Superintendent Scott Ziegler, joined by administrators and School Board chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) said today that the district handled two recent sexual assault allegations in compliance with Title IX, but the process was insufficient to address the issues.
“It has become very clear that our administrative procedures have not kept pace with the growth we have seen in our county. While informal protocols and school-based autonomy may work in small and medium-sized school divisions they are simply not sufficient in a county with 82,000 students,” Ziegler said.
The school district came under fire this week when news surfaced that a Stone Bridge High School student who had allegedly raped a girl in a bathroom on May 28 was transferred to Broad Run High School before a law enforcement investigation was completed, where he allegedly assaulted a different student on Oct. 7.
The district has not commented on specifics surrounding either incident, both of which are under investigation by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Currently Loudoun County Public Schools does not begin an investigation until involved law enforcement agencies conclude their investigations. The district also does not take action against a student until it conducts its own investigation.
It is unclear where the alleged assailant was placed in school after the initial incident.
“Recent events have also revealed that we have shortcoming in alternative placement options for students involved in serious discipline infractions,” Ziegler said.
He said that his administration will fast-track changes to the process to assign alternative placements for students involved in discipline infractions that “protect the safety of the student body and the rights of the accused.”
Ziegler said that the lack of oversight in the safety and disciplinary processes existed prior to his tenure. Earlier this week, it was reported that the school district had omitted sexual assaults in the safety statistics it provides to the Virginia Department of Education.
“I have no reason to believe at this time that any missing reports were due to an intent to hide any information from the Virginia Department of Education,” he said.
Loudoun Nowhas reached out to both former superintendent Eric Williams and his former chief of staff, Nyah Hamlett. Neither responded with immediate comment.
Ziegler also pointed to comments during the June 22 board meeting that suggested that no assaults had occurred in bathrooms. During a discussion about then-proposed Policy 8040, Beth Barts (Leesburg) had asked Ziegler if there had been any incidents in bathrooms. Ziegler said in his statement that he didn’t intend to be misleading in his answer during that meeting, and that he thought Barts’ question was only about incidents involving transgender students.
Ziegler and Sheridan were joined by his chief of staff Mark Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Pupil Services Asia Jones and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Ashley Ellis. Ziegler did not take questions from the press.