Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Loudoun County Epilogue: A Worsening Culture War, and the False Hope of “Decorum”

By Matt Taibbi

As the wealthiest county in America found out, difficult political problems can’t just be swept under a rug, or into a parking lot.

Part Four of a Series. For parts one, two, and three of “A Culture War in Four Acts: Loudoun County, Virginia,” click here, here, and here.

November 9th, Ashburn, Virginia. A hundred or so protesting parents are gathered in a parking lot at 21000 Education Court, a large, expensive-looking brick building complex inside which the Loudoun School Board is meeting, behind a series of security checkpoints.

A cursory glance is enough to reveal deep weirdness. These are corporate lawyers, defense contractors, consultants, and financiers, nearly all payers of some of the highest property tax rates in the state; people with supervisory titles, law partners and bosses, accustomed to running meetings. They also recently won a series of huge political victories, with the Virginia Supreme Court upholding the reinstatement of a Loudoun teacher named Tanner Cross, hated Loudoun School Board member Beth Barts resigning after a judge denied a motion to dismiss her recall petition, Glenn Youngkin winning the governorship in a race that rocked the national Democratic Party, and newcomer Jason Miyares defeating Mark Herring, the locally educated Attorney General whose office imposed a controversial settlement on Loudoun’s school system.

Despite all those wins, or perhaps because of them, the parents in this parking lot are no longer allowed into their own school administration buildings. They’ve been consigned instead to a roped-off pen that recalls the infamous “free speech zones” at political conventions, once decried most of all by liberals in the Bush years, behind signs reading, “Public Assembly Area… Decorum is Expected.” Some hovering in the “parent pen” are scheduled to address the board later and are rehearsing, but they sound like people warming up for a speed-reading contest, as venting time has been capped at sixty seconds.

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