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Loudoun judge dismisses school board's request to halt state's grand jury investigation

Loudoun County Public Schools went to court in a showdown with Virginia's top prosecutor over its handling of two sexual assaults in 2021.

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — Loudoun County Public Schools lost a round in court Monday in a showdown with Virginia's top prosecutor over the school district's handling of sexual assault cases in 2021. 

During an injunction hearing, a judge dismissed the school board’s request to disband a special grand jury Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is using to investigate the board’s handling of two school sex assault cases. 

The investigation of the Loudoun County School Board was Executive Order Number 4 signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) when he took office in January.

Miyares had filed a motion to keep the hearing private and closed to the public because it was discussing a grand jury whose proceedings are required by state law to be secret. But Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge James Plowman said he could deal with the hearing without discussing matters that are supposed to be secret.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling dismissing the School Board’s complaint and affirming Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order Number Four," Miyares wrote in a statement. "This is a win for parents and students across the Commonwealth." 

Loudoun schools also released a statement following the dismissal: 

"While Loudoun County Public Schools does not agree with all of the rulings Judge Plowman issued earlier today, it appreciates the Court’s thoughtfulness in addressing these complex matters. LCPS is currently considering all available legal options, but has not made any final decisions at this point."

"Every person that did not protect the victim should be held responsible," said Jessica Smith, the mother of one of the sex assault victims. “They didn’t do their job." 

"They didn’t protect our daughter...They covered it up to pass their transgender bathroom policy," said Scott Smith, the victim's father, who was arrested at a rowdy school board meeting last May.

The controversy has split a county that’s become more politically progressive. A group of women posted signs on the courthouse fence urging love and equity. 

"They wanted a national circus," said Brenda Bengston of the school board critics. "We have not seen any evidence, any, that the school board has had any wrongdoing," said her friend, Tammy Cummins.

Lawyers from the school board argued the grand jury should be limited to investigating criminal matters, not school policies.

But Judge Plowman said the board had no if the grand jury would release a report or whether it would be positive or negative.

It’s not clear if the school board will appeal or what the grand jury will ultimately find.

Some parents have criticized school officials for allegedly failing to inform the public of the assaults that occurred on school property in a timely manner. The groups became particularly incensed when they learned the offending student, an unidentified 15-year-old boy, was transferred to another school within the system as he was being investigated for his actions at his first school. Authorities eventually arrested the same student for sexual battery and abduction at his second school.

That student has since been sentenced to complete a sex offender in-patient program and was placed on supervised probation until his 18th birthday, according to the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

After Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration took office in January, Miyares opened an investigation into Loudoun's handling of the assaults, based on an order from the governor. A special grand jury was convened. 

“The Loudoun County School Board and school administrators withheld key details and knowingly lied to parents about the assaults,” Youngkin’s executive action reads. “Neither the Loudoun County School Board, nor the administrators of the Loudoun County school system, have been held accountable for deceiving the very Virginians they serve.”

   

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