BROADLANDS, Virginia – Parental rights advocates and community activists in Loudoun County, Virginia, are continuing to resist what they say is the infusion of critical race theory into curricula amid heightened awareness of what students are being taught in a post-COVID world.
Gathered outside the Loudoun County Public School headquarters, a crowd of approximately 200 assembled for the ERACED Rally Tuesday afternoon preceding an LCPS school board meeting.
Hosted by local activist groups and emceed by co-organizers Clint Thomas and Elicia Brand, the rally featured a lineup of speakers who have been at the forefront of resisting what they believe is the implementation of critical race theory elements within course materials and the implementation of official directives such as policy 8040.
That policy, which the school board formally adopted in August 2021, permits students to participate on athletic teams and to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their self-declared "gender identity."
College football player-turned pastor John Amanchukwu, author of the forthcoming book ERACED: Uncovering the Lies of Critical Race Theory and Abortion, called critical race theory a racist ideology that furthers division at the expense of academic standards.
"How can there be progress in the public education system when the majority of black students in Loudoun County can't read and do math on the right grade level? And while we talk about racism in these issues, blacks are at the bottom of the totem pole," Amanchukwu said from the stage.
"We need to get away from all of this indoctrination and get back to teaching!" the Turning Point USA Faith contributor continued to applause.
Brittanica defines critical race theory as an "intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is ... [a] socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of color." Proponents of critical race theory "hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans."
Amanchukwu said the spirit behind ERACED, the name of the rally and his upcoming book, regards every person of one blood and equal value. The author contends that despite America's past injustices against black people — such as slavery and Jim Crow laws — blacks in the United States fare better than in any other country.
"What happens when it comes to those who are duped by critical race theory is that they are looking for an answer but they are looking in the wrong place," Amanchukwu told The Christian Post in an interview following his speech.
"Critical race theory was a response to past atrocities that blacks endured. But it's the wrong response, the wrong lens," he stressed, emphasizing the need to ground social justice within a biblical framework.
Some proponents claim that those who object to critical race theory oppose the teaching of racism's ugly legacy in the United States. But Amanchukwu distinguished between teaching history in all dimensions and indoctrinating youth with postmodern theoretical frameworks.
As teachers and education administrators spend more time on racial issues, he believes academics are forsaken, diminishing the long-term opportunities for racial minorities.
"The reality is that critical race theory might hurt the feelings of a white child but it destroys the future of a black child," Amanchukwu told CP.
Positioned a short distance from the rally in the parking lot, a small group of approximately 20 counter-protesters held placards supporting critical race theory in education, containing words like "inclusion" and "justice." One sign employed CRT as an acronym reading "Culturally Responsive Teaching."
At the school board meeting following the rally, Amanchukwu decried critical race theory as racist and patronizing.
"Blacks are not victims, nor do we need to be placated by divisive Marxist ideologies that are cloaked in love but only fuel racial tension," he said during the meeting, calling the teaching standards "an attack on human decency."
Julie Strauss Levin, senior legal counsel with America First Legal Foundation and a member of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's commission on combating anti-Semitism, believes that what has been reinvigorated by the uprising of moms and dads in Loudoun County is the centrality of the parent-child relationship, something the U.S. Constitution recognizes as sacred.
"Parents have a fundamental constitutional right to parent their children, and the schools are here to support parents" and teach objectively, she said.
Levin contends that as parents became increasingly aware of what their children were being taught in school during the COVID-19 pandemic, they were moved to resist.
"What Loudoun County did was basically awaken the sleeping giant that is America's parents," she said.
"Hopefully, the pitch will continue to rise, and American parents will realize that this is their right and their responsibility to take care of their children."
During her remarks from the crowd, Levin emphasized that what parents did instinctually in resisting the school board is protected by the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).
The federal law, according to the U.S. Department of Education, "provides certain rights for parents of students regarding, among other things, student participation in surveys; the inspection of instructional material; certain physical exams; and the collection, disclosure, and use of personal information for marketing purposes."
Cheryl Onderchain and Beth Hess, the chair and vice chair of the Loudoun County chapter of Moms for Liberty, emphasized that parents in northern Virginia are determined to fight for their kids no matter the cost and are just getting started. Hess stressed the importance of remaining watchful.
"Parents have to keep on top of every single thing their children are doing. You can't sit back. You have to look at their homework all the time," Hess said, stating that ideological content is insidiously slipped into every subject.
But the problem reaches further than just the Loudoun County school board and local teachers, Hess believes, as the whole system needs an overhaul.
"Gov. Youngkin has to redo the entire Virginia Department of Education. There are laws on the books in the VDOE policies that need to be changed, and until that changes, we're not going to get anywhere," she added.
Onderchain added that the proverbial "genie is out of the bottle" and that the schools now wish parents would return to pre-COVID relative ignorance. But she said that is not going to happen.
"We will never take our eyes off the ball again. We can't … and more people need to stand up," Onderchain said.
Ian Prior, the executive director of Fight for Schools and the senior advisor of America First Legal, says that what germinated in northern Virginia has had a ripple effect nationwide.
In an interview beside the speaker's stage, Prior recalled that wherever he goes across the country where lawsuits against schools have been set in motion, people are talking about Loudoun County and how parents there inspired them to take similar action.
"Despite the fact that the educational-industrial complex is so vast, there are more parents than there are bureaucrats," Prior said.
The ERACED rally concluded around 6 p.m.