Washington County, Va. school board member to resign, citing ‘political climate’ in county

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) – A Washington County, Virginia school board member has announced his resignation in a letter, saying political issues within the county are the primary factor.

According to a letter from school board member Terry Fleenor, he plans to officially resign from his seat on July 31, 2021.

“I have become increasingly ashamed to even be called a citizen of Washington County,much less a representative of  our good (used to be) county. Please know that I am not resigning because of the hate filled emails I have received this past week calling for a resignation. Instead I am resigning because I cannot support the political climate that we find ourselves in within the county, a climate propagated by at least two of our elected Constitutional Officers.”

Terry Fleenor

Fleenor wrote that he is considering the impact that his stances on different issues have had on his family and the way they’ve been treated.

During an interview with News Channel 11, Fleenor said that this treatment from the community included hate-filled emails and one threat.

“I made some comments there that were not received well by a few and received a lot of nasty emails and prank phone calls until early in the morning,” Fleenor said. “Even one threat. It wasn’t specifically directed at me by name, but it was obvious that it was directed at me by what they said of damage to my vehicle, which never occurred, but the threat was made.”

This backlash stemmed from a board meeting discussion of Virginia’s code developed to protect transgender students and past meetings to decide for virtual or in-school learning.

“The state law was there; we were obligated by our oath of office to follow the Constitution of the state of Virginia and to follow the Constitution of the United States and to not do so would be a direct violation of our oath,” Fleenor said. “The decision that was made by the board was not a decision to not follow the law. The decision was made from the school board’s attorney that our current policies satisfied the law and that we didn’t have to change anything.

“To say that we had nullified the law by a 7-0, which is a common misconception, is not true at all. We never voted on any of those policies; we removed them from consideration because there were no adjustments needed for the policies.”

He said that a handful of community members made homophobic and transphobic commentary during the meeting discussion of Virginia’s transgender laws.

“The comments that were made in the meeting were certainly directed to transgender or LGBTQ individuals as them being a different class of people and not worthy of any respect from the school system — those were comments that were made by the public — not the board — the public,” Fleenor said.

The former board member voiced a reminder that school boards are apolitical entities and are committed to the success of every student — regardless of religion, sex, gender identity or race.

“Of all elected offices in the state of Virginia that are supposed to be apolitical, the school board is the primary one,” he said. “We are not even able to declare a party affiliation when we are running for election in school board. It is a nonpolitical office completely. I feel like it has turned into a political agenda for some.”

Fleenor left a piece of advice for the Washington County, Virginia community.

“We need more compassion for others,” he said. “We need to accept others. We need to love others. In addition to being a school board member, I’m a pastor. There were some conflicting views when you’re talking about the transgender issue and being a pastor, obviously, but the way I read the Bible is that Jesus reached out to all different kinds of people and did not condemn.

“That’s what I would suggest. We sometimes need to look at other people’s views — even though we may not agree with them, we can disagree still in compassion and care and love.”

The letter asks that the remaining school board members honor their pledge to student success and hear the concerns of teachers in the school district.

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