Rights for transgender students draws crowd to Hanover meeting

Rights for transgender students draws crowd to Hanover meeting
Posted at 11:52 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 11:52:28-04

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- A school board controversy in Hanover County spilled over to the board of supervisors meeting Wednesday night. The issue at hand wasn’t even on the agenda and brought out dozens of concerned residents.

The meeting was standing room only in the county's auditorium on Wednesday night with attendees holding signs and wearing shirts advocating on each side of the discussion.

The controversy is over some community members who believe Hanover County's school district is not following or adopting state policies to protect nonbinary or transgender students.

It’s a policy that goes against a 2020 Virginia law that gives protections to students to use the restroom and locker room with the gender they identify with.

Those concerned are also are taking issue with the board's choice of using the outside firm Alliance Defending Freedom to review its equity policy. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the ADF an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group, while the ADF calls itself an organization that protects religious freedom, free speech and parental rights.

Chairwoman Angela Kelly-Wiecek started the meeting by making one thing clear.

“While yes this board appoints members of the school board, under state law the board of supervisors does not have any power to compel a school board to act in a certain way or simply remove a school board member,” she said.

Then public comment began where the room was split between those for and against the school board. Those against called on the board of supervisors to take action.

Kelly Merrill asked the board of supervisors to hold their appointed school board accountable when their terms are up. She called them bad actors. Others advocated that the school board needs to follow state and federal law. They felt the board should not seek the advice of what they call “ lobbying groups” when they have legal counsel.

Kate Tweedy discussed how this decision could impact the perception of the district.

“A community that uses extremist groups to set school policy. Is this how we want to be known across the city and state,” Tweedy said.

Those who supported the school board asked the supervisors to not do anything.

Kimberly Thurston said she felt some of the groups in the room were trying to play dirty politics with children and using them as pawns. Others applauded the school board for choosing a law firm that is not charging them, calling it responsible governance.

Becky Hendricks called out how she feels both boards are being treated.

“Both you and the school board are being bullied by heavily funded ultra left-wing organizations that bull dose through any obstacles they see in their way,” Hendricks said.

Ultimately, the board could not respond during public comment but issued one reminder.

“We encourage them to make sure they are in contact with their administration and school board members,” Kelly-Wiecek said.

The school board has repeatedly told CBS6 they are not able to comment on this due to ongoing legal issues.

The next Hanover County school board meeting is on April 12.