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Meaningful discussions


WORLD Radio - Meaningful discussions

A Christian teacher tries do her job amid a dumpster fire of controversy and identity politics.

LES SILLARS: I’m Les Sillars, and this is Doubletake. Just a quick warning before we start: this episode involves gender identity and controversial school curricula. Parents may want to check it out before allowing children to listen. OK. Let’s get started.

MUSIC: Noir et Blanc Vie by Knowpe

In 2015 Monica Gill was teaching a U.S. History class at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Virginia. The town is about 30 miles west of Washington, DC. She showed the students a documentary about the government’s response to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Some of the students were really upset. “Those terrorists weren’t really Muslims,” one girl said. “They can’t call themselves Muslims.”

Then the discussion took a strange turn. One young man said, “Well, if they’re not Muslims, then Bruce Jenner isn’t a woman.”

Not so many years earlier, the students would have been, like, “What?” But in 2015, everybody got it. Our culture takes it for granted now: individuals can define their own identities. On their own terms. From there, Monica says, the discussion became pretty abstract: where does truth come from? Do definitions and words matter?

MONICA: When that class was ending, I closed everything off by saying to everybody, “Look, the most important thing for you to get out of today is that you need to be consistent in your thinking, and that no matter what, I love you.”

For one female student, a lightbulb went on. She was a thin, athletic girl with a very short haircut. She had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Some days she wore a bowtie and a suit to school. Other days, she wore red lipstick and a dress. Monica says you never knew which girl would show up. She thinks the girl was thinking about switching genders. Becoming a boy. But the girl wasn’t sure what to do.

The student came up after class. Monica remembers it clearly.

MONICA: She hugged me for probably one of the longest hugs I’ve ever had from a student and was crying.

Monica says that it must have been tough for that student. But the class helped the girl realize an important truth: that some things are fixed. Some things can’t change.

MONICA: And after that, she made the decision that she was female, but that she was gay. And she never went through the transition process.

To be clear, Monica does not think that sexual orientation—who you’re attracted to—is a fixed part of your identity. As a Christian, she says that being male or female is unchangeable. It’s how God made you. But Monica says that this girl was realizing that being female was not something you can take on and off like a dress.

That raw moment between Monica and that student has stuck with her. That conversation, and that hug, are a big part of why she loves teaching. And it helps explain why she joined a lawsuit last year against her own school district, Loudoun County Public Schools.

MUSIC: Court and Page by Silent Partner

Loudoun county public schools has a 1.5 billion dollar budget for 81,000 students. Loudoun County is also a flash point for a national debate—more of a war, really—about gender, race, and speech in public schools.

Monica Gill is in the middle of it. She wants to keep the ability to have those meaningful discussions. Conversations about things that matter. About truth. But in her district, that’s getting harder. A lot harder.

Today, a story about a Christian public school teacher just trying to be faithful amid a dumpster-fire of controversy and identity politics. Our correspondent Emma Perley will take it from here.

EMMA PERLEY: Monica is a wife and mom. She’s been a teacher for 26 years. And she loves her students. She makes coffee every morning so that when they walk into her classroom, it smells like home. There are colorful rugs on the floor. Red paint splotches with pink hearts above the door read, “YOU ARE LOVED.”

MUSIC: Happy Birthday Soul by E’s Jammy Jams

She greets every student by name, and asks them how their weekend was. She even remembers their birthdays.

MONICA: I really feel like my main mission is for those kids to know that they are loved unconditionally every year.

To students who answer questions in class, Monica gives little pieces of paper stamped with hearts or animals. They say “Good job!” or “You’re terrific!” At the end of the quarter, the students can turn in the stamped papers for bonus points. She gets quiet, introverted kids to raise their hands. But Monica is finding it more difficult to have truly open, honest conversations. Some things are required. Others are out of bounds.

It started a few years ago. Teachers across Virginia have been concerned for a while about districts that push controversial transgender policies and Critical Race Theory—or CRT. But Loudoun County and Virginia’s Department of Education were especially aggressive.

MONICA: The last two years have really been kind of the striking point of parents looking at what’s going on in public schools, not being pleased with curriculum in terms of what’s being taught.

Monica, and her friend Tanner Cross, an elementary teacher at a Loudoun County school in Leesburg, began asking pointed questions.

MONICA: We certainly were comrades in the midst of this battle of what we were seeing in terms of an ideological push from our school board.

This is Cross at a school board meeting last year.

TANNER CROSS: My name is Tanner Cross and I'm speaking out of love for those who suffer with gender dysphoria. ...

In 2019, Loudoun County Public Schools began an initiative to put more books into classrooms more books that taught “equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

MUSIC: Awkward Meeting by Kevin Macleod

The collection was called the Diversity Library. Many of the books contain sexually explicit content. The board tied them up into a neat package with a bow and labeled it “diverse young adult fiction.” It took parents months to figure out what was going on. Then, shocked parents showed up at a school board meeting in October of 2020 to protest. This is a parent reading from Other Broken Things by C. Desir.

PARENT: “We shouldn’t,” he starts but I put my fingers against his lips to stop him. Then I go up on my tiptoes to kiss him...

It’s available in every ninth grade classroom at Monica’s school. It’s about a 17 year-old alcoholic girl in a sexual relationship with a 38-year-old man.

... It’s been a really long time since I’ve kissed anyone sober...

The characters go a lot further. Other books describe teenagers in homosexual activity with adults. Others depict incest.

Some parents, teachers, three school board members, and a librarian defended the material at that 2020 board meeting. They said young kids should be able to see themselves “reflected” in the books. They said it was important to read about pedophilia because it was, quote, “culturally enriching.”

One school board member named Joy Maloney even compared the sexual content of the books to the Bible, saying that there were “horrible stories” of the same caliber in both.

JOY MALONEY: I strongly agree that context is very important in this discussion. I mean, go reference your Bible, if you’d like that. 

Maloney also complained about a parent using profanity in the meeting. The parent was, at the time, reading from a book in the Diversity Library. Here’s Monica at that same meeting.

MONICA: This is not dignity. This is disturbing. It’s not diversity. It is indefensible, and it’s not about censorship, it’s about decorum.

About 3,400 of these diversity books are available, from elementary schools to high schools. Children can just walk into certain classrooms and pick them up.

MUSIC: Devious Little Smile by Godmode

One grandfather told the school board that a Loudoun County teacher informed him that his, quote, “household beliefs” were not a reason to censor the diversity initiative.

MONICA: I just don’t understand . . . why are we glorifying that, and what is this desire to over-sexualize our children?

The Diversity Library was just part of a much larger campaign. When Monica showed up in August of 2020 to prepare for the fall semester, all the teachers had to watch training videos. They were about how to treat transgender students in the classroom and how to deal with her own white privilege.

She was told that if she didn’t watch the videos, she wouldn’t be allowed to teach. Here’s a snippet of one video called “Microaggressions in the Classroom.”

MICROAGGRESSIONS IN THE CLASSROOM: Referring to students by the wrong pronouns, calling on men while ignoring women in class discussions, or calling only on white students and ignoring the students of color in your classroom …

What’s more, teachers must not assume that their students are heterosexual. That suggests that only straight people are normal. The video said teachers had to be very cautious about these kinds of “microaggressions.”

MICROAGGRESSIONS IN THE CLASSROOM: People who commit microaggressions think of themselves as well intentioned, non-racist, non-sexist people. They do not realize that the underlying messages communicated by their actions or comments are hurtful to other people

What is a microaggression? The definition in the video is pretty vague. That’s on purpose, according to Tyson Langhofer—a First Amendment lawyer with the Christian legal advocacy group ADF.

TYSON LANGHOFER: Frankly, it’s problematic because it intentionally chills speech . . . it tells people “watch what you say, if you say something that somebody else doesn’t like, even unintended, you can be punished for that.”

Basically the definition of a microaggression is vague, so that people will always stay on their toes, unsure if they will offend someone or not with what they say. Langhofer goes on to say that the definition of “offensive” is essentially anything that someone finds offensive, no matter what you meant. Monica adds that the training materials also promoted Critical Race Theory, or CRT.

MUSIC: Anomalous Hedges by The Mini Vandals

We’ll just note here that this episode isn’t the place for a full explanation of CRT. Some Christians like how it focuses attention on racism. Many other Christians, like Monica, believe it promotes a deeply unbiblical worldview. Parts of this story include what she personally experienced in the classroom, and her concerns about how CRT impacts her ability to teach.

She was worried. Word of school lessons promoting CRT had by that time spread to parents in Loudoun County. The school board’s superintendent, Scott Ziegler, told WUSA9 that the school was not teaching Critical Race Theory. Well, they weren’t exactly.

SCOTT ZIEGLER: We use words like systemic racism, we use words like anti-racist and that share some vocabulary with Critical Race Theory. It’s not the same—we don’t use it the same.

But Monica was hearing kids tell each other to check their white privilege.

MONICA: I have personally witnessed kids specifically excluding each other because of their skin color and saying things like, well, you can’t be a part of this conversation because you’re not black. And that’s terrible. No student should be excluded from a conversation because of their skin color.

She didn’t say anything to the students. She couldn’t. She was being monitored, as her teacher training videos made clear. So, Monica did what she could. At the next training session she asked how, exactly, she was supposed to deal with that kind of behavior. Why weren’t the students being disciplined for excluding their peers?

MONICA: Racism is not going to solve the problem of racism. And unfortunately, what we’re seeing is the ideology of critical race theory trickling in and actually creating a situation that inflames the issue of race rather than creating this sort of inclusive, diverse utopia that they’re pretending it’s going to create. It’s not doing it.

She got no answers at the training sessions, so she starting speaking up at school board meetings that fall. But whenever Monica stood at the podium at a school board meeting or raised her hand at a training session, there was no response. It was like school authorities were letting her speak just to check a box.

SILLARS: This is Doubletake. We’ll be right back.


MONTAGE: Announcer 1: … the heart of it, how race should or should not taught in schools … Announcer 2: … today President Trump announced that he would be forming a 1776 commission, which would promote, quote, a patriotic education … Announcer 3: .. private education and race, highlighting the discrimination and racism many black students say they face …

That fall controversies about CRT in schools were flaring up all over the country. Then another issue hit the news. Teachers were losing their jobs over not using preferred pronouns for transgender students. Monica started to worry about her own job.

John Kluge, for example, was a popular music teacher at Brownsburg High School in Indiana. He refused to call students by their preferred pronouns. This is Kluge on Fox News.

JOHN KLUGE: I wanted to focus on teaching the kids orchestra and I have been able to cultivate friendly relationships with my students, including these transgender students of mine.

In the fall of 2020 Kluge reached a “religious accommodation” with his high school. He would just use last names when referring to his students. But then some teachers and students started grumbling. So the school board revoked the agreement in the fall of 2021. It told him to follow the rules like everyone else, resign, or be fired. So he resigned. Now he’s suing the school district.

The case that really caught Monica’s attention involved Peter Vlaming. He taught French in West Point High School in Virginia. He was fired in 2018 for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns. From the Daily Signal.

PETER VLAMING: My school administration said that I basically had to abandon my beliefs, my belief that we’re integral beings, and adopt a new ideology about who we are as human beings. And I explained to my administration that I couldn't do that.

After he was fired, he sued his school. Monica found an article detailing his story.

MONICA: When I saw that article, I actually took it to one of my superiors and said, “I’m very concerned about this, this could end up being me.”

That risked a backlash from her supervisors.

MUSIC: May the Weary Find Rest by Atomica Music

But several years ago, she had seen how transgender ideology hurt her students. A girl in her class had been struggling with depression and anxiety. She was hospitalized for mental health issues. When she came back to school, she began to transition from a girl to a boy.

MONICA: We were asked to change her name, from her given name to the new chosen name, which I did.

Monica called her by her preferred new name, and everyone else at school affirmed her transition. But the girl spiraled down anyway. She kept her head down in school. Wore baggy sweatpants every day. And she stopped participating in class discussions. The girl’s whole body drooped. Gender transition didn’t help, Monica thought. It made her worse.

MONICA: She was in pain, and she desperately needed help. And I don’t . . . I don’t know if she was getting the help that she needed. But I could tell she was in a lot of pain. Probably one of the more heartbreaking relationships that . . . that I had in my teaching career.

So when the issue reappeared in 2020, Monica couldn’t let it go. She tried to keep up the pressure on the school board, even though it felt like nothing was changing.

MONICA: I was very frustrated. Because I had spent any number of school board meetings speaking in front of the school board; I had written any number of letters and emails . . . And I literally got no responses from anyone.

That’s how it went, all through the fall of 2020. For Monica, it had been a tough year. It was going to get tougher.

ANNOUNCER [CNN]: 2020 was tough. But.

SOURCE: We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days.

ANNOUNCER: An LA County official says hospitals are, quote, ‘on the brink of catastrophe.’

SOURCE: It’s like treading water 100 feet below the surface …

As 2021 began, the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing. People were tense. Debates raged over masks and vaccines. Monica was teaching from home, as Loudoun County had yet to reopen classrooms.

And then in March things escalated even further, spilling over into families’ private lives. Parents who opposed diversity ideology discovered—much to their surprise—that they had been targeted by a private Facebook group.

Ian Prior is a Loudoun County parent who had written some articles opposing Critical Race Theory. Here he is on Fox.

TUCKER CARLSON: It seemed like a threat to me. Did you take it that way?

PRIOR: Sure. Right off the bat, there was a post in this private group, they’re called the Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County …

It wasn’t officially associated with Loudoun County Schools, but it was started by Beth Barts, a school board member at the time. Five other school board members joined the group, as well as three members of the Board of Supervisors.

PRIOR: But they put a post out there for people to help, you know, hack into anti-CRT websites, to direct them to pro-CRT websites, engage in a mailing campaign to expose these people, and what you had was all these people in the group start listing names, so I found out from a reporter’s inquiry that I was in the group twice.

Given Loudoun’s moneyed reputation, someone soon dubbed the group the “chardonnay antifa.” Here’s one targeted parent at a school board meeting in March of 2021.

PARENT: I was personally attacked. My name, my first name, my last name, where my son goes to school, who my husband is, where I live, and three pictures of me were all on that Facebook page. ...

Anti-Racist group members commented online that these parents should be investigated. That their anti-Critical Race Theory websites should be infiltrated by hackers.

... They wanted to send postcards to our neighbors calling us racist, and come to our homes with a megaphone and call us racist!

The next board meeting was filled with outraged parents, like the one you just heard, and this one:

PARENT 2: Making lists is historically a way to chill speech and public debate. It is also a betrayal of your role as elected officials. ...

MUSIC: Voices by Patrick Patrikios

Afterward, some parents tried to recall the six board members involved in the group. But others took matters into their own keyboards, and it got really ugly. Some board members, such as Beth Barts and chairwoman Brenda Sheridan, received death threats. The entire school board received an email saying: “You people need to be arrested, tried, and then hung by the neck until you’re dead.”

The police investigated some of the more alarming threats but declined to file charges. The Chardonnay Antifa group was uncovered in March of 2021, around the same time Virginia’s Department of Education ordered school districts to develop “supportive” policies for transgender students.

MUSIC: The Children’s Room by Audionautix

Virginia’s governor at the time was Democrat Ralph Northam. The “model policy” recommended, among many other things, that public schools treat the refusal to use preferred pronouns as, quote, “discrimination.”

That schools give transgender students access to the bathrooms and locker rooms of the other sex. That schools hide students’ gender requests and issues from parents who were, quote, “not affirming.”

And that schools report unsupportive parents to the state’s Child Protective Services. The model policy prompted an uproar across the state. Well, at first. But then school districts in socially conservative areas of Virginia realized the state wasn’t going to enforce the directive. It carried no penalties for school districts that didn’t comply. Many of them basically ignored it, including the Chesapeake school board, as the local Fox affiliate reported.

REPORTER: There will not be any update to school policy here, as only one board member motioned to move forward and update the transgender policy as mandated by law. The rest of the board said they do not plan to address it at this time …

Not Monica’s district. Loudoun County Public Schools released a proposal called Policy 8040. It didn’t go quite as far as the state directive advised. It did require preferred pronoun use. And allowed trans students to use the locker rooms and bathrooms of their choice.

At a school board meeting on May 25, 2021, Monica’s friend Tanner Cross tried once again. He went up to the podium wearing a green shirt and a white mask. He’s been an educator since 2006, and he started teaching P.E. at a Loudoun County elementary school in 2019.

CROSS: I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences. I'm a teacher, but I serve God first and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion, it’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.

The next day, Tuesday, Cross was back teaching at Leesburg Elementary. He played T-Ball with his students during P.E. But the day after that, on Wednesday, the board placed him on administrative leave with pay. Effective immediately. It banned him from school property. Banned him from school board meetings. And started an investigation for supposedly disrupting the operations of Leesburg Elementary School. That same day, it was all over the news. This is from Fox.

REPORTER: Last Friday Tanner Cross was put on leave after expressing his religious beliefs at a school board meeting focused on proposed transgender school policies.

Monica was in the middle of teaching her school day when her phone blew up. Her friends texted her: “Did you see what happened to Tanner?” She opened her laptop and saw the headlines. And that was the moment Monica realized that she had to do more. She just wasn’t sure what.

MONICA: I was just like, this is everything that goes against what America is supposed to be. He was a citizen and an employee, and voicing his concerns about it, and they put him on leave?

Cross fought back. With the help of ADF he promptly sued the school board. A Loudoun County court reinstated him on June 8.

REPORTER: A suspended Loudoun County Virginia Public School teacher will be returning to the classroom. ...

The judge, James Plowman, said in his ruling that Cross’s paid suspension, quote, “adversely affected his constitutionally protected speech.” The school board appealed the case, and it went to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Meanwhile the debate in Loudoun County over Policy 8040 continued to heat up. About 250 people showed up and waited in line to speak at a school board meeting on June 22, 2021. Inside the building, Cross’s supporters were booing the board members. Other parents supported Policy 8040. This audio is from the Washington Examiner.

PARENT: Hi, I’m back here today as a proud screaming parent of a young transgender son and our Loudoun County School. Today, instead of focusing on the hate that seems to be dripping off the followers of Jesus in this room and from their kids in our schools, I wanted to take the time . . . [crowd boos]

Eventually the board ended public comment despite a line of parents waiting to speak. And then the meeting descended into chaos. The board abruptly declared the meeting “unlawful” and walked out.

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING: [shouts of “shame on you!”, one man yells “who pays your salary?” school board member says, “This is an unlawful assembly, please move out of the building,” one man screams, “you need to be arrested!”]

Jon Tigges, a former air force officer, refused to leave. Police tried to force him out of the building. Witnesses posted this video of him talking to officers.

TIGGES: I’m supposed to stand right here. And so were 200 other people, and be able to share with these people care about this county, and the morals that this county is actually going to support or not support. And they walked out.

Tigges was arrested for trespassing. He kept resisting while the officers slapped handcuffs on him.

TIGGES: [“This is an unlawful arrest! I have a First Amendment right …. It’s not over! It’s not over.”]

As officers hauled Tigges away, another parent was thrown to the ground and arrested. His name was Scott Smith. It turned out that there was a lot more to Smith’s story.

MUSIC: Time Stops by Silent Partner

Two weeks before this board meeting, in May, Smith’s ninth-grade daughter had been raped in a girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School by a 14-year-old boy wearing a skirt.

Pro-trans people argued that it wasn’t a random assault, which lots of parents of teen girls feared. In the boy’s later court appearances, it came out that the pair had met twice before in the girls’ bathroom for consensual encounters. But this was clearly an assault. By a boy in a skirt. In a girls’ bathroom. Smith gave this interview to ABC 7 News.

SCOTT SMITH: We were notified on the phone that our daughter had been beat up in the girl’s bathroom by a male. Nothing about sexual assault.

His wife arrived first. When Smith arrived at the school soon afterwards, the officials wouldn’t even let him into the building because he had no ID on him. He had a stand-off with the security officer at the door. And then local police arrived and escorted the family off the property.

SMITH: The whole thing was handled poorly.

The same day, school superintendent Scott Ziegler sent out a very brief email to the school board about the incident. It said: “This afternoon a female student alleged that a male student sexually assaulted her in the restroom. The LCSO is investigating the matter.” Police eventually arrested the boy, but then released him with an ankle monitor pending an investigation.

That’s what happened to Smith’s family right before he showed up at the school board meeting in June. Scott was there in the audience when Beth Barts, the woman who instigated Chardonnay Antifa, asks the school board this question, and and Superintendent Ziegler answers.

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING, BARTS: Do we have assaults in our bathrooms and our locker rooms regularly?

ZIEGLER: To my knowledge, we don’t have any records of assaults occurring in our restrooms . . . the predator transgender student—or person—simply does not exist.

And when he heard that, Smith was enraged. It looked to him like Ziegler was denying his daughter’s assault. To shield the proposed Policy 8040 from criticism.


You can’t really hear what’s going on in this audio. But, basically, Smith got into a heated argument with a parent who told him his daughter was lying. Smith resisted when officers tried to move him toward the exit. So they tackled him, pinned him to the ground, and then took him away.

The Smith family’s story went national after that board meeting. People called for Ziegler’s resignation. Some accused the school district and Ziegler of a cover-up. In the end, it didn’t matter.

Here’s school board chair Brenda Sheridan on August 11, two months after that wild meeting.

BRENDA SHERIDAN: I move that the Loudoun County School Board approve and adopt Policy 8040, rights of transgender and gender expansive students.

It passed seven to two. Before we get back to Monica, here’s what happened to the boy who sexually assaulted Smith’s daughter. He was released, and then transferred to another school. Two months after he transferred, in October, he assaulted another girl in a classroom. In January of 2022, he was convicted for both incidents. Here’s a news report from Fox that day.

REPORTER: The judge said she’s doing something she has never done before, which is ordering a juvenile to register as a sex offender. The 15 year old was sentenced, the judge told the courtroom his psychosexual and psychological evaluations were scary, and that he needs a lot of help.

MUSIC: I Am A Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie

The Smith family is now suing the school board.

SILLARS: This is Doubletake. Emma will be right back with the rest of Monica’s story.

About three weeks after the Loudoun County school board passed Policy 8040 in August of 2021, the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated Cross to his teaching job. And then with ADF he sued his own school district. Again. Over Policy 8040.

While Cross geared up for the new lawsuit, he called Monica. She was on vacation with her family in Flathead Lake, Montana. He asked her to sign an affidavit saying that she felt that she couldn’t speak out against the policy without fear of retaliation. Five other teachers had already signed.

MONICA: After speaking to him, it was at that point that I was like, Okay, this is where I need to be a part of this.

MUSIC: Raven Skies by Atomica Music

So on August 22 of last year, Monica joined Tanner’s lawsuit. It’s still ongoing. She hopes to bring down Policy 8040. She wants to be able to refuse to say things that are false. To be able to say things that are true. But for Monica, it’s not just about what she can and can’t say in the schools. It’s about being a good teacher.

MONICA: Being a part of this lawsuit does have something to do with my free speech rights and my religious beliefs. But it’s bigger than that—the stand that we’re taking really is for these kids. Because as a teacher, I have a larger responsibility to do the things that are best for my students.

MUSIC: I Am A Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie

Loudoun County stayed under the national spotlight because of its chaotic political disagreements about education policies, especially during the Virginia gubernatorial campaign in 2021. Many critics figured the Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, would beat Republican Glenn Youngkin. After all, Virginia has been trending blue for years.

But then McAulifee debated Youngkin in September, and said this. This audio is from NBC Washington.

TERRY MCAULIFFE: I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.

You’d think the schools debacle in Loudoun County would have discouraged Democrats from provoking parents. Apparently not. Youngkin made public education his go-to issue, hammering at Democrat policies like 8040. Here’s Youngkin calling out the Loudoun County School Board during a campaign event in October.

GLENN YOUNGKIN: The Department of Justice should be investigating those who covered up a heinous crime in our schools. Those who are responsible must be fired or resign immediately.

And of course, parents were unhappy about a lot of things that election season: closures, masks, vaccines, standardized test performance.

MUSIC: I Am A Man Who Will Fight For Your Honor by Chris Zabriskie

And there were other election talking points. But in any case, it’s no coincidence that Youngkin launched his campaign by first speaking to the issue of public school education and how school boards were ignoring parents’ concerns. That’s something all parents, regardless of their political beliefs, could rally behind.

At the start of this podcast Monica described discussing truth with her students. And that girl who was struggling with her identity. When that girl graduated, she immediately friended Monica on Facebook. They’ve talked a few times since then. That honest discussion in the classroom that day is really what Monica is fighting for.

MONICA: The best way that we can love and respect individuals, is to speak to them with the dignity of language that is true, and precise, and conversant with reality.

And through all this, Monica is still teaching. She still loves her job, and treasures her friendships with students. But sometimes she’s discouraged.

MUSIC: Spanish Moss by Chris Haugen

And sometimes she senses a kind of darkness has moved into her school. It feels hopeless. When things get really hard, she recalls something that happened a few years ago. She had moved into a new classroom and started cleaning out the mess. Her heart felt heavy. She didn’t know if she could teach anymore. And then, on the bottom of a shelf, tucked away in a corner, she found a book.

MONICA: I pulled it out, dusted it off, and it was a hardcover Bible. And I thought, What on earth is this doing here? and I opened it up. And on the inside cover, it was inscribed in handwriting, Presented to Loudoun County High School, from the class of 1955.

Monica stood there in shock. She thought, “Look how far we’ve fallen. We’ve never seen anything in education like we’re seeing today.” But then another feeling washed over her.

MONICA: In just the quickest moment you can imagine the Lord got ahold of my heart and just said to me, “I did not give you this gift for you to judge this place. I gave you this gift, so that you would know I have not abandoned this place.”

Monica knew the— and still believes—that she had been placed there as a teacher for a reason.

MONICA: God has not abandoned me. He has not abandoned our parents. He has not abandoned our kids. He's certainly not abandoned our public schools. So take heart, be of good courage, for the Lord your God is with you.

SILLARS: Emma Perley reported and wrote this episode. Doubletake is produced by the journalism program at Patrick Henry College, with the help of the creative team at World Radio, and Jeff McIntosh at Creative Genius. I’m your host, Les Sillars.

Thanks for listening to Doubletake. Go ahead and give us a review and follow us on your favorite podcast app. And send us a note at doubletake@wng.org. We really want to know what you think about this and all our episodes.

Check out some of our other episodes this season as well. If you’re so inclined, share this on social media and give us a shoutout. And don’t forget to check out our website, doubletakepodcast.org

Thanks! And we’ll see you next time.

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