Decency and Democracy Prevail in Roanoke County

by Scott Dreyer

In recent years, much of America has been convulsed by riots, arson, looting, and mayhem to the point where basic safety and simple dialogue have become impossible. When faced with shocking headlines, many can only shudder in horror and be thankful they don’t live in such places.

In what some call “the Virginia Way” and “the Roanoke Way,” however, our region has largely avoided such large-scale disorder. Even during the tumultuous days of school integration in the 1950s and ’60s, when many U.S. cities had riots, violence, and police brutality, integration in the Roanoke Valley was largely peaceful, thanks to a generation of both white and black leaders who acted like adults and generally shared a common Christian worldview.

Thus, when the July 27 Roanoke County School Board meeting fell into chaos, it made headlines, shocked many, and showed that mob rule threatens to derail dialogue and official proceedings.

For over two hours, Board members listened to 27 people speak during the public comment period. Then, when School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely was discussing new regulations from the Virginia Department of Education in Richmond, he was interrupted with heckling that included profanity.

Chairman Brent Hudson warned that profanity would not be tolerated, but it continued. Since Nicely was unable to clearly continue his presentation, Hudson took the remarkable step of ordering the room cleared. Two agitators refused to leave: one is a Roanoke City resident and the other a County resident who confronted Hudson in a threatening manner. Police arrested both.

Hudson, with 22 years of law enforcement experience in both Roanoke City and County, is currently serving as Chief Deputy in the Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office. He has been on the County School Board representing the Catawba District for almost two years since winning a special election. He is currently seeking re-election for a four-year term, and is running unopposed.

When asked to explain the backstory driving the chaos, Hudson responded by email.

There is a group of folks who disagree with our stance on gender and social issues being discussed in classrooms. Several times during the meeting, people were yelling and cursing. I warned the crowd multiple times that the behavior being displayed would not be tolerated.

When our superintendent began reading the new guidance from the Virginia Department of Education, folks began to yell and curse again. This prompted me to clear the room to bring order to the situation. We were unable to conduct the business of the people due to their constant interruptions and vulgar language.

While the police were dragging an individual who refused to leave the room, I attempted to get our staff and board members out of the room and into our chambers to help calm the situation and maintain safety. The door was locked and we could not get out. I positioned myself as far away as possible from the people who were yelling and cursing at us.

A male subject came charging across the room at me and at that time I told him to stop multiple times. He continued coming at me until I identified myself as a law enforcement officer and again told him he needed to leave. This interaction continued for a bit until on-duty officers were able to return to the room and arrest him. He was told by police to leave and observed a person being arrested for not leaving. He then continued his actions and came at me across the room. I continually told him to leave up until the point he was arrested.

When asked how he observed some other local media outlets reporting on the story, Hudson had these remarks.

The whole situation was downplayed by certain media outlets and they attempted to make me look bad for identifying myself as a law enforcement officer. They did not show how these folks were cursing and acting disorderly.

The hope I had when identifying myself as a law enforcement officer was to diffuse the situation and keep me from having to possibly physically restrain the individual coming at me in a threatening way. The thought process that a law enforcement officer is only obligated to protect the public during his duty shift is false.

On the subject of media coverage, Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey in his July 30 article summarized County resident Benjamin James ignoring the order to leave and charging Hudson and then Hudson showing his sheriff’s badge as, “The exchange is actually kind of humorous.”

In response to that assessment, Hudson stated: “I think that if Mr. Casey were approached by an individual in a threatening manner, he wouldn’t find it humorous. I took an oath to serve this community as a law enforcement officer. With that, there is a chance that I may not go home one day and to have him think a dangerous situation is humorous shows his character.”

In another part of Casey’s column, he claimed “Chairman Brent Hudson weirdly shouted ‘parents’ rights!’”

Regarding Casey’s word choice, Hudson has this response. “There is nothing weird about acknowledging that each parent has a right in the upbringing of their child. It is not the responsibility nor the right of the school to teach children what is right or wrong in the ever-growing world of social agendas. We are here to teach academics and prepare children for their futures.”

Hudson was asked about the fact that one agitator who kept shouting repeatedly and was finally arrested was from Roanoke City. Hudson stated:

“We have changed our procedures to keep this from happening again. Roanoke County Citizens should not have to wait hours to speak about policies and procedures that directly affect them due to people whom they do not affect coming to make a political statement.”

When asked for any final remarks, Hudson ended with this.

I would like the public to know that each of us on the board love and treat each child with dignity and respect. Out of respect for every parent, we believe that gender and social issues are not the responsibility of our school system to promote or teach. We want every child to feel welcome and we will always do our part to protect and foster a safe and nurturing environment for all students. We will always include a parent in matters concerning their children.

Republished with permission from The Roanoke Star.

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One response to “Decency and Democracy Prevail in Roanoke County”

  1. Randy Huffman Avatar
    Randy Huffman

    Good article and the last paragraph is very impactful.

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