Virginia parents speaking out against critical race theory face retaliation

Fight over critical race theory pits neighbor against neighbor in affluent DC area school district

In Loudoun County, Virginia, standing up against critical race theory has consequences. 

"I had my own family criticize me openly, and asked me you know, what's wrong with me? You know, why didn't I understand?" says Jessica Mendez, mother of two kids attending Loudoun County Public Schools.

CRT is not taught in LCPS, interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler said, but the battle over the county's equity initiative has created a bitter divide among parents in the affluent Washington, D.C., suburb.

PART ONE: Virginia parents organize to fight critical race theory learning in classrooms

A Facebook group called "Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County" is accused of targeting parents who are "anti-CRT." 

"They put three pictures of me in there, and they called me a racist," says Patti Hidalgo Menders, a Loudoun County parent and president of the Loudoun County Republican Women’s Club. "They had my first and last name, the name of my husband, where my son goes to high school, what town I live in, and they called me disgusting."

The fight over critical race theory has even pitted neighbor against neighbor. 

Neighbor gestures at Jessica Mendez during interview

"I thought that I had a good friend," says Mendez, moments after her neighbor hoisted two middle fingers behind her back while she was being interviewed for this story. "I'm really hurt right now because I thought that we had a rapport, that I could be conservative, and she could be liberal, and we could still be friends. I guess I was wrong."

Fred Rege, an IT engineer who immigrated to the United States from Kenya as a teenager, has two daughters in LCPS. He says there are dozens of parents just like him who think something should be done, but are afraid to speak out over fears of retribution.

What is critical race theory?

"I finally got to the point where I said, ‘my number one responsibility is my children,’" says Rege. "Even if it costs me certain things in society and canceling from this and canceling from that, you know, I'll have my dignity. I'll have my children's, you know, integrity, and their self-belief, their belief in themselves intact. And that's worth it."

"They tried to intimidate us by using social media," says Menders, "but I'll be honest, I feel like it's emboldened my passion for this more."

This article is part two of an investigation into critical race theory's impact on Loudoun County Public Schools. Part three will be published on Friday.