Special grand jury investigating Loudoun Co. Public Schools’ handling of 2 sex assaults

An official with Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia said a special grand jury has been convened to look into how the school system handled two sexual assaults last year.

Under an executive order issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares was authorized to conduct a “full investigation” into the school system following two sexual assaults carried out by the same student at two different high schools.

The then-15-year-old boy was found responsible in juvenile court for both assaults, which took place in a restroom at Stone Bridge High in May and in an empty classroom at Broad Run High in October.

In a statement, Loudoun County schools spokesman Wayde Byard said the school system “is aware” that the grand jury has been convened and “intends to cooperate with the lawful requests of the special grand jury, while protecting the privacy rights of our students to the extent permitted by law and in accordance with all applicable legal privileges.”

Asked to confirm whether a special grand jury was convened, spokeswoman for the attorney general told WTOP she couldn’t comment on ongoing investigations. Asked about the investigation on Tuesday, Youngkin also declined to elaborate.

The statement from the school spokesman said school system Superintendent Scott Ziegler and the Loudoun County School Board have already taken action in response “to help protect our students from such incidents happening in the future,” including retooling Title IX policies and creating a more robust process for alternative school placements for students accused of serious misconduct.

Ziegler apologized last year for the school system’s handling of the two assaults, saying the school failed to provide a safe environment for students.

In addition, the statement said, “LCPS has audited harassment and discrimination complaints raised over the past school year to ensure that such complaints had been addressed appropriately, and LCPS has provided, and will continue to provide, additional training to staff to reinforce the understanding of their obligations when they receive allegations of sexual harassment or assault.” 

The multiple assaults were the subject of controversy over what information school officials and the sheriff’s office released to the public, with the school system being accused of a cover-up.

Youngkin’s Jan. 15 executive order requested Miyares to “initiate and coordinate investigative and prosecutorial efforts” in the probe.

According to Virginia code, a special grand jury should be empaneled when a regular grand jury “finds probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed” that a special grand jury should hear.

While Youngkin and Miyares campaigned vigorously on the premise of a school board cover-up, Miyares’ office has not specified what crime he is investigating. His spokeswoman declined to elaborate Wednesday afternoon.

Contacted by WTOP, Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said: “No one in our office has been notified of any special grand jury being convened and no one has been subpoenaed.”

In a statement to WTOP, Kraig Troxell, spokesman with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, said: “We are not aware of any personnel from our agency who were subpoenaed for a special grand jury.”

School board opposes early election

In addition, the school released a statement opposing an amendment by the governor to change the date of the election for the Loudoun County School Board, requiring all nine members to stand for reelection this fall — a year earlier than scheduled.

“Having accountability and transparency with regards to who represents the parents on the school board is really important,” Youngkin told WTOP. “I amended the bill and this is a great chance to allow parents to express their will in selecting their school board this year.”

In the statement, the school board said the move “seeks to undo a free and fair election in which members of the Loudoun County School Board were chosen by the people of Loudoun County to represent them on the School Board for four years. The proposed Governor’s amendment sets a precedent through which any Governor, with the approval of the General Assembly, could shorten the legally defined terms of any elected local public body chosen by its citizens with whom they disagreed or simply disliked.”

The statement went on to say: “Such amendments would negate the wishes of the people who elected their local representatives and force the people of Loudoun County to hold an unnecessary election on short notice, and would ultimately hinder the operations of the School Board and school division in effectively serving its students.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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