A special grand jury report on the conduct of Loudoun County Public Schools relating to their handling of and reaction to the sexual assault of a student at Broad Run High School by an alleged assailant — who was accused of a similar previous assault when attending Stone Bridge High School — was released on Monday. The grand jury did not hold back in its criticism of school and district authorities, and noted that it would have considered an indictment against the LCPS division counsel if statute's existed to allow charges.
In addition to calling out Loudoun County Public Schools for weak leadership, misplaced priorities, attempts to tamper with witness testimony, and failing to fully address issues that arise within the LCPS community, the grand jury also issued several recommendations to deal with some of the problems their deliberations identified.
The conclusion of the grand jury's report summarizes some of the issues within LCPS:
Although LCPS has taken positive steps forward resulting from the sexual assaults last year, such as increasing resources for Title IX compliance and updating policy 8220 (student disciplinary consequences), through this investigation we have learned LCPS as an organization tends to avoid managing difficult situations by not addressing them fully. Whether intended or not, this practice conveys to the public a sense of apathy. This has not served them or our community well, and the culture needs to change. Stronger leadership would address problems head-on instead of letting them snowball. As nine members of this community, we are certain the public would reward such leadership.
The grand jury also concluded that the Loudoun County School Board and its division counsel were acting in an "obstructionist" manner and actively attempting to thwart the grand jury's investigation by controlling "the flow of information" from those subpoenaed to testify by the grand jury.
Those attempts, the grand jury alleged, were "an effort by division counsel to get everybody on the same page to thwart, discredit, and push back against this investigation and this report, and to promote their own narrative," on the grand jury noted "is completely undermined and contradicted by the sworn testimony of the chief operation officer" who appeared with his own lawyer and to whose testimony the division counsel was not privy.
Notably, the grand jury stated that they would have considered "an indictment against the LCPS division counsel" but were unable to because, "unlike federal law, no Virginia statute explicitly addresses witness tampering, and the Virginia obstruction of justice statute does not cover this fact pattern."
Among the eight recommendations passed along are a call for better communication between school leaders. "In our examination of the circumstances that led to the two sexual assaults by the same student at two different Loudoun County high schools, we were struck by the lack of communication among LCPS, LCSO, the court services unit and the commonwealth's attorney office."
Another recommendation criticized the Loudoun County School Board for excessive citation of attorney-client privilege to avoid answering logical questions that arose after the assaults. "We appreciate and understand the necessity of the privilege to keep confidential certain communications between client and attorney. However, unlike corporate executives of a company, school board members act on behalf of the public they are elected to serve," the grand jury report states. "The attorney-client privilege should be invoked when required to protect legitimate issues of confidentiality that impact the operations of LCPS and the LCSB. It should not be used as a shield that impedes transparency, accountability, and openness, especially when it comes to the operations of a public body."
What's more, the grand jury noted that the reaction of LCPS authorities displayed an apparent failure to take seriously the assault of students under its care.
"According to the LCPS website, the state mission of the safety and security division is 'to provide a safe and secure educational environment for all students, staff, and external stakeholders. This is accomplished through the execution of a comprehensive and integrated security plan that constantly evolves to address the ever changing threat landscape,'" the grand jury noted. "Yet on the afternoon of May 28, 2021, the director of safety and security was mainly concerned with the fact that a disruptive parent was in the front office of SBHS – not that a student had been sexually assaulted or that the assailant was at-large in the school. His testimony further revealed that he never even asked what caused the parent's disruptive behavior, nor did he make any inquiries about the sexual assault victim or the alleged perpetrator."
The full special grand jury report and all the damning findings can be read here.