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Virginia PTA official resigns after she was filmed apparently wishing death to opponents at a rally

A high-ranking official with the Virginia Parent Teacher Association has resigned after she was filmed at a rally saying “Let them die,” seemingly in reference to parents gathered at a counter-rally to oppose critical race theory.

Michelle Leete, who served as vice president of training for the Virginia PTA, was asked and agreed to resign Saturday, the state group said in a statement posted to Twitter over the weekend.

“While not speaking in her role within Virginia PTA, we do not condone the choice of words used during a public event on Thursday, July 15,” the statement reads — an allusion to Leete’s “Let them die” comment.

Fairfax schools adopt updated guidelines to protect transgender students at meeting that drew dueling protests

Leete, who also serves as first vice president for the Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP, previously told The Washington Post that she meant to wish death on the parents’ “ideals,” not the parents themselves. Leete did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday morning. The Fairfax NAACP also did not immediately respond Saturday morning to a question asking whether Leete would retain her role with the group.

But, as the fallout from her remarks continues — fueled by conservative commentators online — Leete appears to have already lost another job: her position as vice president of communications for the Fairfax County Council Parent Teacher Association. As of Saturday morning, the Fairfax PTA website listed the communications vice president role as “Vacant” in a slot that contained Leete’s name as recently as Friday evening.

The Fairfax PTA did not immediately respond to a question asking why and how Leete had lost her position with the group.

Leete said “Let them die” during a speech she gave Thursday evening ahead of a Fairfax County Public Schools board meeting, at which the board was slated to vote on updated guidelines for the treatment of transgender students. The board ultimately — and unanimously — voted to require that transgender children be allowed to use facilities that match their gender identities and that school staffers address them by their names and preferred pronouns.

Although the changes are historic, much of the attention since the meeting has focused on the dueling protests that parents held before its start. One group of parents and advocates — the group Leete was a part of — showed up to support Fairfax students generally and transgender rights specifically. Another, opposing group showed up for a “STOP CRT” rally, held to protest what they view as the infiltration of critical race theory into the Fairfax school system.

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Critical race theory is an academic framework that holds that racism is systemic in America, woven into the nation’s history and present-day institutions. School officials throughout Northern Virginia have denied they are teaching critical race theory to students.

Some parents who oppose the theory do not believe the assertions. Others say that even if teachers are not explicitly teaching critical race theory, it is still informing school systems’ recent equity work, such as holding bias trainings for teachers, and will trickle into classrooms.

A video on social media shows Leete calling theory opponents “anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-equity, anti-history,” and a long string of other negatives. She then says, “Let them die,” generating applause.

In an emailed statement Friday, Leete wrote that her “Let them die” comment referred to “the ideals that show a disregard and lack of support for our teachers who have a truly difficult job to do even without a pandemic.”

She also sent The Washington Post a written copy of her speech, which read, “Let them (ideals) die.” That sentence is followed in the document by a paragraph in which Leete instructed herself to “ad lib — referring to ideals that would have schools open during a pandemic, guns in schools, not supporting teachers . . . etc.”

In her email Friday, Leete wrote, “I will certainly admit, it was ineloquently stated and with a pause for the applause, the timing was off.”