Loudoun County Sheriff, School Board Square Off Over Meeting Security
The sheriff said the Loudoun County school board’s decision to hire private armed security presented an “intimidation factor.”
LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office is disputing claims that it refused to provide security at school board meetings this summer despite the fact that board members were receiving threats.
According to an internal Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) letter obtained by the Times-Mirror, Sheriff Mike Chapman told school officials that his office would not provide the security measures they requested for two school board meetings in August.
Uniformed deputies were present at a June 22 school board meeting that resulted in the arrest of two residents. Parents, students, school employees and other community members attended the meeting to both support and criticize the board for its actions regarding several topics, including a draft policy on transgender students’ rights and the district’s alleged adoption of critical race theory. Tensions were also high since the district has been accused of covering up an alleged sexual assault in a girls’ bathroom at Stone Bridge High School.
The meeting reportedly became more hostile when the board voted unanimously to end the public comment portion of the meeting early. Outgoing school board member Beth Barts, who announced she would be resigning on Oct. 15 due to a stream of threats, said two board members had to be taken to a secure location when chaos erupted. For the August meetings, LCPS decided to contract a private security firm.
“This is not a private party,” she said. “It’s very obvious [Chapman] didn’t want to be there.”
However, Chapman ascertains that his office has provided security for the meetings — just not exactly what was requested by school administrators.
“We did provide security, but not the way that [LCPS superintendent Scott] Ziegler wanted,” Chapman said. “There were plainclothes deputies present at both [August] meetings … We still have security either onsite or nearby.”
Ahead of the June 22 meeting, Chapman said his office received multiple pieces of information suggesting there would be a significantly larger presence at the meeting. As a result, the office modified its operational plan and provided additional security.
Following the June 22 meeting, LCPS Director of Safety and Security John Clark began corresponding with LCSO officials to discuss security for the upcoming August meetings. Ahead of the Aug. 10 meeting, Clark renewed a request to have additional support, which included three deputies inside the building, a K-9 explosives sweep, a five-person quick reaction force, undercover deputies in the building’s public assembly area, and a joint command post, among other measures.
LCSO Division Commander Major Easton McDonald responded, stating that “LCSO has not committed to any resources” for the August meetings, and that “although our footprint will appear considerably smaller than in the past, we are ready to respond to any emergencies that may occur.”
Ziegler then followed up on Clark’s request, reiterating the need for law enforcement support at the August meetings. Chapman responded to that request, calling the requested measures”extraordinary” given that the private security firm they hired included 10 armed security personnel and magnetometers for people entering the building, reports Fox News. Clark also indicated that the requested security measures would require 65 sworn deputies and that Ziegler “failed to provide justification for such a manpower-intensive request.”
In Ziegler’s reply, he said he was “surprised” by LCSO’s response and that he believed the new request “mirrors the resources and support that LCSO provided on June 22.”
In a phone conversation, Chapman reportedly said he thought the school board was asking LCSO to “clean up” their mess and that they were “being dismissive of people they don’t agree with.” He also purportedly said that he believed more people should have been allowed to speak at the June 22 meeting.
Additionally, Chapman called the decision to have armed personnel at the meetings “an intimidation factor” and said that no one should feel intimidated if they want to raise a concern with the school board.
“I thought the optics of that were horrible,” he added.