About 75 high schoolers from Broad Run High School in Loudoun County, Virginia stormed out of class this week to express their disapproval of how the district handled a sexual assault case. Walkouts also took place at other Loudoun County schools. The crime was the second of its kind committed by the same offender, who was transferred to Broad Run from another high school in the county where the first offense took place. The walkout by students included chants of “Loudoun County protects rapists!”
In the first criminal incident, a biologically male student wearing a skirt sexually assaulted a female in the girl’s restroom. The student was permitted to enter the girl’s restroom due to a recent state law that forced schools to create policies that allow gender identity to determine bathroom choice instead of biological sex. Legislators who opposed the law argued that students could take advantage and endanger other students.
The student was found guilty in the first assault, which took place in May. The second assault took place just a few months later, this time in a Broad Run High School classroom. The student is awaiting charges in the second incident.
Troubling details have emerged regarding the school board’s communication about the incident. Scott Ziegler, the Loudoun County Superintendent, sent an email to the board on the day of the first assault stating clearly that an assault from a biologically male student had occurred in the bathroom. Just under a month later on June 22nd, Ziegler declared that, “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist.” He also reiterated that they had no record of a bathroom assault.
The first victim’s father, Scott Smith, went to a school board meeting in the weeks after the incident, saying he wanted to understand how this event could have occurred. After a heated exchange with the board, Smith was forcibly removed from the meeting and arrested for “disorderly conduct.” Smith claimed that he had been equated to a domestic terrorist. Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney, Buta Biberaj, actively sought jail time for Smith regarding the incident. Biberaj also simultaneously oversaw the prosecution of the sexual offender, stating that, “He appeared to be a good candidate to be put on electronic monitoring based on the information that was provided.”
One school board member has already stepped down, but the pressure is mounting for the school to fire Scott Ziegler, the superintendent. About 60 parents at a recent school board meeting alleged that the school did what it could to cover up the situation, endangering their children. One angry mother said, “Remove the superintendent immediately and then resign for your negligence and duplicity. End this nightmare!” Others have held makeshift signs reading “Fire Ziegler.” Ziegler recently issued an apology.
The controversy has been a significant talking point in the gubernatorial race between Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. Youngkin has recently called for the entire school board to resign, stating, “They’ve tried to hide it from parents, they’ve hidden it from the public and they actually endangered students by moving this young man who was in fact being prosecuted for a sexual assault into another school and enabled it to happen again.” McAuliffe recently asserted that it should not be up to the parents to decide what schools teach and vowed to implement the controversial gender policy.