ASHBURN, Va. (7News) — After 7News' exclusive reporting this week, two members of Congress wrote a letter to Loudoun County School Board Chair Ian Serotkin calling on him to launch a full investigation into the extent to which staff and associates of Loudoun County officials and school board members were involved in targeting parents.
“We are deeply concerned by recent reports that staff and associates of Loudoun County School Board members and County officials orchestrated a campaign of smear attacks, harassment, and intimidation against local parents simply for exercising their First Amendment rights to petition the government about their children’s education,” U.S. Rep. Roy and U.S. Rep. Good wrote in a letter to Serotkin.
“This appears to be a part of an aggressive and orchestrated campaign to infringe upon parents’ First Amendment rights through fear and intimidation — specifically, by scaring them away from ever petitioning their local or State government and advocating on behalf of their children’s wellbeing and education in the public square. We hope you would agree that engaging in this type of behavior is appalling and should not be tolerated.," they stated in the letter.
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“Any attempts by staff and associates of Loudoun County officials or school board members, to further harass, intimidate, or otherwise silence American parents must be fully investigated and those responsible must be held accountable,” U.S. Rep. Chip Roy and U.S. Rep. Bob Good wrote in a letter to Serotkin. “We call on all of those representing Loudoun County Public Schools to stand with parents and condemn these attacks, launch a full investigation into the extent to which staff and associates of Loudoun County officials and school board members were involved in targeting parents like Mr. Winn, and hold all those responsible fully accountable. Failure to do so would further erode trust in public education and send alarm bells ringing from Richmond to Washington about the abuse of parental rights and free speech with federal taxpayer dollars. We look forward to responsible action.”
7News was the first to report how some people have been threatened online after they spoke at Loudoun County school board meetings.
On Wednesday, a whistleblower in the Loudoun Love Warriors Facebook group sent 7News a list that allegedly targets parents who have spoken out about education issues in Loudoun County.
SEE ALSO | Loudoun County sheriff investigates threats made in 'Loudoun Love Warriors' Facebook group
The list appears to target more than 100 people, including a number of elected officials and political candidates.
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, Governor Glenn Youngkin, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman, Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, Del. David LaRock, School Board member John Beatty, School Board candidate Michael Rivera, Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, and 2022 congressional candidate Hung Cao are all on this list.
Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg and the church’s incoming school are on the list, too. Cornerstone Chapel is one of the largest churches in Loudoun County.
“Our church, and others, have been targeted simply for our faith and values. It is ironic that those who espouse ‘tolerance’ the most, are actually some of the most intolerant people toward those of us with different views and values,” Cornerstone Chapel officials told 7News in a statement.
On Thursday, 7News Reporter Nick Minock asked Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin about his reaction to the list shortly before it was made public.
“I'm just astounded,” Youngkin told 7News Reporter Nick Minock on Wednesday. “I truly am astounded that the suggestion that there could be an organized effort in order to truly tear people down and hurt them; done by people who seemed to have ties to elected officials, at least reported as so. We got to get to the bottom of all of this and it can't stand, it just can't. It's a truly, truly shocking revelation if it's all true. And I know we're going to get to the bottom of it and hold people accountable as appropriate.”
According to a whistleblower, they received the list from someone in the Loudoun Love Warrior’s Facebook group. The Sheriff’s Office is investigating threats made in the group after 7News’s exclusive reporting showed threats were being made.
“Threatening me - threatening to curb stomp me, it is really, really horrible,” Loudoun County parent Elicia Brand told 7News.
The group also discussed ways to get people fired from their jobs after they spoke at school board meetings.
“They threatened my life and livelihood,” Loudoun County resident Mark Winn told 7News.
When the whistleblower asked a person in the Loudoun Love Warriors group about one of the people on the list, the person in the group allegedly said, “We are going to burn him into the ground.”
The person who said, “We are going to burn him into the ground” also appears to be the same person who said, “She [Brand] is so lucky there are laws because she would be curb-stomped.”
“It's shocking that, in fact, in Virginia today, we have progressive left Democrats who have organized themselves in order to not just intimidate, but to really try to destroy Virginians who are showing up at school board meetings in order to advocate on behalf of their children,” Youngkin told 7News Reporter Minock. “And this is the kind of standard that Attorney General Garland has set when he allows parents to be called terrorists, simply for standing up for their children. I'm just stunned of this revelation. And I think that it is reflective of the fact that we have parents who have not been protected and stood up. And that’s why I was elected.”
“And when we turn around and we see Senate Democrats today and in our own General Assembly, you know, call the parent’s movement ‘stupid’ and to say that it's ‘junk’ this is what we're dealing with,” added Youngkin. “And this is what it translates to which seems to be organized in an effort to hurt people. I mean, come on, this is not Virginia, and we can't stand for it. I am really looking forward to digging into this issue with our Attorney General and I do know that Sheriff Chapman is already looking into it in Loudoun County. And this is a real challenge and this cannot be allowed. I know there's a lot of facts we don't have yet, so we have to wait to really see the full picture. But at first blush, this is just absolutely stunningly bad and we need to make sure we get to the bottom of it.”
The “Loudoun Love Warriors” group includes campaign volunteers, supporters, and staff for several Loudoun County elected officials, 7News learned after investigating the group members' ties.
SEE ALSO: Loudoun County Schools asked to reinstate teacher against transgender policy
7News obtained hundreds of messages from a whistleblower in the group who thought the conversations were going too far.
The “Loudoun Love Warriors” group includes people who appear to be associated with Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj, County Supervisor Juli Briskman, School Board Chair Ian Serotkin, school board member Brenda Sheridan, school board member Atoosa Reaser, school board member Erika Ogedegbe, school board candidate Anne Donohue, sheriff candidate Craig Buckley, and Chair Phyllis Randall. None of these elected officials personally made any threats.
Some of the people in the group are even paid by the elected official’s campaigns and work in their official offices.
Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears is asking Loudoun County elected officials to disavow the violent threats made in the group.
“My reaction to the what are they calling themselves ‘the Love Warriors Group’ --- there's nothing but hate in that group,” Earle-Sears told 7News. “From what I'm understanding, if the reports are true, and I don't react to it as lieutenant governor, I react to it as a normal, sane human being, when you hear what this group is trying to do, they're trying to destroy lives. They're going to make sure you definitely have loss of employment, you will possibly lose your life because they're talking about [disassemble] you, and they're also possibly going to shoot you. Now remember, this is the kind of group that says they're against guns, except I guess when they're the ones with the guns. So, folks, we've got to get a grip. We're destroying America from the inside. This is what our enemies do to us. This is not we what we do to ourselves.”
After Winn spoke at a school board meeting in December 2022, one person in the “Loudoun Love Warriors" said they wanted to find Winn’s employer and hold the company accountable until he is fired. That same person and others wrote:
“It shocked me,” Winn said when he learned of the specific messages in a 7News interview.
What shocked Winn, even more, was a series of messages from people in the “Loudoun Love Warriors," who wrote:
Despite the violent comments, a Loudoun County real estate agent appears to have posted Winn’s address in the “Loudoun Love Warriors” group.
Every Loudoun County elected official and candidate who appears to have associations with members of this Facebook group refused to answer questions on camera from 7News on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. However, some issued statements after the story ran Tuesday.
“Violent threats are never acceptable and at times can be criminal. I personally condemn all violent language and my office will be investigating whether a crime was committed. Due to the possibility of a criminal investigation, I can not comment further at this time," Biberaj said in a statement to 7News.
In a statement to 7News, Randall stated, “No threats of violence are ever appropriate in any way, in any place, at any time, from anyone. I strongly condemn any use of violent language in any capacity. Those that use violent language are not welcome in the Loudoun Democratic Party.”
Buckley released this statement to 7News stating that he condemns violence:
“As a career law enforcement official, I’ve seen how violent speech can spur violent actions. Violent threats in any form will not be tolerated, especially those intended to inhibit First Amendment free speech rights of those we might not agree with. I condemn all speech that threatens violence," said Buckley.
“Although I have no knowledge of the incidents to which you are referring, I fully condemn any and all threats of violence, harassment, and intimidation,” Reaser told 7News in an email after 7News requested an interview with Reaser.
After 7News requested an interview with Briskman, she told 7News in an email that “I will not be commenting for your story.”
"I am not familiar with the Facebook group you cite - "Loudoun Love Warriors." As a long-term resident and the Commonwealth's Attorney for Loudoun County, I hope for meaningful dialogue and less rhetoric in social media. One's First Amendment rights are vital to democracy and our core principles of freedom and justice in America," Biberaj said in a statement to 7News after the story aired. "I have sworn to uphold the United States Constitution and will do so with every fibre of my being. However, if anyone makes threats which cross into being unlawful, I have faith that our local law enforcement is equipped to investigate the matters. If their investigation results in findings of violations of criminal law, then the legal process will be initiated and take its course."
“As a School Board member, I and my colleagues have been the subject of countless death threats and other violent acts. Any violent language or threats used anywhere in any capacity is abhorrent and is against the principles of our democracy. I do not condone any such behavior or anyone I associate with making or tolerating such threats," Serotkin said.
"A news story yesterday reported allegations of threats made against Loudoun County residents in a Facebook group chat. Before yesterday, I was not aware the group existed and I have never been a member. I condemn in the strongest possible terms violence or threats of violence from any source and on any medium. I intend to keep my campaign focused on building community and consensus to make decisions in the best interests of LCPS students," At-Large Loudoun County School Board Candidate Anne Donohue told 7News in a statement on May 10.