On Tuesday evening, the Hanover County School Board voted 4 to 3 to engage the services of Alliance Defending Freedom to review the school district’s “Equal Educational Opportunities” policy which, among other things, will impact the treatment of transgender students and the effort to make Hanover County Public Schools more inclusive and equitable.
The absurdity of this action is beyond belief. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is an extremist conservative religious organization, labeled as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center since 2016. ADF was classified as a hate group because it supports the idea that being LGBTQ+ should be a crime in the U.S. and internationally. ADF also opposes school-based anti-racism policies and has filed a lawsuit targeting Albemarle County Schools’ plan to eliminate racism and close long-standing achievement gaps among student groups.
Based on this and past actions, the ACLU of Virginia, Equality Virginia, He She Ze and We, the Hanover County NAACP, and Side by Side Virginia have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all communication between the Hanover County School Board members, the Hanover County Public Schools’ senior leadership team, and ADF. Our request seeks any and all correspondence, including letters, emails, text messages, as well as contracts, engagement agreements or letters, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), retainer agreements, or other professional services between the Hanover County School Board and ADF.
In addition, we demand that the Board of Supervisors support a resolution to demonstrate their commitment to serve all students in Hanover and appoint school board members who will uphold that value by supporting inclusive, welcoming school environments for all of their students, including transgender students as well as Black and Brown students. School board members who fail to comply with the values as noted in the resolution should not be allowed to serve on the school board and make policy decisions that impact all Hanover students.
ADF’s view of LGBTQ+ people is profoundly wrong and offensive, as illustrated best by their own words. One then-ADF senior counsel, Austin Nimocks, in a speech opposing a “Welcoming Schools” curriculum in 2008 said, “The government should promote and encourage strong families. When school officials have to choose between protecting children in those families or furthering the homosexual agenda, the choice is obvious: protecting our children comes first.”
The organization’s disturbing and erroneous positions clearly should disqualify ADF from providing legal advice to the Hanover County School Board, a taxpayer-funded public agency, on a matter as sensitive as providing safe, discrimination-free schools for all students, including transgender students. The outcome of this engagement is a foregone conclusion - the continued discrimination against transgender students in Hanover County, which, sadly, will not stop kids from growing up to be trans, but might stop them from growing up at all. Moreover, ADF’s involvement in reviewing Hanover’s equity policy can lead to a proliferation of its extremist values in all facets of the classroom experience, undermining the effort to promote equity and inclusion in Hanover County Public Schools.
We will continue to advocate for all Hanover students, including transgender students and Black and Brown students, to have the inclusive, welcoming school environment they deserve.