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Loudoun school board will not release report on sexual assaults

The Loudoun County Public School Board voted Tuesday not to release an internal report into the school system's handling of two student sexual assaults in 2021. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
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The Loudoun County School Board voted this week not to release an internal report into the district’s handling of two student sexual assaults, despite frustration from community members and repeated calls for transparency.

The report, commissioned by the district to review the 2021 assaults, was completed in January 2022. The board has previously declined to release the report, citing attorney-client privilege, but several members pushed for its release in December after a separate grand jury report found school officials were generally incompetent in responding to the assaults.

A motion to release the internal report failed 6-3 during a school board meeting Tuesday. Board members Tiffany Polifko (Broad Run), Denise Corbo (At Large) and John Beatty (Catoctin) were the only supporters.

“This is about justice, integrity and service. You can’t have justice without truth,” Polifko said before casting her vote. “In the end, the truth will produce what is good.”

Board chair Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge), among the opponents, told members he had examined the issue “from all sides” and, along with legal advice, decided to reject the measure. He and other opponents cited the need to protect student privacy as a main reason for keeping the report confidential.

“Being open and transparent is important, but so is the right of our students and staff to be able to communicate with legal counsel without it being made public,” Serotkin said.

Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian), who is running for the Virginia House of Delegates and also voted against releasing the report, raised concerns about making the document public because it was produced under a superintendent who has been terminated. She added she expected her colleagues to vote in the best interest of students, and asked them to continue to examine the case and share facts publicly.

The report will remain confidential unless another board member generates enough support to release it to the public.

The vote was followed by outbursts from audience members, many of whom urged board members to release the report. Members of Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors have also encouraged the school board to release the internal review.

Loudoun school officials have been lambasted by parents and community members for their response to the assaults, which took placed in May and October of 2021. The assaults, committed by the same student, have drawn national attention and have led to criminal charges against the system’s spokesman and former superintendent.

Officials have been particularly criticized for transferring the student assailant from one high school — where he assaulted a student in a girls’ bathroom — to another school where, months later, he assaulted another student in an empty classroom.

The former superintendent, Scott Ziegler, was fired by the school board and was indicted last year on three misdemeanor charges by a special grand jury empaneled by Virginia’s attorney general at the direction of Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). Ziegler is awaiting a trial in Loudoun Circuit Court, as is spokesman Wayde Byard, who is on administrative leave and faces a felony charge of lying to the grand jury.

In a 91-page report released in December, the grand jury said it found no evidence of a “coordinated coverup” of the assaults by school officials but said administrators had shown incompetence and a lack of interest in responding to the cases.

Daniel Smith, the system’s former chief of staff, was named acting superintendent in December. The system hired a national search firm last week to conduct its search for a permanent leader, which is expected to be in place before the next school year.