Virginia school district administrators were "looking out for their own interests" and likely lied to parents as efforts to quell controversy ahead of the enacting of a transgender bathroom policy led to a preventable sexual assault, a special grand jury concluded in a report.
The grand jury entered the report in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County on Friday. The nine members of the special grand jury compiled the report at Attorney General Jason Miyares' request for the grand jury to "investigate and report on any condition that involves or tends to promote criminal activity."
Spokespersons for the Loudoun County School District wrote in a Tuesday statement to The Christian Post that the report's criticisms against LCPS employees are "quite serious." The next Loudoun County School Board meeting will involve a reflection on the report's recommendations and "take action as determined by the full Board."
Despite the criticism, the district is "pleased" the report found "no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of anyone within LCPS."
"In a news release on January 15, 2022, Attorney General Miyares alleged that LCPS' covered up a sexual assault on school grounds for political gain,' the spokespersons wrote.
"To the best of our knowledge, this allegation was not true, and, after conducting an eight-month investigative process, during which it had the ability to interview any LCPS employee, Board member, and any other individuals beyond the LCPS community it deemed relevant, and during which it had access to virtually any LCPS record that was not otherwise legally privileged, the Special Grand Jury neither cited any evidence to support this serious allegation nor made any such conclusion in its Report."
In its report, the grand jury described the May 28, 2021, sexual assault of a ninth-grade girl at Stone Bridge High School. The assailant, who reportedly wore a skirt, pinned the girl to the floor and assaulted her inside a women's restroom stall.
A special education teacher later testified that she saw two pairs of feet inside the stall but did not interfere. She assumed someone needed help with a tampon or was being comforted after a breakup.
The assailant was still at-large three hours after the assault, according to the report. During this time, Principal Tim Flynn attempted to get a "no trespass letter" against the girl's father after he arrived at the school and caused a commotion in the front office due to his daughter's assault.
That evening, Flynn sent a note to families, offering counseling services to students who may have been disturbed by the commotion in the front office. The letter did not mention the sexual assault.
Loudoun Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler, his deputy superintendent, and his chief of staff were made aware the boy had sexually assaulted a student.
An arrest warrant was issued against the assailant two months later for two counts of forcible sodomy. The student was released within a few weeks and transferred to Broad Run High School.
Despite earlier reports that the student allegedly behaved inappropriately toward girls in his class, he received only a verbal warning.
On Oct. 6, 2021, the student grabbed a female student who walked him to class, placed her in a chokehold until she couldn't breathe, and then sexually assaulted her.
"We believe that throughout this ordeal, LCPS administrators were looking out for their own interests instead of the best interests of LCPS," the grand jury report reads. "This led to a stunning lack of openness and transparency, and accountability both to the public and the special grand jury."
While the report concluded there was no coordinated cover-up between LCPS and LCSB, with the exception of a May 2021 event, LCSB staff were "deliberately deprived of information" about the sexual assaults.
The special grand jury notes that LCSB learned from public reporting that the assailant in the October assault was the same as the one from May through public reporting and not the superintendent's office.
According to the grand jury, the incident on Oct. 6, 2021, could have been prevented, but LCPS's "lack of curiosity and adherence to operating in silos" allowed the assault to occur.
"While we strongly believe LCPS bears the brunt of the blame for the October 6 incident and the transfer of the student from SBHS to BRHS, a breakdown of communications between and amongst multiple parties — including the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office, the Court Services Unit, and the Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office — led to the tragic events that ocurred," the report concluded.
The report made eight recommendations, including a reassessment of the student transfer process, improved communication across state agencies, and increased transparency.
As The Christian Post reported, the sexual assaults reportedly took place in Loudoun County while the school board considered the now-enacted policy 8040 to allow trans-identifying students to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
The assailant allegedly wore a skirt when he assaulted his fellow student in the women's restroom in May, as the student identified as "gender fluid."
During a school board meeting last June, Ziegler assured parents concerned about the policy that "we don't have any records of assaults occurring in our restrooms."
In a Nov. 10 letter to Ziegler, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman asserted that the superintendent knew about the assault in contrast to his public proclamations.
"[D]espite a public statement at a School Board meeting on June 22, 2021, denying any knowledge of sexual assaults in any LCPS bathrooms, you sent an email on May 28, 2021, to members of the School Board advising them of the incident — thus invalidating your public statement," Chapman wrote.
In the report, the grand jury agreed with the claim that Ziegler's statement during the June school board meeting was a "bald-faced lie."
"The superintendent later claimed he 'was viewing the question in light of ... policy 8040,'" the report reads. "Per the aforementioned Teams meeting, we know the superintendent learned shortly after the incident that the Stone Bridge assault was stated to be related to policy 8040."
The grand jury's report also called out the school board and district's "lack of cooperation" throughout the investigation.
"We expected these public servants to provide clarity, transparency, and a willingness to report truthfully to their constituents. Instead, we were met with obfuscation, deflection, and obvious legal strategies designed to frustrate the special grand jury's work," the report states.
"From the outset the LCSB put up roadblocks to obstruct our investigation."
A lawyer for the board chairman and superintendent submitted a motion to quash the grand jury's subpoenas on grounds the state had exceeded its authority. But the motions were rejected in court. One teacher claimed that the lawyer tried to pressure her not to say anything to investigators.
"LCSB's counsel consistently and repeatedly interrupted answers of his own witnesses when he felt certain information was about to be revealed," the report added. "LCSB's counsel consistently and repeatedly objected to questions that would elicit information about a meeting or conversation that occurred when LCSB division counsel was present — regardless of whether that meeting or conversation had anything to do with soliciting legal advice, or if division counsel was even a party to the meeting or conversation. Division counsel's mere silent presence in a crowded room was enough for LCSB's lawyer to claim the attorney-client privilege and instruct the witnesses not to answer the question."
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.