Special education teacher sues Loudoun Co. school board following sexual assault claims

A special education teacher who said she was retaliated against after reporting being sexually assaulted by a student has filed a lawsuit against the school board in Loudoun County, Virginia.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday in Loudoun County Circuit Court, Erin Brooks claims the school system failed to protect her, beginning in February 2022, when “a student began grabbing her breasts, buttocks, and pubic area dozens of times each day.”

Brooks is one of two educators who said they were retaliated against after reporting being sexually assaulted by a student in their classroom.

As WTOP reported on June 10, the school system said the student is a nonverbal elementary school student with significant intellectual disabilities, whose actions are being mischaracterized. The school system’s statement said the teachers improperly shared students’ records.

Brooks said she lost her job, has been subjected to a smear campaign, and has been defamed by school officials.

“The Plaintiff clearly and unambiguously articulated her professional opinion to the administrators that the student understood the nature of the actions and was intentionally sexually assaulting her, other teachers, and student,” according to the lawsuit, filed by attorney John Whitbeck.

The suit claims “despite her repeated attempts to stop the assaults and her pleas to her superiors and colleagues for help, the Plaintiff was repeatedly dismissed and ignored by LCPS personnel who were in positions that could have stopped the assaults.”

Whitbeck writes school administrators “would make ridiculous suggestions” on how to deal with the unwanted touching.

One administrator gave Brooks “a piece of cardboard measuring about a square foot with a picture of a ‘quiet hand’ on it to hold up to the student when he came at her.”

According to the lawsuit, the principal “suggested ordering an apron for the Plaintiff to ‘slow down the penetration’ when the student reached for her breasts and genitals.”

School system says teacher improperly shared student records

Contacted Thursday for comment on the lawsuit, a school spokesman referred to the statement included in WTOP’s previous reporting which included similar allegations by Lauren Vandermuelen, a teacher’s assistant.

“While we encourage all teachers and students to report any concerns about inappropriate touching or sexual assault to the appropriate authorities, we expect staff to do so in the process laid out in LCPS policy that is consistent with our need to protect the privacy of our students as well,” according to a statement from the school system.

“These teachers improperly distributed student records without the consent of the family and without the knowledge of school staff for reasons that are unrelated to their job duties and this profound breach of trust to their students has been addressed appropriately by LCPS.”

In the suit, her attorney rejected that claim, saying Brooks “did not disclose any personally identifiable information about the student to anyone other than school officials with a legitimate interest in information contained in an educational record.”

According to the suit, LCPS failed to follow and enforce its own policies in handling Brooks’ reports of sexual assault, and the decision to not renew her contract was retaliation for filing two Title IX complaints, testifying before the special grand jury investigating the school system, and for her public comment at the June 7 school board meeting.

The suit, which also names the principal of the school at which Brooks taught, seeks $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.

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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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