Residents Speak Out Against Rumored Changes In The Schools

Concerned county citizens urged Rockbridge County School Board members to vote against implementing gender neutral bathrooms in schools at its regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8. Consideration of a change in restroom facilities, however, was not on the agenda.

“Are you prepared to deal with the fallout if you should decide to go down this thorny path?” Ronald Cash asked the Board that evening. “Teenage pregnancy is far too common in our liberal society and sexual violence among teenagers is also too common. I suggest that if boys and girls are made to share common restrooms, you will see a rise in sexual dysfunction, teenage pregnancy, and sexual violence, including rape.”

Cash and others spoke passionately during the public comment period against changes believed to be taking place in Rockbridge County public schools, with many pleading against the possibility of gender neutral restrooms for students.

“To me, it’s a disgrace to the school system,” Johnny Swink said to the Board. “There’s absolutely no place for that stuff in the school house.”

“My wife and I have been in the fight against sex trafficking for years,” Ted Chalgren began. “It is exactly this sort of thinking and those sorts of environments that lead to a mindset and mind culture that will lead to open gates for molesting of our children.”

Many who spoke against changes to bathrooms said they were alerted to possible action of the Board by local rumor. According to bylaws of the Board, members are not allowed to respond to public comment directly in the meeting. The News-Gazette spoke with Board Chair Wendy Lovell the following day concerning the issue.

“The Board is not entertaining renovations to bathrooms at this time,” Lovell said. Assertions the Board was planning to vote on the issue were unfounded, she explained, as there was never a proposal about bathrooms to consider.

Lovell told The News-Gazette it was her understanding a local rumor led many to believe the Board was seeking this change, though she explained she was unaware of the source.

Purported changes to RCPS bathrooms gained circulation on social media in recent weeks, leading a small crowd to speak out at the regular meeting Sept. 8. In addition to the opposition of gender neutral bathrooms, a number of public commenters presented issues with politics within school buildings.

“It’s a fact there is a rumor that a group called 50 Ways Rockbridge is lobbying the School Board behind the scenes,” Dale Meyer said to the Board. “50 Ways Rockbridge is affiliated with Black Lives Matter, a Marxist organization.”

“BLM doesn’t want justice” Meyer continued, “They want retaliation and retribution for what they consider to be past injustice. In short, BLM, and I can assume 50 Ways Rockbridge, wants to destroy the constitutional law and order of the United States because [50 Ways] is BLM’s welldressed proxy.” “If the school curriculum does not embrace American exceptionalism and decent social norms, then don’t be surprised that the little anarchists that you are raising in your classrooms turn on you when you think you’re not being fair to them,” Meyer concluded.

“The curriculum that I have seen come down the line from high school to middle school to elementary school to preschool is frightening, what they’re expecting the little ones to be exposed to and to do,” Jan Chalgren said to the Board. “Please watch the direction that you are going because you are the ones responsible for that.”

Lovell told The News-Gazette after the meeting that community organizations do not drive division curriculum.

“We look to the state for that,” she said. Lovell explained the Virginia African American History Education Commission under Gov. Ralph Northam is currently reviewing Black history teachings in grade levels K-12. The Commission has made recommendations regarding changes to curriculum standards, student requirements and teacher training. Any changes in these areas will be made at the state level and local curriculum will reflect mandated Virginia education standards. “We’re eager to see what the Commission comes up with,” Lovell told The News-Gazette.

At the regular meeting, Lovell read a statement prior to public comment on behalf of the Board regarding political discourse placed on the school community.

“2020 has been a particularly challenging year for our division and for all schools across the country,” Lovell said. “The load on our employees has only gotten greater as they have had to pivot many times to meet the challenges that the pandemic continues to throw their way.”

“Managing these challenges,” she continued, “has only been made harder as issues surrounding public education become politicized. My fellow Board members and I did not run as part of a political party and we do not do our work for political gain. Our staff and faculty are driven by a proven curriculum based on standards that are set at the state level by the Virginia Board of Education. They are not charged with advocating or teaching ideologies on the left or the right.

“When our schools are pulled into political discourse, it takes our focus away from our mission,” she continued. “Rockbridge County is comprised of citizens with diverse points of view. We don’t all share the same beliefs or political perspectives. As it relates to our schools, what the Board hopes our community can focus on, is coming together in support of educating our students. That is our priority and diverting from that mission will make an incredibly challenging year that much more so.”

The News-Gazette

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