Beth Barts, the Leesburg District representative on the Loudoun County Public Schools school board in Virginia, announced her resignation from office on Oct. 15. Her resignation will be effective Nov. 2.
Barts was the subject of a recall effort that included five other members of the board. Her petition was the first one filed with the Loudoun County Circuit Court. At a pre-trial hearing on Oct. 5, the circuit court judge ruled that the petition could advance to a full trial. The judge also granted the recall petitioners’ request to appoint a special prosecutor. Stafford County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen (R) was appointed to serve in that position.
In Virginia, recall efforts are determined in circuit court rather than at the ballot box. Virginia also requires certain reasons to be met for a recall to move forward, including neglect of duty, misuse of office, incompetence, or conviction of misdemeanors related to drugs or hate crimes. Recall supporters must collect signatures equal in number to 10% of the votes cast in the last election for that office. The recall effort against Barts needed 1,176 signatures. Recall supporters announced they collected 1,860. They submitted the petition signatures on Aug. 25.
In her resignation announcement, Barts said, “This was not an easy decision or a decision made in haste. After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family.” Her attorney said he expected the recall case against her to be declared moot. He said if she had fought against the case, he expected her to have won.
Recall supporters said they launched the effort due to school board members’ involvement in a private Facebook group. They said the board members’ involvement in the group was a violation of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act as well as the school board’s Code of Conduct because the members discussed public matters in a private setting. Recall supporters also alleged that the district was using Critical Race Theory in its employee training and student curriculum, which they opposed.
Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler said the district uses a Culturally Responsive Framework that “speaks to providing a welcoming, affirming environment and developing cultural competence through culturally responsive instruction, deeper learning, equitable classroom practices and social-emotional needs for a focus on the whole child.” He said the district did not use Critical Race Theory in its staff training or student curriculum.
Barts was first elected to a four-year term on the board on Nov. 5, 2019. She received 54.8% of the vote and defeated one other candidate. Though school board elections are nonpartisan, Barts was supported by the Loudoun County Democratic Committee.
Loudoun County Public Schools served 81,906 students during the 2018-2019 school year.
Ballotpedia has tracked 81 school board recall efforts against 209 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.
In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials overall. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.