By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Feb. 17 — It will be June before a judge hears arguments in a case against a Luray parent charged with making threatening oral comments to the Page County School Board last month.
During an arraignment hearing in Page County General District Court on Thursday, Judge Dale Houff agreed to allow Amelia Ruffner King to travel outside of the state prior to her trial, which he scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 16.
Despite the fact that King did not have a criminal history and the charge against her is a Class 1 misdemeanor, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Cave offered “some concern on the part of the Commonwealth” over the defendant’s request to be able to travel outside the state due to the “seriousness of the charge.”
As one of four speakers to address the local school board at its Jan. 20 special meeting on “health and mitigation strategies,” King applauded Governor Glenn Youngkin’s Executive Order #02, which went into effect four days later. The order stripped away a previous mandate for masking in Virginia’s public schools and put the decision back in the hands of parents. On Wednesday, Youngkin signed a piece of legislation approved by both houses of the General Assembly that does just that. Public schools in Virginia have until March 1 to comply with the mandate.
While the Page County School Board agreed with Youngkin’s executive order and voted, 4-2, last month to immediately shift from universal masking used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to a “parent choice” option, King spoke before the vote and insinuated that she would stand for nothing less.
“No mask mandates. My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on. All right? That’s not happening. And I will bring every single gun loaded and ready…”
King continued as she was cut-off a second time by the chairman for exceeding the three-minute time limit during citizen comment period. Then as she left the room, King stated: “I’ll see ya’ll on Monday.”
King’s comments have spurred interest and reports from both national and international media. The Jan. 20 meeting of the Page County School Board has been viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube.
The day after she made those comments, King, 42, was arrested around 6 p.m. by the Luray Police Department and charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor under 18.2-60 of the Virginia State Code for “threats of death or bodily injury to a person or member of his family; threats to commit serious bodily harm to persons on school property,” according to a post on the LPD Facebook page.
More specifically, King was charged under Subsection B of that code which includes “any person who orally makes a threat to any employee of any elementary, middle or secondary school, while on a school bus, on school property or at a school-sponsored activity, to kill or do bodily injury to such person…”
King was released by the magistrate the same evening as her arrest on a $5,000 unsecured bond. As part of her release, King is not allowed to possess firearms and must stay off all school property. She is being represented by attorney Gene Hart.
Prior to the Jan. 20 incident, King had been pulled out of a previous school board meeting for exceeding the three-minute time limit and refusing to stop speaking after repeated requests from the chairman. However, in less than an hour after making the statements that have now been featured in headlines across the country, King realized the gravity of her words and emailed both school board members and the Page County Sheriff’s Office to explain her comments and “apologize for the way I phrased the statement.”
Dr. Amy Painter, school board representative from District 3, read a message to the school board at the end of the Jan. 20 meeting that she received from King during the meeting.
“I in no way want to imply ‘all guns loaded’ as in actual firearms, but rather all resources I can muster to make sure my kids get to attend school without masks. My sincere apologies for my poor choice in words,” read Dr. Painter before continuing to a second reply she received from King. “I’m absolutely mortified. I would never do such a thing. I was only speaking figuratively, as in alerting the media and creating a social media stir.”
King has taken a leave of absence from her job as a dental hygienist at Ruffner Family Dentistry in Luray. Her husband previously owned a gun shop called Tactical Speed in the East Luray Shopping Center, which closed about a year ago. Photos of King and her family holding assault rifles have been shared across social media thousands of times.
The school system took King’s words seriously and requested more security at all county schools for several days following the incident. School Board Chair Megan Gordon and Superintendent Antonia Fox issued a letter to the community the following morning.
“Last night at our School Board meeting during the Citizen Comment period there were comments made that referenced weapons and were perceived by many to be threatening in nature. Page County Public Schools does not take these kind of statements lightly,” reads the statement released Jan. 21. “Not only do comments such as these go against everything that we wish to model for our students, they go against the very nature of how we as a community should interact with each other. Violence or threats are never acceptable or appropriate. This kind of behavior is not tolerated from our students, faculty, staff, nor will it be tolerated by parents or guests of our school division.”