School Board Member Recalls Are Allowed in Virginia


Groups in Loudoun County and Fairfax County are attempting to recall school board members. They’re part of a national increase of school board recalls in 2021, according to Ballotpedia, which reports 58 recall efforts in 2021, targeting 144 officials. That’s up from a 2006 to 2020 average of 23 recalls.

In Loudoun County, recall efforts came as a reaction to school equity efforts, and the battle there has gained national attention. In Fairfax, recall efforts were born out of frustration over virtual learning. Those issues drew increased attention to school boards across Virginia, who now face pressure on issues including Critical Race Theory, transgender policy, and mask policy. Open FCPS is pushing for a recall of three board members, even though virtual learning is no longer mandatory.

“The reason they are still up for recall is because what they did this last year is unforgivable. Closing schools in March of 2020 until the end of the school year was understandable. But continuing this charade all the way until March of 2021 caused long-lasting damage,” Open FCPS Coalition spokesperson Vanessa Hill told The Virginia Star in June.

Ballotpedia says that only 28.8 percent of recall efforts nationally reach the ballot, and only 17.6 percent of targeted school board members are removed. In many states, to recall school board members, petitions must gain a certain amount of signatures; then, the petition goes to a vote.

The process is different in Virginia, which requires a number of signatures from the appropriate jurisdiction equal to 10 percent of the number of votes that appointed the official, according to the Code of Virginia. Then, a circuit court reviews the grounds or reasons for removal listed in the petition. The elected official is required to tell the court why they should not be removed from office. Then, a trial is held.

Open FCPS has already submitted the petition to recall school board member Elaine Tholen. On Friday, a court is expected to hear Tholen’s motion to quash the recall effort against her, according to The Fairfax Times.

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Loudoun County School Board Meeting” by WUSA9.





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