Loudoun Co. School Board sues to halt ‘unconstitutional’ special grand jury

The Loudoun County School Board is seeking a temporary injunction to prohibit any further actions by the special grand jury convened by Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, WTOP has learned.

Miyares convened the special grand jury under one of the first executive orders issued by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

In a civil filing Thursday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, the school board said an executive order issued by Youngkin on his first day in office went beyond his legal power, and that the empaneled special grand jury is being used unlawfully.

Executive Order 4 authorizes Miyares to conduct “a full investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools.”

In April, Loudoun County Public Schools said a special grand jury had been convened to look into how the school system handled two sexual assaults last year.

In the new filing, Attorney Steven T. Webster, said Youngkin’s executive order exceeded the governor’s authority.

According to the complaint, the Virginia Constitution says “local school boards are vested with the exclusive power over ‘the supervision of schools in each school division.'”

“Through EO 4, the Governor has attempted to arrogate to the Attorney General the power to oversee decisions for public schools regarding any subject matter that the Attorney General deems fit to supervise, and the Attorney General has attempted to exercise that “oversight’ through the powers of the Special Grand Jury.”

In the order, Youngkin asked Miyares to take any appropriate actions “to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth and hold accountable any individuals who have violated existing law or violated the rights of victims of crime.”

Virginia code permits the Attorney General to prosecute criminal cases in local courts for a limited number of offenses or “unless specifically requested by the Governor to do so.”

According to the complaint, the authority to empanel a special grand jury is limited to the local commonwealth’s attorney. In addition, the special grand jury is not intended to be used to investigate noncriminal matters, or policy issues.

Records and testimony have been subpoenaed regarding the LCPS transgender policy, Title IX, Facebook posts, and educational accommodations for students with exceptional needs, according to the complaint.

Contacted by WTOP, Webster declined to comment on the filing.

In an email, Miyares spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said: “Loudoun County Public Schools stated publicly they would cooperate with the special grand jury. Asking for an injunction is just the latest in a series of efforts to prevent the citizens of Loudoun from learning the truth about conditions existing in Loudoun County public schools that promote criminal activity, proving this investigation is warranted and necessary. This injunction is a waste of taxpayer money and the investigation will continue.”

Macaulay Porter, spokeswoman for Youngkin, told WTOP, “It is troubling that the Board will not want to cooperate. What are they hiding?”

The school system said in a statement Friday:

Loudoun County Public Schools remains ready and willing to cooperate with any lawful inquiry by the Virginia Attorney General.

However, we believe that the scope of the Attorney General’s investigation is overly broad and holds significant potential to invade the privacy of our students, staff, and families. LCPS also believes the investigation violates our locally elected School Board’s constitutional authority to govern.

For these reasons, LCPS has filed a complaint for a temporary injunction to limit the scope of the Attorney General’s investigation.

The school board’s complaint alleges that since the special grand jury was convened, it has sought records and testimony from Loudoun County Public Schools employees and students — many with no connection to any aspects of the sex assaults, the school board’s complaint alleges.

The counsel for the school system said earlier this month that requests had been made for specific education records of elementary and high school students. He said parents are notified before any compliance.

According to the complaint, “EO 4 itself is a fishing expedition. It identifies no specific crimes that could have been committed and permits the Special Grand Jury unlimited authority to investigate any condition, illegal or otherwise, which could come to light.”

2 sexual assaults

A now-15-year-old was arrested last May in connection with a sexual assault at Stone Bridge High School, and was then transferred to Broad Run High School, where he assaulted another girl months later.

During their campaigns, Youngkin and Miyares alleged LCPS had covered up their handling of the sex assaults.

In his executive order, Youngkin wrote: “A decision was made to transfer the assailant to another Loudoun County high school, where the student was able to commit a second sexual assault. The Loudoun County School Board and school administrators withheld key details and knowingly lied to parents about the assaults.” Miyares’ office has declined requests to provide evidence of the latter allegation, citing the investigation.

Webster, in the filing, said the special grand jury is causing consternation and expense to subpoenaed families and the school system, while continuing to search for wrongdoing.

“Once the government determines it is not proceeding criminally, it must terminate a grand jury investigation,” he wrote, saying the Supreme Court has held it is proper to prevent “the indiscriminate summoning of witnesses with no definitive objective in view and in a spirit of meddlesome inquiry.”

Youngkin last month tried to insert an amendment into a General Assembly bill calling for a Loudoun County School Board election this year, one year earlier than scheduled; it was shot down in the Virginia Senate.

School Board Chair Jeff Morse said at the time, “I am pleased that the General Assembly supports the voters of Loudoun County and rejected the Governor’s attempt to usurp their Constitutional authority.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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