The nation may struggle to acknowledge racism, but Virginia’s Loudoun County School Board has apologized for its long-standing racist practices via an open letter and a 14-minute video to its Black community members last week (September 25).
Addressed to the “Black Community of Loudoun County,” which is located 25 miles west of Washington, D.C., the letter’s introduction states:
We, the Loudoun County School Board, the Administration of Loudoun County Public Schools, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors sincerely apologize for the operation of segregated schools in Loudoun County and for the negative impact, damage and disadvantages to Black students and families that were caused by decisions made by the Loudoun County School Board, LCPS Administration, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. More specifically, the additional effort required and resources provided by the Black community to obtain an equal education created hardships to which other community members were not subjected. Black people were denied rights and equal treatment.
To take ownership for how the county disenfranchised Black students for decades, the letter shared a timeline to show why this apology is long overdue. Beginning with the county’s active avoidance of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education decision—which made segregation in public schools unconstitutional—to 1967, when the county established “geographic attendance zones” that reinforced “systemic racism, inequitable treatment, and disproportionality,” the timeline makes clear how the county conspired against Black education.
But a report from WTOP News noted that the educational discrimination went back much further. The Black community had to raise $4,000 to buy land for a high school in 1939, only to be forced to sell it to the county for $1 later. The outlet further reported that in January 1956, the school board said improvements at the district’s Black schools should not be funded unless “Black parents agreed that segregation was better for their children’s education.”
As for what’s next, the school board’s letter says it hopes publicly acknowledging its racist past is a step in the right direction and that it will work on increasing equity, as outlined in its June Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism and 2019’s Comprehensive Equity Plan. As an example, Loudoun County Public Schools will skip Columbus Day on October 12 and instead celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Loudoun Times-Mirror recently published.
“I think it’s clear that we have a very European-centric view of Columbus Day, and I think that our schools are doing a very good job of clarifying that and defining the issues that came with Columbus—the disease, the attack on the indigenous people,” said Loudoun County School Board member Jeff Morse in the Loudoun Times-Mirror.