Loudoun County School Board votes to get rid of video display during public comment

A Virginia school board has plans to omit a video display during the public comment section of its board meetings.

The change in Loudoun County comes after a 6-3 vote Tuesday night by the county school board. Right now, meetings show the back of public speakers in a wide shot of the school board meeting. 

Under the new policy, video streams of the meetings will provide only audio and closed captioning for public speakers.

The three members who objected are Deana Griffiths, Kari LaBell, and Lauren Shernoff.

"I’m inclined to support turning the cameras back on,"  Shernoff said. "I know some people also want accountability of the board. I don’t know if it’s something that can be a split screen, where it’s us and them. So, it’s not like we’re not getting off the hook. Over the past four years, I think decisions were made in general to make the public ‘less than’. So, when they came to speak at a meeting and then they weren’t shown, I think that furthered that feeling, which we have heard. By turning them back, we can start rebuilding that trust and transparency."

Loudoun County School Board votes to get rid of video display during public comment

The last school board stopped showing the faces of public speakers in June 2021, after a meeting on transgender students’ rights drew a large crowd and resulted in the arrest of Scott Smith after a confrontation. 


Smith’s daughter, who was a student in the school district at the time, was sexually assaulted in a school bathroom.

Smith has since received a full pardon from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who described Smith’s arrest as "unwarranted charges in his pursuit to protect his daughter."

"You’re not going to shut my family down by turning off the cameras. We’re everywhere,"  Smith said Friday, reacting to the board’s decision on cameras during public comment. "Our Title 9 lawsuit is quickly making its way through the federal docket. We’ll be in trial probably late August. If they want to get out of the news, they need to start making better decisions. Nothing can restore trust in this school board or administration. They have made it clear over and over again, they’re doing this because they don’t want to get yelled at anymore. They don’t want to be on the news anymore. They don’t want to be caught on camera with their phones and laughing at us."


Loudoun County community member speaks out after being arrested during school board meeting

Loudoun County, Virginia schools have been under fire for new transgender policy proposals and critic

Board member April Chandler said during the meeting Tuesday, that public comments were an important part of meetings. 

When they become the focus of the meetings instead of the information and action items, Chandler argued the process "undermines the work of the school board and transparency."

"When public comment lasts for hours and decisions are made at midnight, decisions of the school board are not accessible to citizens. That said, public comment is only one part of the conversation between elected officials and constituents," Chandler said. "I have heard from many Algonkian constituents who have said this … ‘I want our neighborhood schools, and I want our division out of the news.’ For that reason, I will not support any efforts to turn the cameras back on. I’m open to changing the format in other ways but turning the cameras back on now only invites and undermines transparency of the school board."

Chandler added that she wants to hear comments made to the board but "not for demonstrative purposes."

LCPS School Board member Anne Donohue

Fellow member Anne Donohue voted in favor.

"I think unfortunately, there has been a history of the last few years of people who are outspoken in this forum of later being harassed, and I don’t necessarily specifically mean that in the legal definition, but having consequences following them in their personal lives," Donohue said.

The new policy is expected to begin in April.