Chaos at beginning of Prince William School Board meeting

Prince William School Board Room Cleared due to Disruptive Crowd

School Board cancels citizen time for Sept. 15 meeting due to disruption

Video clip of people trying to convince security to let them into the board room to speak.
Shannon Geraghty

Posted

The Prince William County School Board along with the Prince William County Police cleared the board room as the citizens there to speak at the meeting became disruptive. 

The Prince William County School Board was delayed two and a half hours. Upon return, Chairman Dr. Babar Lateef said the room was cleared for safety reasons and until “proper decorum” was reestablished. 

Reportedly, people outside the room were attempting to disregard the maximum capacity limit and force their way in. Police limited capacity for health reasons during the pandemic. People were able to speak either in person or via video call. 

Open session resumed at 9:30 p.m., the school board then unanimously voted to forgo Citizen Comment time that evening. 

On the agenda for the September 15 is a voting on a policy that would require staff to either be vaccinated or submit to weekly Covid-19 testing. That item subsquently passed. 

Another controversial agenda item was a proposed change to a policy governing public comment period. According to the agenda, the policy revision would do the following:

"Expanded the citizen comment period at regular School Board meetings from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, with the first half hour reserved for comment on agenda items (in order to assure that public input on such items is provided before a vote) and the second half hour for agenda or non-agenda items directly related to PWCS operations or policies."

The policy shortened the time a person could speak from 3 to 2 minutes and it encourages citizens to contact their elected officials via email. 

This item passed unaimously at the beginning of the meeting, thus limited the number of people who could speak at the meeting and what they could speak about. 

In the past Citizen Comment time has run hours, meaning that the board was unable to begin their meeting until well into the night. Often times the meeting could thus not wrap up until 2 a.m.

However, the new policy left a lot of people feeling disenfranchised and believing their elected officials did not care to hear them. This led to the commotion and resistance to leave the board room. 

In addition to those policies, Critical Race Theory has become a flash-point for schools in Northern Virginia. Anti-Critical Race Theory residents showed up en mass at the board meeting to speak on the subject although it was not on the agenda. 

The Prince William County School Board has not stated they were interested in incorporating CRT into its curriculum; however some interpreted the Equity Statement passed in June as an indication that CRT was coming to Prince William. 

Superintendent Dr. LaTanya McDade said that the school division does not have any plans to implement Critical Race Theory, which she sees as college level curriculum. However, she explained that a diverse curriculum is important to a diverse population to serve as "a mirror" and "a window." She wants to make sure the curriculum is inclusive. 

This article was updated at 1:05 a.m., Sept. 16, 2021. It was originally posted around 10 p.m. on Sept. 15. 

UPDATE: The Safe Learning & Safe Workplace Policy passed unanimously. 

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