Three members of the Prince William County Racial and Social Justice Commission appear to have violated the panel’s statutes and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
Commissioners Charles Haddow (Coles District), London Steverson (Brentsville) and Erica Tredinnick (Gainesville) held a town hall on Tuesday at Patriot High School on Critical Race Theory and Culturally Appropriate Education – but it didn’t was not approved by the full panel.
InsideNoVa did not attend town hall. A reporter from the Prince William Times posted town hall updates on Twitter, showing the commissioners made a presentation at the meeting.
I’m currently at Patriot High School in Nokesville where three Republicans appointed to the County Racial and Social Justice Commission hold a town hall on Critical Race Theory at 7 p.m. This appears to be the first slide of their presentation. pic.twitter.com/OVb0Nf97AQ
– Daniel Berti (@ DanielBerti12) October 5, 2021
Commissioners who hosted the meeting could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday evening.
According to footage of part of Haddow’s presentation that was posted by the Prince William Times reporter on Twitter, the first slide read “PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY SCHOOLS DO NOT TEACH CRITICAL THEORY OF THE EAST RACE. THIS TRUE ? The next slide features a quote about how the government lied to the people of Utah about the effects of nuclear fallout from Cold War testing.
The Prince William Times reporter said Haddow said he believed culturally appropriate education was being used as a Trojan horse to bring critical race theory into classrooms.
Critical Race Theory is a broad term that applies to graduate law studies focusing on how issues of race are embedded in U.S. history through government and private policies. . One example is redlining, in which banks either refused to grant mortgages to blacks or imposed severe conditions.
The theory has become a battle cry among conservative groups, who say it is taught at all levels of education and places responsibility for past racist actions on current children.
Officials at local and public schools in Virginia said the theory is not being taught and people are confusing equity initiatives and culturally appropriate education with critical race theory.
At the commission meeting on September 23, school board member Loree Williams again said critical race theory was not taught in schools.
“We continue to have this discussion of Critical Race Theory which is a false narrative,” Williams said. “Culturally relevant education is not just about race. It deals with disability. It deals with ethnicity. It deals with a multitude of issues.
Haddow responded at the meeting, “The last person I’m going to ask if you teach Critical Race Theory is a school board member.”
The Prince William Times reporter said at least three additional commissioners attended the meeting and sat in the audience, meaning all but two commissioners were present.
Whenever more than three members of a public body are present and discussing public affairs, the meeting must be announced in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. Although the meeting was promoted on Facebook and by individual members and county supervisors, neither the meeting nor the presentation was posted on the county’s website before it happened.
Late Tuesday night, county staff added a page under Events indicating the meeting was taking place, but no recordings were available.
Responding to InsideNoVa on Twitter, Megan Rhyne, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said that when three or more members of a public body “come together to speak to the public [business], they are supposed to follow FOIA procedure for meetings.
If three members of the Racial and Social Justice Commission make a presentation and thus discuss public affairs at a meeting that was not advertised as a public meeting of the commission, is that a violation of FOIA? I’m not here so I don’t know the situation. @opengovva https://t.co/KC1lxcf2E5
– Nolan Stout (@TheNolanStout) October 5, 2021
“There are allowances for public forums, but it’s usually in the context of members at a forum held by someone else, not a single one held … themselves,” she said. writing.
FOIA violations are only enforced through actions of the state attorney general or lawsuits brought by residents. A county resident filed a lawsuit against the five Democrats on the supervisory board last year, alleging they violated the law by attending a community meeting. The lawsuit was dismissed.
At the committee meeting on September 23, Haddow did not say that mayoralty will focus on critical race theory and did not indicate that it would include a presentation of his views.
“We invite the community to come – anyone speechless who feels they haven’t been heard yet – we invite them to participate. It will be a sincere listening session to speak and have a clear opportunity – I’m not really too interested in hearing part of the story I heard in the last meeting, ”he said. “I think this will hopefully be a reasonable discussion of areas in our community that we can improve the quality of life here.”
Based on social media reports and comments to InsideNoVa from President Shantell Rock, the meeting appears to have been chaired by Haddow who presented his views before commenting to the audience. Rock said he was told the commissioners answered questions on behalf of the commission, violating the rules.
“It was Mac Haddow’s show. It was not a listening session, ”said Rock. “I have a feeling they are trying to make fun of our commission and they are not going to do it.”
The statutes state that “the President is the primary spokesperson for the Commission and may, from time to time, designate other officers or members to speak on behalf of the Commission on specific matters”. As of Tuesday evening, Rock had appointed no one to speak on behalf of the commission.
“I am the only person authorized to speak on behalf of the commission,” said Rock.
Haddow, one of the more outspoken commissioners, became a lightning rod on the panel, as its full meetings were marked by its objections, deadlocks and protracted debates on many procedural issues. He has fought with other members who say he interrupts or talks to them, and he engages in frequent heated debates over the procedure with Raul Torres, executive director of the Office of Human Rights, including understood once by snapping a copy of Robert’s rules of procedure. on the platform.
Haddow has said in several meetings that he believes it is important to follow proper procedure in the conduct of public affairs. He said the three panelists appointed by Republican members of the supervisory board are treated differently from other commissioners.
Rock said no other commissioner had held joint listening sessions. She said the commissioners did not coordinate with staff to facilitate mayoralty or ensure they followed panel regulations and state law. Rock provided emails Tuesday night showing county staff advised that a rally of three commissioners would be considered a meeting under FOIA.