Loudoun County Public Schools

Report faults Loudoun County (Virginia) district's handling of sexual assault investigation

Sept. 15, 2023
A law firm hired by the district concluded that administrators improperly delayed an investigation into sexual assaults at two high schools in 2021.

An internal report by the Loudoun County (Virginia) school district says that administrators delayed for months investigating the first of two high-profile sex assaults in schools in 2021, should have performed a threat assessment on the perpetrator, and may be doing too little to investigate other cases of sexual assault and harassment.

The Washington Post reports that the 32-page report by a law firm hired by the district raised questions about whether the district is properly investigating other reports of sexual assault and harassment in Loudoun schools. Its authors noted in December 2021 that officials had received 159 complaints since the start of the 2021-2022 school year but decided none met the threshold to open a formal probe, known as a Title IX investigation.

The report was commissioned after a 15-year-old male student assaulted a female classmate at Stone Bridge High School before being transferred to Broad Run High School, where he assaulted another teenage girl. The incidents created a political firestorm and resulted in criminal charges against the district superintendent, who was ousted from his job.

The investigation also concluded that the perpetrator was not gender fluid as has been suggested. Teachers said he preferred to be called by male pronouns, and his mother said he was not transgender. The report found he called himself “pansexual,” designating his attraction to multiple genders, and sometimes wore skirts and kilts. The finding is significant because the case became enmeshed in the debate over which bathrooms transgender students should use.

The report concluded that federal law requires school officials to promptly investigate reports of sexual assaults in schools, but that, instead of doing so after the assault at Stone Bridge, officials were paralyzed by debate about how to classify the incident. It said they improperly ceded the investigation to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The perpetrator was soon enrolled in Broad Run High School, where he pulled a classmate into an empty classmate in October 2021 and sexually assaulted her. The teen was later convicted in juvenile court in both assaults and is serving his sentence.

The report found the school district should have conducted a threat assessment of the perpetrator after he carried out the first assault. The law firm found widespread confusion among school officials, who erroneously believed that they could not proceed while the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was conducting its own investigation.

Last year, a grand jury indicted former Superintendent Scott Ziegler on misdemeanor counts, alleging that he lied during a school board meeting about the first sexual assault and committed other crimes. He has two trials scheduled for later this year and early next year.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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