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Scrutinized Northern Virginia school board up for reelection

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(The Center Square) — Tuesday’s Virginia General Assembly general election will be in the national spotlight as interested parties watch to see if Gov. Glenn Youngkin has been able to keep – and enhance – his support in the purple state.

Voters will have to decide, not just on their state representatives, but local representatives, as well.

The school board for Loudoun County, the home of this year’s most expensive state Senate race and a school system that often makes headlines, is also up for reelection, with two of its nine members returning to run.

As the county is heavily Democratic, Loudoun County Public Schools has made national news more than once in the past few years for progressive policies that have polarized the community, as well as for issues that are simply more likely to happen in larger school districts.

This past week alone, the school district has made the news twice – once over student overdoses happening at one of its high schools and another for students at a different high school staging a walkout over the school’s bathroom policy.

LCPS is one of several Virginia districts that chose not to adopt the governor’s model policies and to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their stated gender identity, regardless of biological sex.

The county school board in 2021 voted 7-2 to adopt bathroom policies that reflected the model policies of then-Gov. Ralph Northam, and it has kept those policies, despite the rape of two female students by a male student wearing a skirt and using the girls’ restroom.

On Tuesday, county residents will have the opportunity to vote for two school board members – the at-large member and the member in their election district. The districts are Algonkian, Ashburn, Broad Run, Catoctin, Dulles, Leesburg, Little River and Sterling.

School board members are not supposed to run as members of any particular political party, but they can receive (and advertise) endorsements from political parties or figures. The board boasts six Democrats and three Republicans; only two incumbents, Democrat-endorsed Harris Mahedavi, who voted for the current LCPS bathroom policy, and Erika Ogedegbe, are fighting to keep their seats.

The at-large candidates are Anne Donohue and Michael Rivera, who have two children in LCPS schools. Donohue’s priorities are: “A safe LCPS community, a welcome and inclusive environment, supporting educators, restoring civil discourse and refocusing decision-making on the best interests of our students.” She has been endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety, Equality Virginia and Democratic Sen. Jennifer Boysko, among others.

Rivera, a detective with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, says he is “deeply committed to making our schools safer and more transparent.” The Loudoun County Republican Committee endorses him. He says the school board has shown that it does not have the best interests of his family and the community in mind, and “multiple scandals, a lack of transparency, and a lack of accountability” have motivated him to run.

One candidate is running uncontested – Melanie Mansfield from the Dulles School Board. She has received endorsements from the Democratic party. Dulles could be considered a “swing seat,” as Republican-endorsed Jeff Morse currently holds it, but Republicans don’t have a candidate this time.

The Broad Run and Catoctin districts are the only other seats currently filled by Republicans.

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