The embattled Loudoun County Public Schools system in Virginia has been targeted by a six-figure ad campaign calling for its leaders to “get politics out of the classroom” as they wrestle with pushback over what critics decry as left-wing indoctrination.
The ad by the Free to Learn Coalition aired Sunday during the NFL season opener between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Washington Football Team ahead of Tuesday’s school board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia.
“Loudoun County, Virginia, spent nearly half-a-million to develop a divisive curriculum promoted by political activists,” says the ad’s narrator. “When parents spoke up, officials threatened to silence them.”
The ad shows footage of two teachers who have spoken out against the school board: Laura Morris, who quit last month over the district’s “politicized agendas,” and Tanner Cross, who was placed on administrative leave for refusing to call students by pronouns contrary to their biological sex.
“Suppression. Political activism. Censorship. Let’s get politics out of the classroom,” says the ad, which is running for the next two weeks on television in the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland area as well as digitally.
The Loudoun County School Board has faced angry crowds of parents and others objecting to the district’s “equity work,” which has been blasted as critical race theory, as well as the transgender student rights policy on restroom access, sports and preferred pronouns.
“Loudoun County Public School leadership has prioritized political activism above all else,” Free to Learn President Alleigh Marre said in a statement. “We have seen targeted efforts to silence dissenting parents and push teachers into reporting their colleagues. This activist behavior by Loudoun County leaders will not be tolerated.”
In her Aug. 11 comments before the board, Ms. Morris said teachers were encouraged to keep quiet about their disagreements with the board’s policies and to turn in colleagues who criticize them.
Superintendent Scott Ziegler defended the district’s policies in a June statement, saying they were “not an effort to indoctrinate students and staff into a particular philosophy or theory.”
“What they are is an effort to provide a welcoming, inclusive, affirming environment for all students,” Mr. Ziegler said.
Another group, Fight for Schools, turned in 1,860 signatures last month as part of a campaign to remove school board member Beth Barts.
The Loudoun ad buy comes as part of a $1 million national campaign launched in June to combat political activism in schools, with commercials airing previously in Arizona, New York and Virginia.
Ms. Marre previously has worked in the federal government as well as for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and National Republican Congressional Committee.
Wayde Byard, spokesman for Loudoun County Public Schools, challenged the ad’s assertions, saying that the curriculum was developed “in accordance with the requirements of the Virginia Board of Education,” not because “political activists demanded it.”
Mr. Byard also said that school officials had not threatened to silence parents for speaking up at board meetings, adding that the district “welcomes all perspectives.”
“LCPS recognizes the right of members of the community to free speech, and does not condone anyone targeting members of the community for their viewpoint,” schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler said in a statement.