Today we’re following some good news out of Virginia, which will be holding elections for the state legislature this fall. Republicans are trying to retain control of the General Assembly and flip the State Senate in hopes of getting a “trifecta” — control of both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship — for the first time in a decade. Governor Glenn Youngkin has been incredibly hands-on with the GOP’s efforts and has raised a record amount of money through his associated political action committee, Spirit of Virginia PAC.
I recently traveled down to Virginia Beach to attend one of the governor’s “Parents Matter” listening sessions. Youngkin has been holding these events throughout the commonwealth this past year, and they allow him to speak directly to parents about what issues concern them. (He even takes handwritten notes.) There is a special emphasis on reforming public education and reining in children’s access to social media. At the Virginia Beach event, parents expressed frustration that more had not been done in their children’s schools to address pandemic learning loss, worried about how much time their kids spend on their phones and raised questions about the affordability of alternatives to public schooling.
You can read more about the event, as well as my interviews with Youngkin, some impressive GOP candidates and local political operatives on the strategy heading into this fall’s election in The Spectator’s upcoming October magazine. I thought it important to mention here, though, as it is one of many examples of Youngkin walking the walk on one of his key campaign promises.
The bigger story this week, though, is that Governor Youngkin has officially pardoned Scott Smith, the father who was charged with obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct at a Loudoun County school board meeting because he lost his temper while defending his daughter’s honor.
Governor Youngkin rode a wave of concern about the erosion of parental rights in the public school system into office in 2021. During the pandemic, parents saw their kids struggle with remote learning, social isolation, mask and vaccine mandates, and discovered that they were being taught all kinds of divisive nonsense about race and gender. Smith’s case, which happened in the summer ahead of the gubernatorial election, was one of the biggest flashpoints in what became known as the “parental rights movement.”
For those who don’t recall the story, Smith’s teen daughter was sexually assaulted in a Stone Bridge High School bathroom by a boy who was allowed in the girls’ restroom because he was wearing a skirt that day. To say the school handled the incident poorly would be an understatement. They allowed the boy to roam free for hours as administrators instead focused on trying to get a no-trespass order against Smith, who showed up at the school to advocate for his daughter. The boy wasn’t arrested until months later, and was allowed to transfer to another high school where — shocker — he sexually assaulted another girl.
Smith and his wife attended a June 2021 school board meeting where the board was planning to discuss a transgender student policy that would allow boys across the county to access girls’ bathrooms depending on their claimed gender identity. Scott got into a verbal altercation with another attendee who accused him of lying about his daughter’s sexual assault and threatened to “ruin” his plumbing company on social media; police heard him call the woman a “bitch” and claimed that he had clenched his fist. They tackled him to the ground, beat him, removed him from the meeting and then charged him with disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice. He was convicted in August and given a ten-day suspended sentence. Prior to the pardon, Smith was appealing the case.
Elsewhere during that fateful June school board meeting, then-Loudoun County superintendent Scott Ziegler claimed there had been no assaults in school bathrooms. It reeked of an intentional cover-up to protect the proposed transgender student policy. Ziegler was perfectly aware of what had happened to Smith’s daughter at the time of the meeting. In fact, he sent an email to the school board informing them of the incident on the same day that it happened back in May.
Youngkin’s pardon of Smith is the first step toward justice in this scenario. As the governor said, “Scott Smith is a dedicated parent who’s faced unwarranted charges in his pursuit to protect his daughter.” Damn right. Smith thanked the governor for giving him “an off-ramp from a Politicized and Weaponized Justice System.”
But here are the other people who still need to be held accountable in this case.
First, Scott Ziegler was fired from his superintendent position, but will also be going on trial September 25 to answer for allegations that he retaliated against a LCPS teacher. The teacher said she was fired for testifying against Ziegler before a special grand jury that was investigating the two sexual assaults. The teacher claimed that Ziegler’s school board similarly ignored her complaints about constantly being groped in class by special education students.
Next, Buta Biberaj currently serves as the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Loudoun County and was the original prosecutor in Smith’s case. She was removed from the case on appeal because of concerns about her impartiality and “the integrity of the prosecution.” Amazingly, though Biberaj sees fit to prosecute dads standing up for their daughters, she has declined to go after other criminals. In a December memo, Biberaj announced that her office would less frequently participate in the prosecution of certain misdemeanors, such as reckless driving, hit and runs, property damage, trespassing, shoplifting and driving with a suspended license. In one tragic case, Biberaj’s office agreed to release a Virginia man accused of strangling his wife on bond against the recommendation of the Department of Corrections. He ended up killing his wife with a hammer. She has criticized Youngkin for pardoning Smith, accusing him of politicizing the case. Smith has called her “evil.” Either way, she is up for re-election this fall and has managed to lose the endorsement of the left-wing Washington Post.
Finally, Attorney General Merrick Garland, who issued a memo falsely claiming that school boards across the country were facing a wave of violence due to the parental rights movement. Garland’s memo was inspired by a letter to the Biden administration from the National School Boards Association. The NSBA said in its letter that the “heinous actions” of parents protesting passionately at school board meetings could be considered “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” They cited Smith’s case as evidence. Garland has defended the memo and the FBI insists that “threat tags” for school board-related incidents would only be used in cases of credible threats of violence. We’ll keep our eye on all of the above!