkey.
CRT proponents believe the nation’s supposedly racist nature can only be remedied by “viewing everything through the lens of race and discriminating in order to end what they believe is systemic racism,” he told The Epoch Times in an interview.
“And it ignores the individual in favor of identity groups, which means it is harmful to people of all races that believe in the concepts of Western liberalism, meritocracy, and equal opportunity for all.”
But Loudoun County, Prior said, is “ground zero in a movement by parents to retake control over what happens in the schools that they drop their kids off to every day.”
This is happening “primarily because of distance learning where we’ve received tips from hundreds of parents, walking by, during a class that they hear online and saying, ‘what is that?’ Or a screenshot or something where they’re able to observe it, where they normally would not have been able to,” he said.
“Parents have a lot more insight over the past year as to what’s going on, and I think that is really what’s driven the accountability and the spotlight on all of this.”
‘Runaway Slave Game’
The current problems in Loudoun, the wealthiest county in the United States, according to Forbes, began February 2019 when students at Madison’s Trust Elementary School in Ashburn were directed to make-believe that they were slaves.
“Some educators argue that eliciting intense emotions from students, which simulations are generally designed to do, can be a starting point for inquiry,” according to Education Week. But other radical education activists reject such games, saying they hurt black children.
Youngsters played a game in which as runaway slaves they had to move through an obstacle course meant to represent the Underground Railroad, which was a covert network of routes and safe houses in the antebellum United States that slaves used to escape to free states.
Michelle Thomas, president of Loudoun County NAACP, denounced this “runaway slave game” as “sickening and racist” and demanded race and bias training.
LCPS apologized and promised to hire outside experts for “an equity audit,” requiring all teachers to receive “cultural competence and implicit bias training,” and creating a new post related to “equity and cultural competence.”
In April 2019, LCPS hired Equity Collaborative, a California consulting firm specializing in critical race theory, for $422,000 to run focus groups, train teachers, and generate an “equity assessment.” The firm says it uncovers “personal and institutional biases that prevent all people, and especially people of color, from reaching their fullest potential.” It focuses on “oppression analysis, learning theory, and coaching for change.”
Attorney General Investigates
An investigation followed by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, into allegations that LCPS, among other things, denied students an equal opportunity to participate in elementary school gifted and talented programs based on their race.
Herring came out in favor of critical race theory last year when he urged then-President Donald Trump to rescind Executive Order 13950, which banned teaching CRT to government contractors. Trump said the ideology was “divisive and harmful” and “like a cancer.” President Joe Biden, a CRT supporter, promptly rescinded the order after he was inaugurated.
Leftists counter CRT is needed to promote racial equality by highlighting the supposed damage white people have done to others in society. Herring said Trump’s order “could undo years of important work implementing implicit bias and diversity training.”
Herring’s investigation determined in November 2020 that LCPS’s “policies and practices resulted in a discriminatory impact on Black/African-American and Latinx/Hispanic students.”
The school district settled the case with Herring’s office in February 2021, agreeing to reform its policies, focus on minority outreach, and submit to third-party monitoring. The agreement runs through June 30, 2024.
The plans required training staff in CRT, changing discipline policy to supposedly reduce racial disparities by going easier on students who engage in “disrespect, defiance, and classroom/campus disruption,” apologizing for fighting racial integration efforts six decades ago, creating safe spaces for LCPS staffers of color, and moving away from merit-based admission at elite county schools to give black and Hispanic students a better chance at admission.
Around the same time, radical activists began plotting to undermine anti-CRT parents.
The Daily Wire reported in March that Loudoun County descended into “a moral panic” as the school system “seemed to slide from serving taxpayers to targeting them.”
Members of a 624-member private Facebook group called “Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County,” including school staff and school board members, reportedly compiled a long enemies list of parents thought to oppose LCPS policies including CRT teachings. The members said they wanted to “infiltrate,” use “hackers” to silence parents’ communications, and “expose these people publicly.”
“I’m losing any hope that remaining civil towards these people changes anything,” wrote one pro-CRT group member. “Avoiding these people isn’t enough to stop the spread of their evil rhetoric.”
“Anyone know any hackers?” she wrote.
In May, Fight for Schools launched a petition drive to oust 6 radical members of the 9-member school district board—Denise Corbo, Beth Barts, Brenda Sheridan, Atoosa Reaser, Ian Serotkin, and Leslee King, all of whom are Democrats.
Legally speaking, the petition is based on the fact that “they had a quorum of school board members in a private Facebook group discussing school-related issues,” Prior said, adding that such behavior violates the state’s open meetings law, as well as their own bylaws and code of conduct.
After Prior and others gather the required number of petition signatures, they are then filed in court. The Commonwealth’s Attorney is then supposed to present the case against the school board members for removal from office.
It is a problem, Prior said, that the Commonwealth’s Attorney in the area is Buta Biberaj, a pro-CRT Democrat who participated in the secret Facebook group. “As of April 30, she was still part of the group and commenting on posts about investigating or finding kids’ TikTok videos that could be racist,” he said.
In 2019, Biberaj beat incumbent prosecutor Nicole Wittmann, a Republican, 51-49 percent, after a George Soros-funded political action committee expended $845,000 to get her elected. Wittmann raised $113,000, The Daily Wire reported. On Twitter, Biberaj praises big-city, anti-police, anti-incarceration district attorneys such as Chesa Boudin of San Francisco.
Before becoming prosecutor, Biberaj was an official with the local NAACP, the media outlet reported. As prosecutor, she went after a Trump supporter for assault for exhaling on anti-Trump protesters while unmasked. She resolved the case by strong-arming the man into donating $3,000 to the local scholarship fund of the NAACP, which had no connection to the incident, in exchange for dropping the charges.
After Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson commented on CRT-related acrimony in the county, Biberaj called him an “unhappy white male.”
“We think there is at least an appearance of conflict, if not an actual conflict, that would make it impossible for her or her office to adequately prosecute the case in court,” Prior told The Epoch Times.
Prior said the other side is in trouble.
“I think that they underestimate our movement. They underestimate the national interest in this, and they’re far too focused on their social media echo chamber and their base of support than they are on the parents, the students, and the taxpayers that are now learning all that’s been going on in this school system over the past two years, and people are not happy about it.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Loudoun County Public Schools for comment. Wayde B. Byard, Public Information Officer for LCPS, said via email that the district declined to comment.