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Loudoun County Public Schools has to release report on handling of sexual assaults, Judge says

In Feb., the Loudoun County School Board voted to not release the report to the public, citing a number of reasons such as attorney-client privileged communication.

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — A circuit court judge has ordered Loudoun County Public Schools to release a report on the district's handling of sexual assaults on campus just months after the board voted to not release the report's findings. 

The order will require the report to be released to the Office of the Attorney General within seven days, which has been investigating LCPS since a 2022 executive order by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

The report looks into the handling of two 2021 sexual assaults that happened at two different schools by the same student. The unidentified then-14-year-old student was transferred to another school within the same district while he was being investigated for a reported attack at the first school. Authorities eventually arrested the same student on charges of sexual battery and abduction of another classmate at the second school. That student was later 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.

The fallout over the assaults went on to ignite intense community backlash and rowdy school board meetings, as well as a national political firestorm that ultimately became a central talking point in the Virginia governor's race in 2021. 

In February, the Loudoun County School Board voted 6-3 to not release the report to the public, citing a number of reasons such as "attorney-client privileged communications." The school district also said the report contained information on students that is protected by FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act that protects information on students.

"It can never be too late to heal the community and bridge that divide and this is the first step towards that," said Elicia Brand of Army of Parents. "What I think it is is a waste of taxpayers' money. This could have been settled a long time ago."

Tiffany Polifko, Broad Run District school board member, advocated releasing the report since her campaign.

"The public needs to know the truth, so, I feel that the judge made the right decision today," Polifko told WUSA9. "I look forward to continuing to see the truth unfold. That's what we need as a community in Loudoun County."

Polfiko says she read the report and believes more should take responsibility. Judge James Fisher said it appeared there were multiple FOIA violations behind closed doors. 

"I want accountability to happen and I look at the release of this report as one more step towards ensuring that happens for the betterment of the community," added Polifko.

The court hearing was focused on the case against former LCPS superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler, who is facing charges for making false statements. Late last year, the LCPS board unanimously voted to remove Ziegler from his position following the release of a special grand jury report. Ziegler has previously been quoted acknowledging that the school district did not handle the situation adequately.

"I want to acknowledge that our processes and procedures were not adequate to respond to these recent events," Ziegler said in October 2021. "It has become clear that our administrative procedures have not kept pace with the growth we have seen in our county."

While the Office of the Attorney General had requested the special grand jury, this report was commissioned in anticipation of litigation involving LCPS and the school board. 

The county school board requested to disband the grand jury, but a judge ultimately overruled, followed by the Virginia Supreme Court, and the jury ultimately stated that LCPS administrators were looking out for their own best interests instead of the best interests of the school community. 

“This special grand jury was the epitome of professionalism. In the face of intense public speculation, the members were incredibly engaged, worked tirelessly, and spent countless days away from their families and jobs to conduct a thorough investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools,” said Attorney General Miyares. “I encourage everyone to read their report, and look forward to the positive change in LCPS resulting from their work.”

Miyares' office declined to comment on Tuesday's order citing the ongoing case. The text of the judge's order to release the report is forthcoming.

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