Equality Loudoun issued a statement amid the community outrage surrounding two alleged sexual assaults at different high schools involving the same assailant during the past six months, offering sympathy to the victims and their families.
“Loudoun County Public Schools should be a place where students feel able to learn in a safe and accepting environment that enables them to bring their best to bear on their education. We understand these recent events may cause challenges for many survivors of sexual assault in our county, both adult and youth, and we stand in support of all victims of sexual assault in pushing for reforms in the system that do not protect victims first and foremost,” the statement said.
The first assault allegedly took place in a restroom at Stone Bridge High School on May 28. Scott Smith, the father of the victim, was arrested during the June 22 School Board meeting after getting into an altercation with another parent. On the agenda for that meeting was a discussion about the then-proposed Policy 8040, which allows transgender students to use the restroom facilities corresponding with their gender identities.
Smith was convicted with two misdemeanors, and is appealing the Circuit Court decision.
Policy 8040 was passed during the School Board meeting on Aug. 10. All Virginia school districts were required to implement a similar policy prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year, or bear responsibility for any incidents that occur involving transgender students.
On Oct. 7, a second student, this time at Broad Run High School, was allegedly assaulted in a classroom by the same student.
Rumors swirled in the community that the assailant identifies as gender fluid. In response to charges that the student gained access to the restroom through the transgender policy, Equality Loudoun stated, “the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or gender fluid have so far been unverified. Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy dash other than the alleged perpetrator dash does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes an already marginalized youth in our community.”
School Board critics have pushed back against the policy, claiming that it puts young girls at risk of being assaulted, and also excludes parents from knowing about a child’s decision to transition to another gender. Under the policy, students are entitled to be addressed by the pronouns that correspond with their chosen gender identity. Parents do not need to be informed of the decision.
While the school district does not comment on incidents involving students, Superintendent Scott Ziegler addressed the media on Friday, claiming that Title IX protocols were followed in response to both the incident in May and in October, and that those protocols were insufficient to protect students.
The district does not begin investigations or take action against students until involved law enforcement agencies conclude criminal investigations. Title IX requires the school district to provide an education to a child under investigation. Many parents asked during the Oct. 12 board meeting why the assailant was not enrolled in the alternative school program.
The statement also said that Equality Loudoun “stands firmly with the community in demanding a change in the policies that actually enabled these events.”