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Loudoun County students walk out to protest school district’s handling of alleged sexual assaults

Hundreds of students at Loudoun County Public Schools held walkouts sparked by sexual assault cases

Dozens of Broad Run High School students walked out of their classroom to protest Loudoun County Public Schools' handling of alleged sexual assaults. (Vanessa Sanchez/The Washington Post)

Students at several Loudoun County Public Schools held 10-minute walkouts Tuesday morning to demand the county protect students from sexual assault and to declare solidarity with survivors.

At Broad Run High School in Ashburn, dozens of students walked out of their classrooms midmorning to demand the county make the public schools safer spaces. “We deserve to be safe,” one student standing in front of the main entrance shouted.

“Loudoun County protects rapists,” a group of students chanted for several minutes in protest of how the county handled two sexual assault cases, one in May and the other in October, by the same student in two different high schools in the district. Broad Run High is where the second incident took place.

“Why didn’t anybody tell us,” another student yelled.

More than 2500 students from at least 20 schools, including Riverside High School, Briar Woods High School and Lightridge High School, took part in calls to stop sexual assault, according to information provided by the school district. On Monday, hundreds of Arlington Public High Schools students also left their classrooms to stand against sexual misconduct and harassment.

During a school board meeting this month, parents in the Loudoun school district had questioned why the student allegedly responsible for sexual assault was transferred to another high school. Followed by criticism, Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler said in an Oct. 15 news conference that the school will offer “alternative placements for students involved in disciplinary infractions that protect the rights of the student body and the rights of the accused.”

[Loudoun schools chief apologizes for district’s handling of alleged assaults, promises changes to disciplinary procedures]

The first alleged assault occurred May 28 at Stone Bridge High School, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. On July 8, a 14-year-old boy was arrested in the case and charged in juvenile court with two counts of forcible sodomy, authorities said in a statement.

Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj (D) said that the youth was released at some point from juvenile detention as the case proceeded and “appeared to be a good candidate to be put on electronic monitoring based on the information that was provided.”

The second alleged assault, at Broad Run High, occurred five months later on Oct. 6, and the attacker was charged with sexual battery and abduction of a fellow student.

Since news of the cases emerged, parents have demanded more transparency as to what and when the school board and superintendent knew about the sexual assault cases. “They are legally required to clear any fear of sexual assault,” one Broad Run student cried out.

“We shouldn’t have to be protesting. We should be in class,” another student in the crowd yelled.