The school board in Loudoun County, Virginia, voted on Tuesday night to keep the findings of an independent report on sexual assault private. The report, compiled by the law firm Blankingship and Keith, focused on how the district responded to two sexual assault incidents at Stone Bridge High School in May 2021. The 15-year-old “gender fluid” male student pleaded guilty to counts of rape in “forced sodomy” and “forced fellatio” against a teenage girl at Stone Bridge. The student allegedly sexually assaulted another teenage girl at Broad Run High School while waiting for his first trial.
The school board claimed that it had to keep the repot secret because it would reveal students’ personal data, in violation of the law. John Beatty, a member of the school board, contested this claim, telling The Daily Signal that he made a motion to redact students’ names in releasing the report.
In December, a special grand jury released a separate report on Loudoun County Public Schools’ handling of the 15-year-old “gender fluid” student’s multiple sexual assaults. The grand jury, which Virginia Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares requested in April, consisted of Loudoun County citizens, who heard from over 40 witnesses and perused over 100 pieces of evidence.
The jury’s report states that Loudoun County Public Schools “failed at every juncture….LCPS as an organization tends to avoid managing difficult situations by not addressing them fully.” The grand jury suggested that the report be released to the public so the community might view as much information as possible.
Miyares released a statement in early December thanking the grand jury and the AG “special investigation unit” for looking into LCPS, and encouraged “every Virginian” to read the special report.
It is apparent that the Loudoun County School Board failed to provide proper oversight, accountability, and transparency on the superintendent and their staff precisely at a time when the victims needed them the most.
It is our hope that this grand jury report will bring about positive change—not just in Loudoun County schools, but also in every school district in the Commonwealth, because the protection of our children should be our first priority.
Following the grand jury’s findings, superintendent Scott Ziegler was fired. Now the LCPS school board has voted, 6-3, to keep the report private.
LCPS told The Daily Signal that the School Board cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in keeping the report private. “The report contains personally identifiable information regarding students,” the school district spokesperson said in an email statement. “While this information has been reported publicly, much of that information is nonetheless protected under FERPA.”
Beatty, a school board member who voted to release the report, told The Daily Signal, “I made a motion to release a redacted version to protect names of students and protect as many as we could. The staff’s responses need to get out there.”
Mike Smith, an LCPS father, questioned the merit of this decision in a public comment session at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “I understand you want to redact minors’ names, everyone knows that these things [name reduction requirements] happen,” he said. “But what happened outside the event? What happened behind the scenes? What happened behind the scenes is almost scarier than the actual event. It’s just going to perpetuate more.”
LCPS told The Daily Signal in a published statement that the school board “cited a number of reasons why the report should not be released publicly,” including litigation concerns and attorney-client privileged communications “central to those matters.”
One LCPS mother chided the board for citing attorney-client privilege: “I’m very furious because once again people at this county in this school board are protecting adults….They aren’t protecting children.”
Parents leveled additional sexual assault allegations at LCPS staff. One former LCPS mother, Tumay Harding, accused board members of “hiding behind Title IX” nondiscrimination law and brushing her off after Harding reported a science teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted and harassed her daughter and two of her daughter’s friends.
Harding implored, “I want this teacher to not hurt anybody again.”
She asked the same question thousands of parents around the United States have been asking in the wake of disturbing revelations kept from parents and the public: “As you heard today, two years prior, the same allegations from a girl were hidden from us. What else is being hidden from us?”
Harding has since pulled her daughter from the district.
The accused teacher, Dr. Aaron Dobbs, appears as science faculty on the Stone Bridge High School website. He was put on leave pending an investigation in March, according to an LCPS letter sent to Stone Bridge High School Parents. The full letter states:
To the Stone Bridge Community –
This message is to inform you that Aaron Dobbs will be out on leave effective today, Tuesday, March 29. It is unclear at this time the anticipated length of the leave.
Because this is a personnel matter, we cannot share further details at this time. However, we wanted our families to be aware of the situation.
LCPS has not publicly stated the results of this investigation, but published this statement after the grand jury reported its findings in December:
In spite of the recent allegations we are pleased that the Special Grand Jury’s extensive investigation found no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of anyone within LCPS, and not a single indictment was filed as a result of this lengthy process.
LCPS told The Daily Signal that Dr. Dobbs is currently on leave.
Fight for Schools’ Executive Director Ian Prior expressed disappointment in Loudoun County School Board Chairman Jeff Morse after he voted not to release the independent report compiled by Blankingship and Keith. Prior even urged the Loudoun County Republican Committee to censure Morse.
“When Jeff Morse became chairman in 2022, we had high hopes that he would restore some measure of transparency, accountability, and honesty to the Loudoun County School Board. Instead, he has been a complete and utter disappointment,” Prior said in a statement sent to The Daily Signal.
“Not only did he go back on his statement from December that he would support releasing the Blankingship and Keith report, he and former Superintendent Scott Ziegler both tried and failed to quash a subpoena for their appearance before the special grand jury, despite previously pledging to fully cooperate,” Prior added.
“This should not be a partisan issue,” he declared, noting that two Republican-endorsed candidates and one Democrat-endorsed candidate “make the right decision and should be applauded for voting to release the report.”
“On the other hand, the five Democrats and one Republican that voted against releasing it should face consequences,” Prior added. “We are not holding our breath for the Loudoun County Democrat Committee to hold their members accountable, but we do expect that the Loudoun County Republican Committee will censure Jeff Morse for his willful failure to serve the community’s interests instead of his own.”
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