Va. high court denies Loudoun Co. School Board request to file appeal under seal

Virginia’s Supreme Court has rejected the Loudoun County School Board’s request to file its appeal under seal, as the school system seeks to overturn a ruling that let a special grand jury investigation continue.

Two weeks ago, WTOP reported the board filed an appeal to Virginia’s highest court, asking it to reverse a Loudoun County Circuit Court judge’s decision. Last month, the judge ruled against the board’s lawsuit to halt a special grand jury convened by Attorney General Jason Miyares, to look into how the school system handled two sexual assaults by the same high school student last year.

The basis of the school board’s appeal hasn’t been clear, because it was filed under seal.

WTOP has been seeking details on the appeal from the school board’s attorneys, John Cafferky, Robert Scully and Juli Porto. A school system spokesperson told WTOP on Aug. 18 that the issue of whether an attorney general has the authority to conduct a special grand jury investigation has wide-ranging implications for all school boards and local government bodies in Virginia.

Monday, Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled “additional sealing is unwarranted” and ordered Loudoun County’s School Board to file a redacted copy of its appeal within eight days.

Also Monday, Miyares’ office filed its redacted opposition to the school board’s appeal.

“The School Board is not immune from criminal investigation and prosecution. The School Board makes the extraordinary argument that the mere existence of the grand jury investigation usurps its sole authority to supervise LCPS” under the state constitution, according to the newly filed opposition.

In their lawsuit, school board attorneys Robert Falconi and Steven Webster argued the special grand jury wasn’t limiting its questions to potential criminal wrongdoing, and was focusing on things ranging from transgender issues to Facebook posts.

“The investigation involves potential criminal misconduct, as well as ‘conditions that involve or tend to promote criminal activity,'” according to the filing by Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson. “The grand jury’s investigative authority includes the power ‘to inquire into all information that might possibly bear on its investigation until it has identified an offense or has satisfied itself that none has occurred.”

The promise to investigate the Loudoun County school system was a major premise of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign. On his first day in office, he issued an executive order directing Miyares to begin the investigation. Miyares opened it the next day, and convened the grand jury in April.

WTOP is seeking comment about the Supreme Court’s ruling from the school board’s attorney and the school system.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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