Loudoun County parents, a small but mighty group, celebrated victory yesterday. Together with a Virginia-based advocacy group, Fight for Schools, the parents are one step closer to recalling school board member Beth Barts. Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Jeanette A. Irby ruled in their favor—three times—after months of showing up at school board meetings and working tirelessly to petition citizens to sign off in the first step toward Barts’ removal.
2/ Thanks to our client @fightforschools stepping up, the prosecutor accused of bias was removed and a special prosecutor will be appointed in a week — then the case goes to trial. It's a privilege to do this for a living with rockstar colleagues! https://t.co/qjCCuwoIzl
— Harmeet K. Dhillon (@pnjaban) October 6, 2021
The group collected 1,860 signatures, accusing Barts of “neglect of duty, misuse of office, and incompetence in the performance of her duties.”
According to the Loudoun Times-Mirror:
“Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Jeanette A. Irby will appoint a special prosecutor in a case brought by a group of Loudoun County residents seeking the removal of School Board member Beth Barts (Leesburg District). Irby granted the group’s motion to disqualify Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj (D) and appoint a special prosecutor on Tuesday during a pre-trial hearing on motions in front of couple dozen people following the case in court and online.“
Ian Prior, Founder of Fight for Schools, and the Loudoun parents who joined him felt that Biberaj had a conflict of interest and the group asked that she be removed. The judge requested the group give her a week to find a prosecutor and made Fight For Schools a plaintiff in the case—an unprecedented move.
A spokesperson for the group in a Fight for Schools Facebook post maintains that Barts behavior demands her removal:
Prior, quoted below by the Loudoun Times-Mirror, says it is time to have a seat at the table:
“Parents had been wanting a seat at the table for really over a year and a half in ensuring accountability with their school board, elected officials, and I think we got that today,” said Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools.
“We were allowed to intervene and we’ve also wanted a fair process, so that we could be assured that however this shakes out at the end, we can be confident in the result that the system was fair, that justice was served,” he said. “I think the judge made it clear appointing a special prosecutor is the best way to do that and we’re very happy with the results.”
Fight for Schools seeks to remove six Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board members. Prior says they have enough signatures to remove at least two. Loudoun Times-Mirror also mentioned in another article the other School Board members “include Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District), Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District), Denise Corbo (At-Large) and Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District). School Board member Leslee King, who represented the Broad Run District and was targeted for removal, died [in early September] due to complications from heart surgery.”
Barts was removed from her committee duties early in the summer because her online Facebook activism targeted dissenting parents in the community. She had allegedly asked members in her group to target, harass and even hack parents who disagreed with her stance on Critical Race Theory.
According to the Daily Wire, Barts and member Jen Morse instigated online activity through a Facebook group, whose members included Loudoun County educators, to infiltrate the anti-CRT parents in the Virginia suburb. The thread began with a post from Barts on March 12:
“Barts wrote on March 12 around 9:30 a.m. that ‘I am very concerned that this CRT “movement” for lack of a better word, is gaining support. It is difficult for me to bring attention to it without calling out specifics which may violate our code of conduct.“
“Member Jen Morse replied to Barts’ post asking the group’s administrator, Jamie Ann Neidig-Wheaton, ‘Is it okay if I post a call for volunteers for these counter activities?’ She then posted below Barts’ comment, ‘I put up a call for volunteers post.’ That referred to a thread that called to ‘infiltrate’, deploy ‘hackers who can shut down their websites’, and ‘expose these people publicly’.“
UncoverDC spoke in June with many of the parents who were fighting CRT in the schools. Several parents said the attacks by the Barts’ social media group were vicious and personal. Some parents were doxxed and were afraid for their children and families.
An investigation of Barts’ activities run by the local Sheriff’s department, concluded in August, found nothing worthy of criminal charges. However, the department did offer parents the “option to pursue misdemeanor criminal charges or other civil remedies if they choose to.”
#ArmyofParents co-Founder, Elicia Brand, told UncoverDC her thoughts about Tuesday’s victory:
“We won three different motions yesterday, including a motion to dismiss. The judge gave a third party, Fight for Schools, a seat at the table, a precedent-setting ruling.“
When asked why she thinks the judge ruled the way she did, Brand responded:
“I think she understands that the parents—I don’t want to speak for the judge because I can never say what she’s thinking inside her head—but we have never once threatened the school board. We stand against violence. We definitely stand against threatening behavior and anytime any member of our school board has ever been threatened, every one of us—all of the leaders—me with Army of Parents and Ian with Fight for Schools have stood up and said this is wrong. And we do not accept this. We’ve said that publicly.“
“We have been on the other side of it where we have been the victims of targeted threats on social media and in person. I think that she saw that she recognizes, in my opinion, that political ideology and agendas have no place in the schools and that we have to create a safe harbor that has nothing to do with us or the school board, but that has everything to do with our children.“
“As an American, a co-Founder of #ArmyOfParents, but mostly as a mother, there is no document, word or order that can ever be given that will stop me from putting my children’s, and EVERY child’s welfare first and foremost. Our School Board has become an activist body caring more about political ideology than the best interests of our children. Now they are supported by an Authoritarian Government set on stomping on our rights and usurping our roles as parents in our children’s lives.“
“I encourage all parents to stand strong in their fight for freedom and parental rights and never falter in the face of unjustified threats, no matter whom they are coming from. I hope the proper authorities are used to finding those who threaten violence or speak such hateful words, but they will not find them in the Loudoun County parent community, as we stand against that. Moms and Dads will stand strong in our faith of doing right and our peaceful mission to protect our children even more now that this letter has been released, as we are at the tipping point where the free America that we love can quickly become the America to be feared. We owe this to our children and the generations that follow.“
In her social media post after the hearing, Barts wonders what will happen if she gets removed. The post below was shared by Brand.
Prior has emphasized that it is important to remain respectful and “substantive” when engaging educators and school board members and encourages parents to keep raising their voices. A post from the Fight for Schools Facebook page reads:
Today #loudouncounty parents got a seat at the table and a fair process in the case to remove School Board Member Beth Barts.
-Case moves forward with special prosecutor.
-Fight for Schools allowed to intervene.
Parents voices matter. Don't let anyone tell you different. pic.twitter.com/dTynWAffxD
— Ian Prior (@iandprior) October 5, 2021