Court blocks public access to Loudoun County sexual assault review

(The Center Square) – The Loudoun County Public School Board will not have to release any information concerning an independent review about how the school system handled two sexual assaults within its schools, a court has decided.

A local parent group called Fight For Our Schools petitioned the court to compel the school board to release the review to the public. However, the circuit court judge denied the request, citing attorney-client privilege. This means the public will not be able to access the report through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

Fight for Schools Executive Director Ian Prior says the school board’s refusal to release the findings shows that they have something to hide.

“It should be obvious to everyone that Loudoun County Public Schools has something very serious to hide,” Prior said in a statement. “It may be able to prevent the public from seeing its own internal report through the Freedom of Information Act, but it won’t be able to stop a grand jury from finding out the truth.”

The school board and Superintendent Scott Ziegler came under scrutiny after a male student wearing a skirt sexually assaulted a girl in a bathroom at one school and then sexually assaulted a second girl at a separate school after the school board had him transferred. The male student was found guilty in both incidents.

Ziegler sent a letter to the school board, which informed them of the sexual assault in the bathroom. However, when the board held a public meeting less than a month after he sent the letter, Ziegler publicly said that he was unaware of any records of sexual assault occurring in any school bathrooms or locker rooms, at which point none of the school board members corrected him. During the meeting, the board was discussing its transgender policy, which allow a student to use the bathroom or locker room that aligns with his or her self-identified gender, even if it is different than the student’s biological sex.

“In order to meet their burden required to block a FOIA production by claiming attorney-client privilege, LCPS showed everyone in Loudoun County just how far they are willing to go to hide the truth from parents in order to protect Superintendent Ziegler, administration officials, and members of the school board,” Prior said. “Not only did LCPS admit that this ‘independent review’ was nothing more than a defensive maneuver to protect against [expected] lawsuits, but when offered an opportunity by the court to allow the judge to review the report, LCPS declined.”

The Center Square reached out to Loudoun County Public Schools for a comment on the judge’s ruling and a comment on why they intend to keep the review private, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

The Virginia Department of Education is currently conducting a review of how the school system handled the sexual assaults and whether Ziegler purposefully misled the public when he failed to disclose information about the assault.