Loudon County parent Scott Smith was pardoned Sunday by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin over charges filed against him in connection to a confrontation with police at a 2021 county school board meeting. His arrest fueled conservative efforts to pass legislation to increase parental involvement in schools, including over curriculum and student privacy. Pictured here, Smith attends a news conference held by House Republicans on the introduction of the "Parents Bill of Rights" in the Rayburn Room at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 1, 2023. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has issued a pardon for a Loudoun County father whose arrest at a 2021 school board meeting where policy to protect transgender students was being considered has fueled conservative efforts to deepen parental involvement in education.
Scott Smith was charged with obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct in connection to a June 2021 Loudoun County School Board meeting where parents and the community discussed LCPS Policy 8040, which lets transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with the gender identity.
Smith -- whose then-15-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted in the girls' bathroom of her high school a month prior by a boy wearing a skirt -- was arrested while arguing with a woman at the meeting, LoudounNow reported.
The father was handcuffed and dragged from the facility. Outside, he continued to resist and threatened physical harm against the arresting officers.
Smith was convicted in August 2021 to 10 days' suspended imprisonment, but his attorneys have filed an appeal, and have been successful in having the obstruction of justice charge dismissed, with the remaining disorderly conduct charge to be tried before a jury on Sept. 25 .
Youngkin, a Republican, announced Sunday that he has granted Smith "an absolute pardon," stating he was "wrongfully prosecuted and convicted for standing up for his daughter."
"Scott Smith is a dedicated parent who's faced unwarranted charges in his pursuit to protect his daughter. Scott's commitment to his child despite the immense obstacles is emblematic of the parental empowerment movement that started in Virginia," Youngkin said in a statement.
"In Virginia, parents matter and my resolve to empower parents is unwavering. A parent's fundamental right to be involved in their child's education, upbringing and care should never be undermined by bureaucracy, school divisions or the state. I am pleased to grant Scott Smith this pardon and help him and his family put this injustice behind them once and for all."
The pardon states that Smith's arrest was the result of a confrontation with a community member at the meeting who "threatened to spread false and malicious information" about his business with the intent to damage his reputation.
The case became national news, and was used to support House Republican legislation to increase parental involvement in school affairs, including the GOP's so-called Parents Bill of Rights, which passed in March.
Loudoun County Attorney General Buta Biberaj lambasted Youngkin's pardon as "a political stunt" that is "an unprecedented and inappropriate intervention into an active legal case."
"He chose to interfere in the legal process but not for justice but for political gain," she said in a statement published on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
"The justice system does not work when a governor becomes the judge and jury."
Smith thanked Youngkin in a statement for the pardon, stating that while he was confident his lawyers could defend him in court, he is grateful that the governor had seen "that our justice system has been both weaponized and politicized to the point where my ability to receive a fair trail was in jeopardy."
"And while this pardon closes one chapter in this ongoing battle, a new chapter has now begun," he said. "I will continue to fight for parents and their children who are affected by these misguided and dangerous school policies."