Loudoun County Public Schools faces federal civil rights investigation over sexual assaults

The Department of Education has initiated a federal civil rights investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools over its response to two sexual assaults in 2021 that occurred in district high schools.

Last week, the department’s office for civil rights notified Ian Prior, a senior adviser at America First Legal and the author of Parents of the World, Unite! How to Save Our Schools from the Left’s Radical Agenda, that the agency had launched an investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools in response to a complaint he filed against the school district in January.

“Because OCR has determined that it has jurisdiction and that the complaint was timely filed, OCR is opening the complaint for investigation,” the department said in a letter to Prior that was reviewed by the Washington Examiner. “Based on the information you provided, OCR will investigate … whether the school division is failing to respond as required by Title IX to notice of sexual assault in School Division high schools.”

The investigation is the latest legal woe for the school district in northern Virginia that has already seen two former school district officials charged with state crimes in response to a sexual assault perpetrated by a male student that occurred in the girls’ bathroom of Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Virginia.

The assault, which took place in May 2021, was a focal point of a school board meeting the following month that saw the victim’s father arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct. The perpetrating student was transferred to another high school, where he committed a second assault in October 2021 before he was arrested and sentenced to a locked residency program at a mental health institution.

A man is detained by the cops during a Loudoun County School Board meeting
Scott Smith is detained after a fight broke out during a Loudoun County School Board meeting which included a discussion of Critical Race Theory and transgender students, in Ashburn, Virginia, on June 22, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/REUTERS)

The school board faced widespread criticism for its handling of the assaults, especially for transferring the student to another high school without proper safeguards. A special grand jury impaneled by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares released a scathing report in December that said the school district had “failed at every juncture” in responding to the first assault and that the second one should have never happened.

Former LCPS Superintendent Scott Ziegler was indicted by the grand jury on state misdemeanor charges, and the district’s Public Information Officer Wayde Byard was indicted on a perjury charge.

In a statement to the Washington Examiner, Prior, who was a mobilizing force for parent activism in the school district, said he was pleased the Department of Education would be further investigating the district’s conduct.

“It is paramount that our public schools enact and enforce policies to keep students safe while at school,” Prior said. “A special grand jury report demonstrated that Loudoun County Public Schools woefully failed in that respect, in part because of the utter lack of a competent Title IX process. We are pleased that the Department of Education has opened an investigation into this dereliction of duty.”

In a statement to the Washington Examiner, a spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools said the district was “aware of the investigation and will cooperate fully.”

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