Loudoun County School Board Members Debate Limiting Free Speech At Board Meetings

On March 21, 2024, two Loudoun County School Board Members manifested interest in imposing stricter rules on public comment sessions at school board meetings.

The Loudoun County School Board has generally held two public comment sessions on a monthly basis. These public comment sessions are where parents, students, teachers and members of the community have the opportunity to speak to the school board for one minute each concerning issues they would like the school board to address or resolve. 

Without specifically naming the school systems, board member April Chandler explained ways some school boards in Virginia have limited public comment.

“Many limit comments to 30 minutes only. There’s one division that only allows for 20 minutes public comment and sometimes public comment is limited to individuals to only speak on a topic once,” stated Chandler. “Some require that all commenters submit their specific comments in writing to the board and the chair is allowed to choose whether or not those comments can be made public. And there’s even a division that asked the speakers to first try to resolve their issues with the superintendent before bringing it before the board. We are aware that there is at least one division that has said that they will cut the microphones if the speakers are too emotional.”

Public comment periods at recent Loudoun County School Board meetings tend to have a duration of between 30 and 60 minutes depending on how many speakers opt to sign up and take the mic. 

School board meetings are one of the last venues where people can truly sound off against the ruling class. They’re one of the rawest expressions of local governance and citizens using their voices to hold politicians accountable. 

Loudoun County trying to limit people’s ability to comment at these meetings is just another example of would be petty tyrants trying to silence any form of dissent.

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