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Virginia PTA official resigns after 'let them die' comments

The Hill logo The Hill 7/18/2021 Caroline Vakil
a group of people sitting at a table in a room: Virginia PTA official resigns after 'let them die' comments © Getty Images Virginia PTA official resigns after 'let them die' comments

A top official from the Virginia Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has resigned after being filmed saying, "Let them die" in reference to a group of people protesting the teaching of critical race theory.

"Today, the Virginia PTA executive committee requested and received the resignation of Michelle Leete, who served as Vice President of Training," the Virginia PTA said in a statement posted on Twitter on Saturday. "While not speaking in her role within the Virginia PTA, we do not condone the choice of words used during a public event on Thursday, July 15, 2021."

A video posted to Twitter on Thursday shows Leete speaking to a group of people outside a middle school where a Fairfax County School Board meeting was being held, CNN reported.

According to The Washington Post, the school board was about to hold a vote regarding updated guidelines with respect to which facilities transgender students can use in schools and how school staffers can address them.

"So let's meet and remain steadfast in speaking truth, tearing down double standards and refuting double talk," Leete says in the video. "Let's not allow any double-downing on lies. Let's prepare our children for a world they deserve.

"Let's deny this off-key band of people that are anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-equity, anti-history, anti-racial reckoning, anti-opportunities, anti-help people, anti-diversity, anti-platform, anti-science, anti-change agent, anti-social justice, anti-health care, anti-worker, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-children, anti-health care, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-admissions policy change, anti-inclusion, anti-live-and-let-live people. Let them die," she continued.

Critical race theory examines the role that systemic racism plays in American history. It has become a lighting rod issue for conservatives. According to CNN, more than 20 states have either introduced bills that would ban it from being taught in schools or banned it altogether.

Leete, who is also the first vice president for the Fairfax County NAACP, told The Washington Post in a statement on Friday that her "let them die" comment was only meant to refer 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."

"I will certainly admit, it was ineloquently stated and with a pause for the applause, the timing was off," she said.

She also gave the newspaper a copy of her speech which read, "Let them (ideals) die" and included a paragraph following that told her "ad lib - referring to ideals that would have schools open during a pandemic, guns in schools, not supporting teachers . . . Etc.," the Post noted.

"We stand firmly by our 1st Vice President and her work in the past, present and future, and are extremely disappointed that her long track record of tireless work and dedication within the Fairfax County community has been so easily disregarded and devalued," the Fairfax County NAACP said in a statement.

The NAACP chapter said that her message was "to prepare our children for a better world by denying space to rhetoric, ideas or narratives that threaten the world we want to leave our next generation."

"This is abundantly clear when you consider the entirety of her speech, instead of simply the last seconds of it," the NAACP chapter added.

The Hill has reached out to Leete for further comment.

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