LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — A Northern Virginia family says it plans to pursue legal action against the Loudoun County Public School system after their daughter was allegedly sexually assaulted in a bathroom.
The alleged incident occurred May 28 at Stone Bridge High School, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies say school staff notified a school resource officer about a possible sexual assault against a 15-year-old girl. According to the victim's family, the assault happened in a girls’ bathroom.
LCSO said a boy, who was 14-years-old at the time, was later arrested in connection to the case on two counts of forcible sodomy.
The family of the victim claimed the boy said he was “gender fluid” before the alleged attack happened. However, LCSO said it cannot release any information regarding the identity of the suspect due to his juvenile status, in accordance with Virginia state law.
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said the boy was arrested in July as prosecutors waited for DNA results to come back in the case.
“That was necessary for them to be able to help support an element of the crime so what they ended up doing was that they needed more time to get those results back,” she said.
Biberaj added the boy wore an ankle monitor and was ordered not to return to the same school.
However, she said the juvenile suspect was transferred to Broad Run High School where he later allegedly assaulted another girl in early October.
The family of the victim in the alleged Stone Bridge assault says they plan to seek a civil suit against Loudoun County Public Schools under the provisions of Title IX. The family has retained the Stanley Law Group, of Rocky Mount, Virginia, in the case.
In a statement, provided through the Stanley Law Group, the Smiths, which are the family of the Stone Bridge assault victim, said LCPS and the school board displayed indifference and negligence when handling the situation.
“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the statement reads. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant. Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults.”
The Stanley Law Group says it also plans to represent the victim’s father, Scott Smith, against the “wrongful and unconstitutional” charges filed against him following his arrest at an LCPS school board meeting on June 22.
“When the School Board abruptly ended the meeting, I was confronted and taunted by an activist who supports the School Board’s bathroom policy,” Smith stated. “The activist was aware of the sexual assault on my daughter and wrongfully assumed I was going to speak. Despite being subjected to this unprovoked confrontation, I was unreasonably restrained by law enforcement, completely violating my constitutional rights.”
On Friday, Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler addressed the incidents at Stone Bridge and Broad Run high schools in front of journalists.
“Let me say to the families and students involved, my heart aches for you and I am sorry that we failed to provide the safe, welcoming, and affirming environment that we aspire to provide,” he said. “We acknowledge and share in your pain and we will continue to offer support to help you and your families through this trauma.”
Ziegler said LCPS’ processes and procedures were not adequate to respond to the events that happened at its schools. He also claimed a lack of oversight prior to his tenure contributed to errors in LCPS’ reporting to the state of disciplinary incidents at its campuses.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, school divisions are required to submit discipline, crime, and violence data to the state on an annual basis. Superintendents also must certify their accuracy upon submission.
Ziegler became Superintendent of LCPS in June.
VDOE data shows LCPS did not report any sexual batteries, cases of sexual harassment, or sexual offenses without force to the state dating back to at least 2016.
“This is a matter that VDOE takes very seriously and is actively investigating discrepancies in the LCPS reports,” said VDOE Spokesperson Ken Blackstone.
Ziegler said he has no reason to believe that any of the missing reports were due to an intent to hide information from VDOE.
“In the future, we will report events in real-time in our system and make corrections, if needed, following due process procedures,” he said. “This will help ensure more accuracy in our Department of Education reports.”
Ziegler also clarified his response to a question that was posed to him at a school board meeting in June.
He told journalists he had no knowledge of assaults in bathrooms and locker rooms, despite the ongoing investigation of the Stone Bridge sexual assault investigation.
Ziegler said he assumed the question posed to him by a council member was referring to incidents involving transgender students.
“I regret that my comments were misleading and I apologize for the distress there that caused families,” he said. “I should have asked board member [Beth] Barts clarifying questions to get to the root of her question rather than assuming what she meant I will do better in the future.”
The Stanley Law Group issued a statement in response to Ziegler’s Friday statement.
Attorney Bill Stanley said the superintendent said what the family already knew.
“That the actions of the Loudoun County School Board and Administration ‘failed to provide the safe environment’ for the Smith’s daughter,” he said. “As evidenced by subsequent events and revelations, Loudoun Public Schools have been failing the parents who entrusted them to provide a safe environment for their children every day. That trust has irrevocably broken by Loudoun County Public Schools’ (LCPS) actions and inactions.”
Elicia Brand is a spokesperson for the Smith family. The family friend also co-founded a local group named “Army of Parents”.
She said the family has lost its faith and trust in Dr. Ziegler and the school board. Brand said the Smith family is continuing to heal.
“You can only imagine when your child is assaulted in such a heinous way how you would be,” she said. “So, it's really been a summer of therapy and healing for this poor child and their family.”
Brand said when Scott Smith was told about the subsequent sexual assault case at Broad Run High School, he became distraught.
“The outrage boiled up inside Mr. Smith, and he said to me, ‘if only I had spoken up, this wouldn't have happened,” she said. “’This would not have happened’ and there were tears in his eyes.”
Band also said the characterization of Scott Smith by people who did not attend the June school board meeting where he was arrested was unfair.
“That's when the narrative began, that he was a racist or white supremacist, a domestic terrorist, and that was really, really unfair,” she said.