The family of a teenage girl who was raped in a high school toilet is suing Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia for $30 million, alleging that the school district failed to appropriately investigate the sexual assault and attempted to cover it up.
The Northern Virginia district received national attention after a father, Scott Smith, claimed at a June 2021 school board meeting that the district covered up his daughter’s sexual assault on May 28, 2021, when he claims a biological boy wearing a skirt raped her in the girls’ toilet at Stone Bridge High School. Smith said that the district tried to cover up his daughter’s attack in order to advance its contentious transgender toilet policy, which was met with parental outrage at LCPS school board meetings that year.
Following the May attack, the student accused of rape was charged and prevented from returning to Stone Bridge by a court order. Administrators then relocated the attacker to Broad Run High School, where the boy sexually assaulted another girl in an empty classroom in October 2021. In both cases, the attacker, who was 15 at the time, was sentenced as a juvenile.
The family claims in the lawsuit that the district misrepresented to the public in order to cover up the May assault because it was working to establish Policy 8040, which allows students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identification. At the time of the attack, the policy had not yet been enacted.
The victim “struggled academically, emotionally, and physically for the remainder of the school year” and “continues to struggle significantly,” according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Wednesday.
In its treatment of the sexual assaults, the district was looking out for its own interests over the best interests of its pupils, according to a grand jury report released in December, emphasising that LCPS “failed at every juncture.”
According to the study, LCPS demonstrated a “stunning lack of openness, transparency, and accountability, both to the public and to the special grand jury” in its reaction to the sexual assaults. The report also chastised then-Superintendent Scott Ziegler for denying knowledge of the May assault at a school board meeting in June 2021.
At the school board hearing, Ziegler stated that “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist,” and that “we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.” However, on the day of the incident in May, Ziegler sent an email to school board members informing them that the assault had been reported.
According to the report’s emails, senior district officials met secretly to discuss the first attack and linked it to LCPS’s transgender policy.
A law firm later hired by the school board to undertake an inquiry discovered “no evidence that the perpetrator identified as female or that he wore a skirt or kilt in an effort to gain access to the girls’ bathrooms.” According to the law firm’s December 2021 report, teachers at both schools warned administrators about the attacker’s behaviour weeks before each incident, and the student’s grandmother even alerted his probation officer and labelled him a “sociopath.”
The firm also accused Ziegler of lying about the May assault during a school board meeting in June 2021.
The grand jury and the law firm also criticised the district for failing to effectively respond to the assaults, with the law firm’s report stating that the district did not appear to have made “any outreach to victim 1 or her family to check on her.”
Ziegler was fired by the school board just days after the grand jury report was released. He was convicted last week of retaliatory termination of a special education teacher, a misdemeanour allegation related to the district’s handling of the two sexual assaults.
LCPS was investigated by the US Department of Education earlier this year for its treatment of sexual assaults.