LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — On the campaign trail, Republican Glenn Youngkin accused the Loudoun County Public Schools of covering up two sexual assaults. Now, as the Commonwealth’s newest governor, he’s leading the effort to investigate the Northern Virginia school system.
On Saturday, just hours after he was sworn into office, Youngkin signed an executive action requesting Attorney General Jason Miyares conduct a full investigation of the Loudoun County Public Schools system.
Last year, many parents criticized LCPS for not informing the public of two sexual assaults that occurred at two of its high schools in a timely manner.
Local 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.
Local authorities would later arrest the same student for sexual battery and abduction at his second school.
That student has since been sentenced to supervised probation after being found guilty on four charges connected to those two sexual assault cases. He has also been placed on the sex offender registry, according to the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
“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.”
Youngkin’s order specifically calls on Miyares’ office to hold accountable any individuals who have violated existing law or violated the rights of victims of crime.
Youngkin commented on school safety again, Monday, during his address to the General Assembly in Richmond.
“Whenever someone preys upon a child in a Virginia school, we must require it to be reported to local law enforcement for investigation,” he said. “No more cover-ups. No more sweeping it under the rug. Parents deserve to know if their child is at risk.
In a press release, released Saturday, Miyares also characterized LCPS’ handling of the sexual assault cases as a cover-up.
“Loudoun County Public Schools covered up a sexual assault on school grounds for political gain, leading to an additional assault of a young girl,” he said.
Miyares added the investigation is open and the process has begun to examine LCPS’ actions.
“These investigations are not to solely go after or bring criminal charges against any one actor, but to learn from the mistakes that were made,” he said.
Miyares’ spokesperson declined to comment on the specifics of the ongoing investigation when questioned Monday about which charges his office may ultimately pursue or whether it has reached out to LCPS or local law enforcement agencies.
WUSA9 reached out to both LCPS and newly appointed Loudoun School Board Chair Jeff Morse to see if they had a response to either Youngkin’s executive action or General Assembly comments.
WUSA9 has yet to receive a response to both requests made on Monday.
However, LCPS did release a lengthy statement, on Friday, just before Youngkin’s signing of the executive order.
“The Loudoun County School Board is committed to creating a safe, affirming and welcoming environment by implementing improved processes to protect every student,” the statement reads. “Loudoun County Public Schools has taken action, and will continue to take action, responsive to the concerns raised by the sexual assaults in LCPS in order to further protect our students from sexual assault and strengthen Division practices regarding harassment and discrimination under Title IX.”
STATEMENT: Loudoun County School Board (January 15th)
The school system also mentioned it had appointed a new interim Title IX Coordinator and created a more robust process for alternative school placements for students who may pose a risk to others.
LCPS said it also plans to review and recommend revisions to the Division’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to better coordinate investigation and reporting, among other things.
However, LCPS also said it would not publicly release a report detailing its handling of the two sexual assault cases that occurred at its high school.
In late October, LCPS hired Blankingship & Keith, P.C., of Fairfax County, to conduct an independent review of the incidents. The school system said, on Friday, the report could not be publicly released to protect the privacy of the families involved and protect student confidentiality.
“This decision was also based on the advice of legal counsel, which determined that the report falls under the protections of the attorney-client privilege,” the statement reads.
That decision has not sat well with some Loudoun County parents, like Elicia Brand.
Brand, a mother of three LCPS students, also co-founded a parents group named “Army of Parents”.
“We paid for it,” Brand said. “And, we should see those results.”
However, Brand said she was hopeful some details of the independent review may come out in the Miyares investigation.
She added she is thankful his office has opened an investigation into the Northern Virginia school system.
“I was really pleased to hear that Attorney General Miyares is holding the school accountable, particularly [LCPS Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler], and the school board for what they knew, and what they did not tell parents, and for the protocols that they did not follow that they are legally required to follow,” she said. “By not doing that, they put every one of our students in jeopardy.”