LOUDON COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The same child is suspected of committing two separate sexual assaults, both taking place at Loudoun County Public Schools. The family of one of the two victims has retained an attorney and now plans on taking legal action against the school district.
The school district has been under fire for the two incidents at school board meetings and online. The district’s superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler gave a press conference on Tuesday apologizing for the school district’s handling of the sexual assault allegations.
Ziegler said, “I am sorry that we failed to provide the safe, welcoming and affirming environment that we aspire to provide.”
He said that although the school district followed the required Title IX protocols for sexual harassment and sexual assault incidents, it was insufficient at addressing the issues. He explained the protocol is designed to protect both the victim and the suspect.
Ziegler said that Title IX gives a certain level of school-based autonomy and he doesn’t believe the “informal protocols” work well for large school districts.
He said the school district found the process to be “insufficient in addressing issues at the K-12 level.”
“We believe this process could be strengthened with some reforms,” Ziegler said.
During the press conference, the superintendent called on the school board and allied groups to push for more protection for victims.
Going forward, Ziegler said Loudoun County Public Schools plans to begin disciplinary actions at the time of a reported incident and immediately separate the student from the general student body. He also plans to have incidents reported in the student information system right away and updated as case details change instead of waiting for a final resolution.
The Smith family, whose daughter was the victim of the first reported incident, and their attorney responded to Ziegler’s conference on Friday. The family and their attorneys first focused on Ziegler’s remark where he said the district failed to create a safe environment.
The family and attorneys’ statement read, “As evidenced by subsequent events and revelations, Loudoun Public Schools have been failing the parents who entrusted them to provide a safe environment for their children every day. That trust has irrevocably broken by Loudoun County Public Schools’ (LCPS) actions and inactions.”
The attorneys’ statement accused Ziegler of stating that the school district’s actions did not lead to the “horrific sexual assault of the Smith’s daughter.”
“It is completely unacceptable and outrageous for Dr. Ziegler to blame the federal government’s Title IX protocols for the treatment of the Smith’s daughter and the subsequent sexual assault of yet another LCPS student,” the statement read.