Two arrested during Roanoke County School Board meeting discussing controversial policies

Members of the board listened to 27 people for over two hours.
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 11:29 PM EDT
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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A Roanoke County School Board meeting Thursday night was put on pause after two people were arrested.

“Protect trans kids” is what a resident in Roanoke County was yelling while being handcuffed by police. Roanoke County Police confirmed to WDBJ7 that two people were arrested and are being charged with trespassing after they refused to leave the school board meeting.

This comes after Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely presented the Virginia Department of Education’s new model policies for transgender students.

“These newly-released model policies immediately replace the previous VDOE policies released in 2021,” said Nicely.

During his presentation, he was interrupted twice, after which Roanoke County School Board Chairman Brent Hundson asked people to leave.

“We call order to this room. One more outburst from whoever- we’ll ask the police to have you removed,” said Hundson.

Governor Glenn Youngkin and supporters say the new policy affirms parental rights. Critics of the policy say it will subject transgender students to discrimination and abuse.

Members of the board listened to 27 people for over two hours. One by one they spoke in support of the LGBTQ community.

“If a transgender student or nonbinary student had permission to change their pronouns or name from their parents and a teacher chooses to use what we call a dead name or pronoun because they do not respect the identity of the child, that to me is humiliation. That is the definition of bullying and it will undoubtedly harm that student,” said Counselor Decca Knight.

The guidelines state parents should be notified when a student identifies as transgender. The student’s gender at birth must be used when participating in sports and using bathrooms.

School Board member Cheryl A. Facciani read a letter regarding the new policy from the School Board Member Alliance of Virginia. She is a founding member of the group and serves as a director. The statement was in support of the new policy.

“These policies ensure that parents remain actively involved in their child’s educational journey,” added Facciani. “We firmly believe that parents have the right to direct upbringing and education of their children and that they should be informed of matters that impact their child’s live and identity.”

The transgender policy was just presented Thursday night, but will be voted on next month. It is still unclear how the implementation of policies will be enforced by the state, if at all.

After the meeting, Roanoke County Public Schools issued the following statement:

“One of the core values of Roanoke County Public Schools that we teach our students is respect. This includes respect for other’s opinions, even if we do not agree with that opinion. At every school board meeting, the public has the opportunity to exercise their first amendment right to express their opinions. At tonight’s school board meeting, we heard from 27 students, staff, parents and Roanoke County residents who expressed their views and opinions and we thank each of these individuals for sharing their thoughts. Unfortunately, after the opportunity for public comment had ended, a handful of individuals chose to be disruptive and disrespectful during an informational presentation with outbursts using vulgar language. After two warnings, the school board chairman asked all visitors to leave. Sadly, some chose not to do so and had to be escorted out by police. This is not the kind of behavior we tolerate and these actions in no way are reflective of the many outstanding parents, students and staff that are part of the Roanoke County Public Schools community.”