Loudoun County Public Schools did not record multiple known incidents of alleged sexual assault in schools dating back several years, despite a law that requires statistics about school safety incidents to be reported to the public and which includes provisions holding school superintendents personally liable for violations, a Daily Wire review of public records found.
After The Daily Wire raised the discrepancy with the Virginia Department of Education, DOE spokesman Charles Pyle said that “VDOE is reviewing the discipline, crime and violence data submissions of Loudoun County Public Schools and is in communication with LCPS to determine whether the division’s reporting is accurate and whether the division is in compliance with state and federal law.”
The same law could have implications for a Loudoun superintendent or principal in the wake of a May 28 alleged sexual assault in a bathroom. On June 22, Superintendent Scott Ziegler told the public, “To my knowledge, we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.”
Virginia law requires that “Reports shall be made to the division superintendent and to the principal or his designee on all incidents involving … sexual assault.”
The Daily Wire asked LCPS questions last week including, “Has Stone Bridge ever reported the May alleged sexual assault in any statistics or made anyone aware of it?” LCPS hid behind state law, with Director of Communications Joan Sahlgren replying that “Any information related to student information is confidential under state and federal laws regarding student privacy.”
However, state law actually requires statistics on assaults and other incidents in schools to be reported to the public, in the form of annually updated statistics available on a public database called Safe Schools Information Resource (SSIR) administered by the Virginia Department of Education. LCPS reported to the state that Stone Bridge had zero sexual assaults for the 2020-2021 school year, which includes May 28, 2021.
Virginia law says that “The division superintendent shall annually report all such incidents to the Department of Education for the purpose of recording the frequency of such incidents on forms that shall be provided by the Department and shall make such information available to the public.”
The issue with missing sex assault statistics in Loudoun is not limited to the latest case, raising the prospect that untold numbers of sexual assaults and other infractions have gone unreported.
In October 2018, in a case that was widely reported by the media at the time, three football players at Tuscorara High were arrested and charged with sexual assault. A source told local media that it’s believed a younger player was “held down by teammates who inserted objects into the victim” in a locker room. A spokesperson for LCPS said at the time that “the case will be subject to disciplinary action.” The annual report for Tuscorara that year reported zero instances of sexual offenses against students.
LCPS provided no response at all to The Daily Wire’s question about the reason for the “zero” figures despite having two days to do so.
While the suspect in the May 28 alleged assault was not arrested until July 8 following the conclusion of an investigation, police officers were present at the school that day, law enforcement was notified of the incident, and a police report was filed on the attack, though it is not clear who filed the report.
Pyle, the state spokesman, noted that SSIR’s “mandatory reporting is not contingent on the filing of charges by law enforcement or subsequent convictions.”
Additionally, the safety statistics for that school year were not due to the state until July 16. And in the case of Tuscorara, the school year did not end until months after the incident and arrests, yet the district still reported zero, and has for every year since. The SSIR manual says sexual assault is “Required to be reported regardless of sanction.”
The law says that “A division superintendent who knowingly fails to comply or secure compliance with the reporting requirements of this subsection shall be subject to the sanctions authorized in § 22.1-65. A principal who knowingly fails to comply or secure compliance with the reporting requirements of this section shall be subject to sanctions prescribed by the local school board, which may include, but need not be limited to, demotion or dismissal.”
On Wednesday, LCPS put out a statement, which it did not send to The Daily Wire, in response to mounting public pressure. It said in part:
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was contacted within minutes of receiving the initial report on May 28. Once a matter has been reported to law enforcement, LCPS does not begin its investigation until law enforcement advises LCPS that it has completed the criminal investigation… Furthermore, LCPS is prohibited from disciplining any student without following the Title IX grievance process, which includes investigating complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
But an email from Stone Bridge Principal Tim Flynn, which was sent to the entire community at 4:48 pm the day of the alleged rape, told students and parents that “There was an incident in the main office area today that required the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to dispatch deputies to Stone Bridge. The incident was confined to the main office and the entrance area to the school. There was no threat to the safety of the student body… Students might have noticed Sheriff’s Office personnel on campus and I wanted to let you know that something out of the ordinary happened at school today.” There was no mention of the alleged attack.
This corresponds to the story offered by Scott Smith, the victim’s father, who told The Daily Wire that police arrived because the school called them on him for making a scene about his impression that it was not treating the incident seriously.
LCPS’s October 14 statement also says that “members of the Loudoun County School Board were not aware of the specific details of this incident until it was reported in media outlets earlier this week.” However, on August 17, local paper Loudoun Now published an article saying that when Smith was in court that day — because he was charged for disorderly conduct after becoming angry at the school board meeting where Ziegler denied there were any bathroom assaults on record — Smith’s lawyer explained the incident stemmed from his “anger about an alleged assault of an immediate family member inside a bathroom by a person identifying as gender fluid.”
It seems unlikely that no school board members would have seen that article in their local paper – or heard about it from someone else — given that Smith’s arrest was extremely high-profile, came as a direct result of his actions at a school board meeting, and was pursued zealously by an ally of progressive school board members, Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj. Biberaj came to court to personally try Smith, taking the highly unusual step of seeking jail time for him, based on painting him as a threat to school board members. The judge said his punishment was important because otherwise, “why would anybody want to be on a School Board?”
Following The Daily Wire’s revelation of two alleged sexual assaults by one student, Biberaj belatedly acknowledged the accuracy of main elements to local outlet WTOP, confirming that one 15-year old has been charged in two alleged sex assaults, one in May and one in October.
Biberaj told WTOP that the prosecution’s case was relying on DNA evidence, without which a conviction would have been much more difficult. Smith told The Daily Wire in its original story that he does not believe a rape kit would have been ordered that day if it weren’t for him causing a scene in the main office.
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