A Virginia school district is defending its response to two sexual assault allegations after it was accused of covering up one of the assaults because it raised questions about the potential consequences of a policy passed in August allowing students to use bathrooms based on their gender identity.
Loudoun County Public Schools released a statement Wednesday acknowledging that it is "aware of the media and social media reports concerning alleged sexual assaults at two of our high school campuses." The district maintained that the proper "process was followed with respect to these allegations."
On Aug. 10, the Loudoun County School Board approved Policy 8040, allowing trans-identified students to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity instead of their biological sex.
The Daily Wire reported the May 28 sexual assault of Scott Smith's 15-year-old daughter at Loudoun County's Stone Bridge High School Monday. The publication reported a biological boy who identifies as a girl alleged to have been wearing a skirt entered a girls' bathroom and sexually assaulted Smith's ninth-grade daughter.
Although juvenile records are sealed, Smith's lawyer, Elizabeth Lancaster, told the news outlet that the student faces two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy and one count of forcible fellatio related to the incident at school.
As Smith noted during an appearance on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle" Tuesday night, a "concerned parent" contacted him and his wife Friday night to ask for the name of the boy who sexually assaulted his daughter.
When Smith refused to divulge that information and asked for the reason behind the inquiry, the caller informed him that "there was another assault at Broad Run High School and the rumor is that it's the same boy."
"Within a half an hour, it was confirmed that yes, this did happen," he added. From there, Smith decided to speak out publicly about what happened to his daughter.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office released a statement last week announcing that "a teenager from Ashburn has been charged with sexual battery and abduction of a fellow student at Broad Run High School."
"The investigation determined on the afternoon of October 6, the 15-year-old suspect forced the victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her," the statement from the sheriff's office reads.
The reaction to The Daily Wire reporting was swift and immediate. In video footage obtained by Fox News, outraged parents confronted the Loudoun County School Board and Superintendent of Schools Scott Ziegler at a school board meeting Tuesday night.
"When is Dr. Ziegler and this board going to be held accountable?" one parent asked. "What did you think was going to happen when you pushed porn into the classrooms and into the libraries and let boys into girls' bathrooms?"
Another parent maintained that "there is something seriously wrong with a system that prioritizes reporting a rape internally to the superintendent so that they can control the narrative instead of calling the police." A third parent accused the district of "hiding evidence from every parent in LCPS about a heinous sexual assault of a student that occurred in a bathroom so you could pass radical Policy 8040."
In its statement Wednesday, Loudoun County Public Schools offered clarification of its responses in the cases of these two sexual assault allegations. The school district contends that police were contacted to investigate the claims of sexual assault.
"Principals are legally required to report to the local law enforcement agency any act, including sexual assault, that may constitute a felony offense [under Virginia law]," the school district's statement reads. "That process was followed with respect to these allegations."
The statement further adds that the Loudoun County Sherriff's Office was "contacted within minutes of receiving the initial report on May 28."
"Once a matter has been reported to law enforcement, LCPS does not begin its investigation until law enforcement advises LCPS that it has completed the criminal investigation," the statement continued. "LCPS has cooperated and continues to cooperate with law enforcement."
The school district stated that it is "prohibited from disciplining any student without following the Title IX grievance process, which includes investigating complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault."
"LCPS does impose interim measures to protect the safety of students involved in the original incident, deter retaliation, and preserve the integrity of the investigation and resolution process. LCPS has complied and continues to comply with its obligations under Title IX."
The school district also maintains that members of the school board "were not aware of the specific details of this incident until it was reported in media outlets earlier this week."
The LCPS statement didn't address the fact that the perpetrator of the sexual assaults was a reported to be a male who identifies as "gender-fluid" and that one of the incidents took place in a girls' bathroom. The district also declined to weigh in on parental concerns about Policy 8040.
Concerns about Policy 8040 predate the reporting about the May 28 assault on Smith's daughter.
On June 22, slightly more than three weeks after the sexual assault of Smith's daughter, a school board meeting in Loudoun County made national headlines as parents forcefully spoke out against a proposed school district policy that would allow trans-identified students to use facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
At least two parents were arrested after the meeting was declared an "unlawful assembly." Smith was one of those parents.
The Daily Wire noted that Smith became the "poster child" for the National School Boards Association's claims that parent protests of school board policies could be a form of "domestic terrorism" as a result of a viral video showing his arrest.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice directed law enforcement agencies to collaborate on "addressing threats" against school officials after the NSBA requested "federal assistance" to combat what the organization characterized as "domestic terrorism" and "hate crimes."
In his Fox News appearance Tuesday, Smith accused the Biden of administration of using the video of his arrest at the school board meeting to "weaponize" the government against concerned parents.
Smith also elaborated on the events that led to his arrest. As one of several parents hoping to address the Loudoun County School Board on June 22, Smith and his wife were confronted by a left-wing activist who berated them upon learning that they were there to speak out against the transgender policy. When Smith tried to tell the woman what happened to his daughter, she asserted, "that's not what happened." After she vowed to hurt his business by posting unfavorable reviews on social media, Smith called her a "b****."
From there, law enforcement officials descended on Smith, wrestling him to the ground and causing his lip to bleed. Smith's wife shouted out, "My child was raped at school, and this is what happens!"
The Daily Wire concluded that the passage of the policy would have been "politically impossible had Smith's story seen the light of day." Lancaster agreed, suggesting that "If someone would have sat and listened for 30 seconds to what Scott had to say, they would have been mortified and heartbroken."
While the school district had knowledge of what happened to Smith's daughter, it assured the public that such incidents had not taken place in Loudoun County.
At the June 22 meeting, Ziegler dismissed the idea of predators taking advantage of policies like Policy 8040 as a "red herring." He cited a Time Magazine article and asserted that "the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist."
Smith told Fox News that in the weeks following his daughter's assault and his arrest, he wanted to keep a low profile because "we were under the impression from the prosecutor that this sexual predator was being held on in-house arrest with an ankle monitor and would not return to school until these court sessions were done."
"I was told by everyone … my attorneys, the prosecuting attorney, friends of the family, people that I don't even know that if I wanted justice for my daughter, that I needed to keep my mouth quiet and not speak out," he said. "Because in order to get justice for my daughter, which is the most important thing to me of course, was do not come out and let justice prevail."
Elaborating on the harm that the incident at Stone Bridge High School caused his family, Smith told Ingraham that as "the school board and the school system just went on summer break and abandoned us, my wife and I had to spend the entire summer … rebuilding our daughter." He indicated that while his daughter had a "couple ... rough nights" and the family endured "Hell," she is "doing very well."
"She's a survivor," he said. "She's a winner."
Smith's daughter is not the first to have been sexually assaulted in a girls' bathroom.
Pascha Thomas alleged that in 2017, her 5-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted in a girls' bathroom at an elementary school in Decatur, Georgia.
"One of her classmates came into her bathroom, a little boy," Thomas recalled. "She tried to leave the bathroom, [but] the little boy pushed her against the bathroom stall. Basically pinned her up against there. She asked him to stop. He wouldn't. He took his fingers and he was penetrating her through his pants. She asked him to stop, and stated several times that it hurt. He refused."
Thomas worked with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom to file a lawsuit against the school district, contending that its bathroom policy enabled the assault on the then-5-year-old girl to take place.
A poll from Rasmussen Reports released on Wednesday finds that Americans are split in their opinions of Attorney General Merrick Garland's order for law enforcement to address threats against school boards.
While 44% of likely voters believe that the investigation into alleged threats against school officials is warranted, 47% disagree. Support for investigating threats against school officials stands at 64% among Democrats and 31% among Republicans.
At the same time, 68% of respondents agreed with a statement from Republicans in the U.S. Senate asserting that "the reported heated encounters between concerned parents and school boards often involve speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment."
Seventy-eight percent of Republicans agreed with that statement, along with 57% of Democrats and 72% of unaffiliated voters.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org