A special grand jury report about the handling of two sexual assault cases that occurred in Loudoun County Public Schools last year says at least one of the assaults could have been prevented if not for the actions of administrators.
The report released Monday offers a look into the work of a special grand jury impaneled by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares and directly alleges that the sexual assault of a female student at Broad Run High School in October 2021 by a male student should have been prevented. The assailant had previously committed an assault while a student at Stone Bridge High School five months before.
“It is our considered judgment that the October 6, 2021 sexual assault at Broad Run High School never should have occurred,” the special grand jury wrote in the report. “Had any number of individuals across a variety of entities spoken up or realized a serious problem was brewing regarding earlier incidents at BRHS then the sexual assault most likely would not have occurred. But nobody did.”
The Oct. 6, 2021, sexual assault was the second committed by the male perpetrator, who was sentenced in January to a “locked residential program” at a psychiatric facility. The first assault took place in the girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge on May 28, 2021, and was the impetus for the student perpetrator’s transfer to Broad Run.
The report says that in the immediate aftermath of the May assault, school officials at Stone Bridge were unable to locate the male student but forcibly escorted the victim’s father off of the school premises. The father was “very upset” and “became loud after initially being denied entry into the building.”
After the victim’s father was removed from the school grounds, and while the school still had yet to locate the student who had committed the assault, the report said Timothy Flynn, the principal of the high school, contacted the district superintendent’s office seeking a “no trespass letter” against the father, who he said “probably should have been arrested.”
Shortly thereafter, six district officials, including Superintendent Scott Ziegler, held a virtual meeting to discuss the assault and policy 8040, which was, at the time, a pending resolution before the school board that would allow students to use bathroom and locker room facilities corresponding to their claimed gender identity and not their biological sex. The special grand jury said the investigation into that meeting “was the beginning of the complete lack of transparency by LCPS regarding this situation.”
“The SBHS principal testified ‘all of the staff there wanted to meet with me and hear directly from me what had occurred that day,'” the report says. “Nobody else we questioned about this meeting, however, could recall the contents of the discussion, which we view as critical to a fuller understanding of why LCPS officials acted in the manner they did in the ensuing months. We believe there was intentional institutional amnesia regarding this meeting.”
The lack of cooperation with the grand jury’s investigation by Loudoun County Public Schools included a lawsuit from the school district seeking to declare the grand jury unlawfully established and have its investigation into the school district shut down. The district’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation earned it a dedicated section in the lengthy report.
“We expected these public servants to provide clarity, transparency, and willingness to report truthfully to their constituents. Instead, we were met with obfuscation, deflection, and obvious legal strategies designed to frustrate the grand jury’s work,” the report said before listing numerous examples of school district officials seeking to shut down the investigation, quash subpoenas, or refuse to testify.
Despite the district’s lack of cooperation, the grand jury detailed how, in the summer of 2021, after the student who had committed the assault was briefly detained and required to wear an ankle monitor, he was transferred from Stone Bridge to Broad Run in accordance with a court order banning him from his previous school. The report says the principal and the school resource officer at Broad Run were aware of the student’s past behavior but that the assistant principal reportedly testified that he was not informed of the student’s troubled history, despite partaking in a meeting with the student, his mother, and the school principal.
But despite this knowledge, the grand jury said the school and the school district did little to address a Sept. 9, 2021, incident in which the individual “made some inappropriate sexual comments to a female student” and grabbed her shoulder. Several officials, including the superintendent’s chief of staff, reportedly “expressed concern” at the incident, but the student was only given “a verbal reprimand.” One month later, on Oct. 6, the second assault took place, and the perpetrator was arrested and kept in custody.
Miyares, the Virginia attorney general, praised the special grand jury in a Monday statement as the “epitome of professionalism.”
“In the face of intense public speculation, the members were incredibly engaged, worked tirelessly, and spent countless days away from their families and jobs to conduct a thorough investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools,” said Miyares. “I encourage everyone to read their report, and look forward to the positive change in LCPS resulting from their work.”