Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield), a vocal conservative, has never been shy about sharing her views in the heavily Democratic county. She opposed regulations that would affirm the right of transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, has spoken out against levying a meals tax that would generate millions of dollars for the school system and has criticized the board’s move to rename a high school that bears the name of a Confederate general.
Schultz has for years been a champion of conservative causes — part of a small minority on the liberal school board in Northern Virginia — but it has been her support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that has drawn particular ire from some members of the community.
Sue Langley, chair of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, recently called for Schultz to resign from the board after she posted tweets related to Trump that Langley found threatening and offensive. Langley referenced two missives Schultz posted on Twitter earlier this month, one in which she explains why she believes that Trump’s comments, captured in a video recording, on groping women “don’t matter” and a second in which she tells a recent graduate of a county high school that she is “buying more ammo.”
“How could someone who works with the school system in a nonpartisan position come out and say things like that?” Langley said. Langley said she believes the tweets demonstrate that Schultz is unfit to be a school board member.
Schultz said she was “stunned” by the demand for her resignation and views the incident as emblematic of a divisive political climate that she sees as growing intolerant — even hostile — to opposing views. Schultz said the fact that the head of the local Democratic Party called for her resignation because of tweets “sent a chill down my spine.”
“You see people attempting to suppress the rights of other people to speak,” Schultz said.
While the school board is officially nonpartisan, school board members can receive endorsements from political parties and board policy does not prohibit members from personally addressing political issues.
Two county parent groups — the Chinese American Parent Association and the Concerned Parents and Educators — have publicly supported Schultz. Both groups have backed her opposition to regulations that would allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity and say she should be allowed to speak her mind.
“It is outrageous and dangerous for a local leader of the Democratic Party to threaten and demonize an individual who has different political opinions,” the Chinese American Parent Association said in a news release. “As Chinese parents, we are deeply concerned that this act resembles the widespread tyranny demonstrated in China’s Cultural Revolution a half century ago when people of different political opinions were defamed, oppressed and persecuted.”
Schultz sent a tweet on Oct. 8 that began “Why #TrumpTapes don’t matter,” referencing a video recording that captured the Republican nominee talking about groping and kissing women. She followed it with “#SCOTUS” a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court, and linked an Associated Press story about how transgender children can legally change their names through an online form in Norway, summarizing the article by saying “when 10-yo legally changing their gender online w/no therapy is ‘progress.'”
Langley said it appeared Schultz was making light of Trump’s remarks about women captured in the recording.
“No one should take it lightly and make a joke of it, particularly someone in her position,” Langley said. “I really think that she shouldn’t be in that position if she’s going to work with children.”
Schultz said she was merely trying to call attention to her belief that the public should be more concerned with what could happen with the next president’s potential nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court than what Trump has said, noting the possibility that the nation’s highest court could ultimately determine whether transgender students have the right to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
“Don’t take the eye off the ball of what’s important,” Schultz said. “It’s the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is going to shape the fabric of the country for the next three or four decades.”
— Elizabeth L. Schultz (@ThinkSchultz) October 8, 2016
The same day, Schultz traded barbs on Twitter with Josh Wartel, a 2015 graduate of Lake Braddock High School, after he asked Schultz to explain her support for Trump. After a few missives, the 19-year-old, now a sophomore at Brown University, tweeted: “I hope at this point you’ve removed every mirror from your house.”
In response, Schultz tweeted: “Nope, just buying more ammo (insert ‘banned’ rifle emoji here) #2A,” a reference to the Second Amendment and the fact that the creators of emoji declined to include one representing a rifle.
Langley said she found Schultz’s response to be threatening. But Schultz defended the tweet, saying that she did not intend to threaten anyone. She said she is, in fact, buying ammunition in case Hillary Clinton wins the presidency because she fears the Democrat will restrict her gun rights.
Wartel said he has never met Schultz but follows her on Twitter because he was once a student in the district. He is deeply critical of her support of Trump, but he did not regard the tweet as a threat.
“I wasn’t interpreting this ever as a threat,” Wartel said. “She’s someone who frequently talks about the Second Amendment.”