The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Va. Supreme Court affirms probe of Loudoun sexual assaults can continue

A probe of how Loudoun County Schools handled two sexual assault incidents can continue, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

The Virginia Supreme Court affirmed Friday that a special grand jury investigating how Loudoun County school officials handled two high-profile sexual assaults can continue its work, despite a challenge from the local school board.

Virginia’s highest court concurred with a July ruling by a Loudoun County judge, who found Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) and Attorney General Jason Miyares had not overstepped their authority in convening the panel as the school board argued. The school board asked the State Supreme Court to review that ruling.

Judge rules grand jury investigation of Loudoun sexual assaults can continue

Miyares (R) said in a statement the Friday ruling allows him to fulfill his pledge to voters to investigate the sexual assaults, which led to a political firestorm that gained national attention and became an issue in the 2021 race for governor.

“This is yet another win for both Loudoun families and the Commonwealth in our fight for justice and answers,” Miyares said.

Youngkin, who signed an executive order on his first day in office allowing Miyares to launch the investigation, called the ruling a “victory” and said the school board failed to address the sexual assaults and “continuously let down parents and students in Virginia.”

The governor has recently taken a harsh tone toward Virginia school districts — especially Northern Virginia systems — for their policies on transgender students.

Youngkin criticizes trans rules, eases path to becoming a teacher in Va.

The grand jury was launched earlier this year to probe why a then 15-year-old, who sexually assaulted a girl in a girls’ bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in 2021, was allowed to re-enroll at Broad Run High School, where the teen sexually assaulted a second student. The teen was awaiting trial in the first incident at the time of the second assault.

Loudoun County officials promised major changes in the wake of the case.

The parents of the Stone Bridge victim described her assailant as “gender fluid.” Authorities have not commented on that characterization. Authorities said the teen was wearing a skirt during the Stone Bridge assault.

The case sparked backlash against a Loudoun County schools’ policy that allowed students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. The policy was put in place after the first assault occurred.

Va. teen pleads no contest in high school bathroom sex assault

The Loudoun County School Board sought a temporary injunction against the special grand jury probe in May, saying Youngkin and Miyares were on a politically motivated “fishing expedition” instead of a criminal probe.

Wayde Byard, a spokesman for the Loudoun County schools, said in a statement the school board was disappointed with the ruling.

“Loudoun County Public Schools appreciates the Supreme Court’s consideration of the unusual circumstances regarding this special grand jury,” Byard said. “LCPS will continue to comply with the Special Grand Jury’s requests and awaits the results of its investigation.”

More on local education

The latest: In Loudoun County, a conservative candidate and a left-leaning candidate were leading in the race for two seats on the school board. Meanwhile, a majority of incumbent school board members in Maryland’s metro area were leading in their reelection bids.

K-12 classrooms: The Montgomery County school system is revisiting safety training after a report of a student with a gun led to a campus lockdown. New safety protocols also are in the works in D.C. after a bus driver crashed a bus and was charged with a DUI. A settlement in a public records lawsuit reveals some of the emails submitted to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s education tip line.

On campus: The University of Maryland has pledged to expand aid for in-state students who have significant financial need. What the twists, turns and drops of roller coasters are teaching Johns Hopkins University students about engineering.