Loudoun School Board Takes Heat for Turning Off Cameras During Meetings

Joy Stockbauer | March 26, 2024

(The Lion) — The Loudoun County School Board in Virginia is facing the ire of parents and community advocates for a recent decision to remove livestreaming cameras during the public comment period of school board meetings.

The 6-3 vote to shut down cameras, which took place at a March 12 meeting, was partisan, with nays coming from Republican and independent-backed school board members. Moving forward, livestreams will still broadcast audio but will omit video.

Loudoun County parents who have previously used the public comment period to advocate for their children have spoken out against the decision. 

“We have nine new school board members this year, and every one of them campaigned on transparency and less division, and this is absolutely the opposite of what they all campaigned on,” Scott Smith, a Loudoun parent, told Fox News

“They’re trying to shut moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas out of the public spotlight to be able to speak out against the radical policies.” 

In what Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin called a “gross miscarriage of justice,” Smith was convicted of disorderly conduct after passionately calling out the school board for its handling of his daughter’s sexual assault case in 2021. Smith’s daughter was sexually assaulted in the girls’ bathroom at Stone Bridge High School by a male student who claimed to identify as transgender. 

Gov. Youngkin later pardoned Smith, defending his response to the school board as “what any parent would do.” 

“Parents must be able to not only know what’s going on, but they should be able to express their opinions,” Youngkin commented regarding the decisions to shut off cameras. 

“I’m going to work to make sure that I preserve parents’ ability to have voices to the school board that are seen and heard because I know who the school boards work for and that’s parents.” 

Despite backlash, some Loudoun County School Board members are pushing forward with additional ideas for limiting public access to meetings.  

Democratic-backed members April Chandler and Anna Donohue suggested measures such as limiting the public comment period to 20 minutes and requiring comments to be submitted to the chair prior to the meeting for evaluation to determine if they could be made public.