A Virginia resident who was arrested for “trespassing” after protesting at a 2021 school board meeting was found not guilty on Wednesday, he told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Jon Tigges was arrested on June 22, 2021 at a Loudoun County School Board meeting because he refused to leave after the meeting had been declared an “unlawful assembly” by former Superintendent Scott Ziegler while parents were protesting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the district’s transgender policy. Approximately 18 months later, Tigges was deemed not guilty by Judge Charles Fleming, who ruled that Ziegler did not have the authority to demand the residents leave the meeting room and that Tigges acted in “good faith” in his belief that he had the First Amendment right to be at the meeting, Tigges told the DCNF.
“We got to court and it wasn’t looking good,” Tigges told the DCNF. “Neither me or my lawyer felt confident because the judge was bringing up that if someone is a government official, they have the authority to shut down the meeting. Then we came back for the verdict and he completely flipped over and said ‘Jon, you were there in good faith with a clear understanding that you had the right to be there and the commonwealth has not proven that Mr. Ziegler had any authority to clear the room.’ So we were found not guilty.”
At the school board meeting in 2021, more than 200 people had signed up for the public comment period to address a district policy that allowed bathroom access on the basis of gender identity. Despite the school board leaving in the middle of the meeting, Tigges and other parents moved forward with their public comment period before Ziegler attempted to it.
Once Ziegler made the announcement that the meeting was an “unlawful assembly,” law enforcement moved in to usher the crowd out and then arrested Tigges because he refused to leave until everyone had an opportunity to speak, he told the DCNF.
The decision by Fleming to rule Tigges not guilty will and already has begun to shape school board meeting policies, Christopher Kachouroff, Tigges’ attorney, told the DCNF.
“I think you’re starting to see change now as a result of this case,” Kachouroff told the DCNF. “I can tell you affirmatively that school boards are going to pass policies to regulate standards while present at school boards. Do I think they’re all good policies? I think they’re a beginning. There are a lot of things I can see that are already unconstitutional, that were ruled unconstitutional by the courts in terms of the First Amendment but in terms of giving people a standard of, ‘here’s what we can do, what we can’t do,’ that’s becoming apparent.”
In December, a special grand jury report showed how Loudoun County had “dropped the ball” on student safety and failed to alert the community of multiple sexual assaults that took place within the district in 2021. Parents demanded the resignation of the school board members at a Dec. 13 meeting.
This case was just the start of how people in Loudoun County and school boards across the country need to push back to create change in their school district, Tigges told the DCNF.
“Nothing’s gonna change here in Loudoun County or any place that looks like Loudoun County, which is most of America, until God’s people stop being silent,” Tigges told the DCNF.
Loudoun County Public Schools did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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