The Hanover County School Board, caught in an act of secrecy, did not attempt to defend its unholy alliance with a Christian conservative legal group that has been branded an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
The council no doubt realized the conflict inherent in accepting Alliance Defending Freedom’s free legal advice on its “equal educational opportunity” policy. If not, how can we explain the item’s placement on the board’s consent agenda, a place usually reserved for consensus issues?
“Putting clearly controversial items on the consent agenda is a decision not to involve the community in your actions,” resident Dottie Walsh said at Tuesday’s meeting. “You are not transparent in how things are handled.”
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Called out for trying to smuggle the article, the council removed it from the consent agenda and listened to constituents’ concerns about partnering with an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has named a hate group for its aggressive anti-LGBTQ positions in the United States. and beyond.
The comments did nothing to change this council’s intransigence in expressly allowing transgender students to use school toilets and facilities that match their gender identity – a denial that left it as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in December 2021 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on behalf of the parents of five transgender students.
On Tuesday, a divided council voted 4 to 3 to board Alliance Defending Freedom. (How did this land on the consent agenda?)
Remarkably, the majority has not even bothered to publicly deny that ADF is a hate group.
Patricia Hunter-Jordan, president of the Hannover NAACP, noted ahead of the vote that the board “continues to embrace right-wing politics while acting as if it supports fairness.” After inviting a known enemy of trans-inclusive politics for this look, perhaps the board has the Proud Boys on standby as an equity consultant.
No one has explained how the board made this deal with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based ADF. The only comment before the vote came from dissenting member Sterling Daniel, who said the board had “enough advice on legal matters” from school board attorney Lisa Seward, who must be pleased with her new legal partners.
It was a shameful display of arrogance and opacity from a public body that apparently feels it owes the public no explanation for its action. ADF declined to comment on the arrangement.
The board is digging its heels in against legal precedent.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit both ruled that the Gloucester County School Board violated Title IX and the Protective Clause equal by forbidding Gavin Grimm, then a student, a transgender man, from using the same bathrooms as the other boys. Until the Supreme Court rules otherwise — and it declined to hear the case — the Hanover board is thumbing its nose at federal rulings and Virginia law.
This resistance puts the Hannover School District in a familiar posture. His response to the 1954 Brown v. The US Supreme Court’s Board of Education banning school segregation by race was to name a new all-white high school after two Confederate leaders.
I will leave it to the readers to decide if ADF is a hate group. But there is no debate about his hostility towards LGBTQ people.
He opposes gay marriage. He fights the ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy to change sexual orientation and gender identity. In a case judged on narrow grounds by the United States Supreme Court, she successfully defended a Colorado baker who refused, on religious grounds, to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
He represented the funeral home that fired Aimee Stephens for being transgender — a case that culminated in the landmark 2020 Supreme Court decision, RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender people from employment discrimination.
In a case currently before the Virginia Supreme Court, the ADF is defending a former West Point high school teacher, Peter Vlaming, who was fired from his job for refusing to call a transgender student by his preferred pronoun.
“The organization’s disturbing and erroneous positions should clearly disqualify the ADF from providing legal advice to the Hanover County School Board, a taxpayer-funded public agency, on such a sensitive issue as the provision of safe and without discrimination for all students, including transgender students,” the ACLU of Virginia said in a statement. “The result of this commitment is a foregone conclusion – the continued discrimination against transgender students in Hanover County.”
“Is this Hanover?” a parent asked the council.
When a school board shows you who they are, believe them.