Some parents who spoke at the meeting grew emotional, saying they feared for the safety of their children in Loudoun County Public Schools. Still others called for the resignations of Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler and of the school board.
The parents of the victim of the first alleged assault issued a statement Thursday through the Stanley Law Group blaming school officials. They asserted that the charged youth is “gender-fluid” and that the incident occurred in a girls’ bathroom. Those details have not been confirmed by authorities.
The parents spoke out against a policy put in place by the school board several months later, in August, allowing students to use bathrooms that match their gender identities. At the time of the alleged incident, the policy was not in place.
“The sexual assault our daughter endured should never happen to any young girl, or any child, attending a public school,” the statement read. “But because of indifference and negligence by Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun School Board, it did. And now, it has happened to another girl at another Loudoun County school at the hands of the very same assailant.”
The Washington Post does not generally identify victims of sexual assault and is not naming the parents to avoid indirectly identifying their daughter. A spokeswoman for the parents, who have been public about the alleged assault, said the parents declined to speak to The Post on Thursday.
Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde Byard has said the district cannot comment on the alleged student transfer because of state and federal privacy laws protecting student records. He did not comment on the family’s statement.
The first alleged assault occurred May 28 at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. In a Wednesday statement that followed growing focus on the incident on social media and news reports, the sheriff’s office said one of its school resource officers was notified of the alleged assault the same day and an investigation was quickly started. Officials said it was conducted over several weeks by the sheriff’s office’s Special Victims Unit.
Authorities said in the statement that on July 8, a male 14-year-old was arrested in the case and charged in juvenile court with two counts of forcible sodomy.
In the statement, the sheriff’s office said it did not report the incident in a news release at the time of the arrest because “the suspect and victim were familiar with each other, the investigation was complex, and a public announcement had the potential to identify a juvenile victim.”
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said in an interview Wednesday that the youth at some point was released from juvenile detention as the case proceeded.
“Based on the information that we had and the fact that we were waiting for forensic evidence to come back, the statute required his release,” Biberaj said. “He appeared to be a good candidate to be put on electronic monitoring based on the information that was provided.”
The same youth also has been accused in an Oct. 6 alleged sexual assault at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Biberaj said.
In an Oct. 7 news release, the sheriff’s office outlined the allegations, saying a 15-year-old male student had “forced the victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.”
That incident also was reported to a sheriff’s office school resource officer, authorities said. They said the teenager was charged with sexual battery and abduction of a fellow student. In the Oct. 7 news release, the sheriff’s office said the teen was being held at the county juvenile detention center. It was not clear Wednesday whether he was still detained.
In its Wednesday statement, the sheriff’s office said it quickly issued a news release because the case “did not involve complex circumstances, the arrest was immediate” and the information “was unlikely to disclose the identity of the victim.”
The sheriff’s office said that because both alleged assaults involve juvenile suspects, the office would not confirm that the same youth is charged in both.
In its statement, the office noted it “is not involved in school discipline (nor the placement of students).”
At the heated school board meeting Tuesday night, at least a dozen people — of 42 registered to speak — criticized the schools for the handling of the allegations.
Cheryl Onderchain, a mother to twin daughters at Broad Run High School, said the student accused of the assaults was transferred there. She charged that the transfer put her daughters in harm’s way and that school officials had failed in their responsibility to keep girls safe.
“Do you even have a moral compass?” Onderchain said, addressing the board and the superintendent. “Resign, before you face a federal indictment.”
Anger over the incidents continued Thursday as Fight for Schools, a parent group that is seeking to recall the school board and is known for its opposition to the district’s equity work, held a news conference outside Loudoun’s administrative buildings. Speakers demanded the firing of Ziegler and called for independent investigations of the school system’s handling of the incidents.
Loudoun 4 All, a pro-equity parent group formed in opposition to Fight for Schools, issued a statement urging school officials to be more transparent going forward. The group is also asking Loudoun to ensure students accused of sexual assault are kept away from other students as investigations proceed.
Also Thursday, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall issued a statement saying the board learned of the allegations “at the same time and in the same manner” as community members.
Randall (D-At Large) said the board sought out additional information on the alleged incidents but was pointed to the statements released by the sheriff’s office and Loudoun County Public Schools.
“Please know that my colleagues and I continue to press for additional information,” Randall wrote.
This story has been updated.