A chaotic Wednesday night at the Prince William County School Board meeting ended with the board unanimously approving a vaccine or testing mandate for all division staff as well significant changes to its citizen comment procedures.

For a time, it was unclear if the meeting’s public session would be held. School security and Prince William County police were enforcing a strict 53-person capacity for the public inside the board meeting room, with dozens more people outside trying to get in. After more than an hour of tense standoffs with those outside and some heated exchanges among the public inside the meeting room, security and police told the assembled public that the room needed to be cleared of everyone, including members of the media, for security purposes.

No fights broke out and no arrests were made, but security staff faced off with people trying to get into the meeting room and sporadic shouting matches took place inside the meeting room among the public.

A resident who attended the meeting said on InsideNoVa's Facebook page that a group sang the National Anthem and were then confronted by others prior to the room being cleared.

"There were no riots, just angry concerned parents that deserve to be heard yet the school board set us all up and never came out. Videos will be shared and pwc will see the truth! God bless all of you!" she wrote.

At 9:30 p.m., more than two hours after the public session was scheduled to start, board members brought the remaining 15 people back into the meeting room, gaveled in and sped through their agenda, suspending public comment.

Some at the Prince William School Board meeting Wednesday night held signs in opposition to “critical race theory,” one of the topics that led to the demonstrations in Loudoun. Division leaders have said it isn’t being taught in local schools. Lateef told InsideNoVa that the decision to clear the building was a “security call” suggested by the security personnel inside.

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Members of the public hold signs and sit spaced apart before the Prince William County School Board meeting on Sept. 15, 2021.

“My understanding was the room was cleared because of security concerns,” Lateef said. “... The school board chose to come out and continue the business we had this meeting because the next meeting is in October.”

Among other things, the board had a deadline to approve the sale of a number of bonds for capital improvements. The board’s next scheduled meeting will be held Oct. 6, and Lateef told InsideNoVa after Wednesday’s meeting that they haven’t decided on any additional security measures.

For Wednesday night’s meeting, the division was mandating bag checks and said it would be enforcing the socially-distanced capacity, as well as face masks, which are required in all school buildings. Many people came to attend the meeting without a face mask.

Standing outside the Kelly Center, Deputy Chief of Police Jarad Phelps said the police department had posted three officers at the meeting to supplement division security staff. He said it was unclear whether or not that was a higher number of police officers than usual.

“Our interest is that no one get hurt at our meetings. We have parents who are on our school board, moms and dads who are on our school board and nobody wanted to see anyone get hurt,” Lateef said.

An overflow crowd with security outside Wednesday night's Prince William School Board meeting.

Superintendent LaTanya McDade said that for staff members who declined to take the vaccine, their weekly tests would be available at division facilities free of charge, and said more details will be forthcoming.

Employees will have to disclose their vaccine status by Nov. 1 and new employees will have to do so within 30 days of hire.

“I believe that public health and public education are directly linked,” McDade said during the meeting. “We need to follow the science, examine the data and listen to the scientific experts. When it comes to the pandemic, scientists are unequivocal in their message: getting the vaccine is the best way to protect us and those around us.”

The new citizen comment rules will limit public input at meetings to 20 speakers with three minutes each. The first proposed rule change would have limited comment to two minutes per person and allowed 30 speakers, but that was changed in the lead-up to Wednesday’s meeting. Only pre-approved signs will be allowed in the meeting room and the policy mandates that comment be “directly” related to school policy or operations.

Informally, public comment has not been limited before, but Lateef said that technically this change would increase the time for comment going by the board’s rules. When the change was first proposed, he said it was related to what had happened at Loudoun County School Board meetings.

During the time the building was cleared Wednesday night, dozens of those remaining milled about at the front entrance of the building. Rebecca Hermon, the grandmother of a Prince William student, was there with her daughter. She said she had concerns about what the students were being taught, and that the public should be able to voice their concerns directly to the school board.

“If they’re still having the meeting, that’s not right,” she said of shutting down public comment and closing the meeting. “These people represent the community. And I’m sure everybody here is not going to be voting for them again. … Even if you don’t agree with somebody’s views that comes to the meeting, you still listen to them.”

Another group of teachers also gathered outside the building. Oveta Scott, a 6th grade teacher at Fred Lynn Middle School, said the attacks on the school board and critical race theory were unfounded.

“We teach the SOLs, that’s what we teach. The standards of learning. We don’t deviate from that. We get the curriculum guide, pacing maps, all that stuff,” Scott said.

“We’re not teaching CRT,” Riley O’Casey, an 8th grade social studies teacher said. “We teach the kids the truth, critical thinking, problem solving, looking at multiple sources.”

After the meeting, Lateef said he hoped some of the aggression that the board’s faced the last two meetings would subside.

“I would ask the public to understand that we have serious business in restarting the school year with in-person learning. We have truly serious business about making sure we get it right and doing everything the best we can. We have really serious business about making sure our people stay safe and don’t get sick in the schools,” he said.

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

Reporter

Jared Foretek covers the Manassas area and regional news across Northern Virginia. Reach him at jforetek@insidenova.com

(28) comments

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Duke Nukem

You see all the right-wingers at all these football games? It's insane. I mean it must be all right-wingers at these games not wearing masks. Is JB going to do anything about these super spreader events happening every day? Are you out there protesting?

Ralf Bee

Why do we have so many unhappy people now? Because it is your own fault, and you have only yourself to blame because you keep voting for these Democrats ! If you want peace and a real change, vote GOP and always !

Duke Nukem

It started in 2008 when your neighbors elected a divider. He had a great opportunity to bring the nation together but he "acted stupidly" and divided us along race/class/preferred pronouns. He wanted to fundamentally change America and here we are. Job well done. The voter base is so low IQ that there are people who already regret they cast their vote for Biden. I mean seriously how could you not know what was in store...Remember that IOWA caucus voter who voted for Pete, but after finding out he was gay was shocked and she wanted to change her vote? These are the people we are dealing with here. They don't pay attention to politics. The democrats own the low IQ, lazy voters and also militant Marxists, some of which you will see here. They have an elite team of lawyers, wealthy donors and own education, pop culture and big tech. Oh and also they like to welcome in hundreds of thousands of immigrants who would also love "free" stuff. They require covid IDs but flip out when you mention voter IDs and voter integrity. Tax the rich by the way. I'm all for that. They own the top 1% too even Vox admits that.

John Dutko

Give us all a reason to vote GOP and how that proposed policy would help the community at large.

Because GOP policies amount to this: Do nothing.

Larry Lyons

You mean like the endless wars, the corporate welfare, the encouragement of anti-science etc. The only ones who are truly unhappy are reich wingers like you who see their thin demographic margins steadily vanish. You whine over imagined slights, promote so called cures that have absolutely no validity, and generally are against education, science and justice. If you had your way we'd still be chipping flint and whining about the taste of mammoth.

John Dutko

@Duke

Meanwhile, you guys are eating horse paste and looking like idiots. Republicans used to look like Alex Keaton, not so now...

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Joe Christmas

Far more left wing violence than right wing violence, and left wing is always louder and more aggressive.

Duke Nukem

If NBA players don't have to get it, it's only fair that harder working, less wealthy teachers should not either.

John Dutko

https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-teams-growing-more-and-more-comfortable-with-the-treadmill-of-mediocrity-as-a-path-to-contention/

"In addition to referees, the league is requiring all team and arena personnel who regularly interact with players and referees to be vaccinated, per The Athletic's Shams Charania. That includes coaches, front-office members, medical and equipment staff, player development, team and arena security, social media team members, PR employees and those who work at the scorer's table. "

So, everyone else but the stars. And even then, the players who are unvaccinated need to have tests done routinely, unlike the ones who got the shot. Whatever, it's not like they need their lungs for a game anyway.

Lynne June

The thing that saddened me was that children were watching this behavior. People are angry, rightly so, but they should be civil. They want to attend the meetings. Years ago, the School Board used to let the overflow crowd watch on CCTV in the room next door so that anyone who wanted could attend.

Jerzy Brick

Okay April-Lynne-May-June,

Like this woman so Eloquently stated:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2021/08/22/black_mom_hijacks_antifa_press_conference_white_people_dressed_in_all_black_threatened_my_kids.html#!

"Its the white liberal women that are the Worst"

And 90% of the time, shes correct, like in this instance at the S.B. meeting.

Janet Smith

Only a few years ago Local Media were reporting how great a public health benefit the then recently introduced chickenpox and HPV vaccines are. Now Local Media report the latest in a laundry list of groups that oppose CV vaccination. Appalling. Why aren't almost all teachers and school employees vaccinated, as well as almost all middle school and high school students? When do Seniors over 65 who were fully vaccinated 7 months ago receive a booster shot?

Tom Fitzpatrick

It sounds as if you are talking about demanding that everyone get vaccinated. Is that true?

Don't you trust Biden, Harris and others who said that they would not trust nor take any vaccine created by the Trump Administration?

Don't you trust "Dr." Fauci, who said that masks don't/do work, and that it wold take years to create a workable, safe vaccine?

No? Neither do a lot of people. And neither you, nor anyone else, is qualified to tell people what to do. Because we still have some rights left.

Larry Lyons

Science is not fixed in stone. Conclusions change when the data changes. Didn't you learn any basic science in school?

Tom Fitzpatrick

If the guy who ran an Institute at NIH responsible for the transmission of infectious diseases DIDN'T KNOW WHETHER OR NOT MASKS WORKED, then, we are in trouble. If our science is starting from a point so rudimentary so as to determine WHETHER OR NOT MASKS WORKED, we are lost.

But, we don't need to talk about "science evolving, and new data and facts emerging," because, on numerous occasions, on camera Tony Fauci ADMITTED HE LIED.

Which, along with all of the other lies, are the viruses destroying America.

Larry, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Larry Lyons

Argument by authority logic fail. That said, the research does show that masks work. To quote: "Cloth does not stop isolated virions. However, most virus transmission occurs via larger particles in secretions, whether aerosol (<5 µm) or droplets (>5 µm), which are generated directly by speaking, eating, coughing, and sneezing; …The point is not that some particles can penetrate but that some particles are stopped, particularly in the outward direction. Every virus-laden particle retained in a mask is not available to hang in the air as an aerosol or fall to a surface to be later picked up by touch."

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M20-2567

Fact is that cloth masks can mitigate your exposing others. Every droplet and particle trapped on the mask is one less in the air. The purpose of masks is to stop you from infecting others.

John Dutko

Those that willfully refuse vaccination should also be refused medical care. And it is the same people who are a drain on the economy and Medicare.

You have the freedom to die. Do it at home and stop wasting resources.

Duke Nukem

You must really hate our unvaccinated neighbors coming from south of the border. I heard some are even refusing to be vaccinated. If only you were in charge you could quarantine them until they starve to death or something.

John Dutko

No Duke.

I hate the American idiots who are squandering their chances and are dying to own the libs. Their actions are inherently selfish and evil.

Rather than help society at large, they seek to drag everyone else down and will literally die trying.

Tom Fitzpatrick

Unruly crowd?

No.

Too long absent parents and other taxpayer citizens.

I suppose it was a bad idea for the Deep State to take a vacation and send the kids home where the parents were forced to confront the atrocities occurring within the school SYSTEM.

Mike Hunt

Let’s hope our county can be saved from our elected school board commies. God help us….

Jerzy Brick

Why's J.D. getting censored all over the place?

[ninja][alien]

Larry Lyons

I rather doubt you'd recognize a communist even if Karl or Lenin himself snuck up behind you and gave you a nuclear wedgie. Can you even identify one or two of the basic principles listed in Marx's Das Kapital?

Larry Lyons

I rather doubt you'd know a communist even if Karl Marx himself snuck up behind you and gave you a nuclear wedgie.

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Tom Manson

What are you prattling on about?

Delusional nut jobs think CRT is a thing because alt-right media needs a strawman. Sad to see you all eat it up

John Dutko

Looks like the stunt doubles from Breaking Bad showed up.

Fix Prince William

Ha! Stunt doubles from BB! And on the other side you’ve got Oveta Scott and Riley O’Casey. If you look at their history, I wouldn’t want my kids in their classroom. The PWCS Board Circus never disappoints!

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