Va.—Loudoun County School Board (LCSB) voted on Tuesday night not to release an investigative report about how the school division handled two sexual assaults in May and October 2021. The board voted down the motion 6–3.
John Beatty, the board member who initiated the motion, said releasing the report was about “rebuilding trust” with the community and “not settling scores.”
“The wounds caused by the assaults in our schools will continue to fester,” he warned at the meeting. “This is about rebuilding trust. Please, my colleagues, release the report.” He and two other members voted “yes.”
Those who voted “no” maintained that the attorney-client privilege shouldn’t be waived.
“Under the best of circumstances, waiving attorney-client privilege is fraught with pitfalls, which is why it is done exceedingly rarely. Being open and transparent is important, but so is the right of our students and staff to be able to communicate with legal counsel without it being made public—that is such an important principle that it’s one of the cornerstones of the American legal system,” stated LCSB Chair Ian Serotkin at the meeting and in a press release hours after the vote.
“Releasing the report would cause a subject matter waiver of every communication anyone in LCPS had with legal counsel broadly related to these incidents over the past year and a half. If I could disentangle the release of the report from that, I would. But we cannot,” he added.
The subject of the investigation was two sexual assaults in two different high schools by the same teenage boy; he was allowed to transfer to Board Run High School after the first assault in a Stone Bridge High School restroom in May 2021. In January 2022, he was sentenced to probation at a residential treatment facility until his 18th birthday in July 2024 after being found guilty in October 2021 on counts of forcible sodomy and forcible fellatio for the May 2021 assaults. In November 2021, he pleaded no contest to his sexual assault of a fellow student at Broad Run High School.
Former Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) superintendent Scott Ziegler, who announced the investigation in November 2021, said it would be “an independent review” and would be “one step in moving forward to help heal our school community.”
According to the motion, the report, also known as the Blankingship & Keith report—named after the law firm that conducted the investigation—was finalized in January 2022. In December 2022, days after firing Ziegler upon the release of a special grand jury report conducted by the Virginia Attorney General’s office, the school board, with new members elected in November, discussed the possibility of waiving attorney-client privilege and releasing the report to the public.
The special grand jury report included releasing the Blankingship & Keith report as one of the recommendations. “The attorney-client privilege should be invoked when required to protect legitimate issues of confidentiality that impact the operations of LCPS and the LCSB,” the jury wrote in its report. “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.”
On Tuesday night, Scott Smith, the father of the May 2021 rape victim, was in the board room during the meeting. “Criminal [bleep] scumbags!” he called the members who voted against releasing the report.
“The vote should be a clear warning of what LCPS have turned into. A school system with a systemic sexual assault problem spanning several years is being covered up by a radical dishonest school board,” Smith later told The Epoch Times. “We believe there’s something in the report that would contradict special grand jury testimony. The cover-up continues putting all children in extreme danger.”
According to Smith, the Blankingship & Keith report may reveal that some LCPS officials have lied under oath to the jury. He said that there were more sexual assaults in LCPS than the two the public knew. This seems to align with the judge’s remarks. In January 2022, when reversing her decision to put the teen on the sex offender registry, Loudoun County Juvenile Court Judge Pamela Brooks said that she was aware of a third victim, but that girl hadn’t come forward yet.
Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools, a Loudoun County-based parental rights organization, said in a written statement: “Two things are clear. First, the majority of the Loudoun County School Board will always make the choice that benefits themselves over the children and families that they serve. Second, there must be something really bad in that report.”
Tiffany Polifko, a school board member newly elected in November 2022 who voted “yes” to releasing the Blankingship & Keith report, called the vote a “binary decision,” unlike decisions on curriculum or disciplinary policies.
“This is a situation that is strictly about choosing children or choosing the system,” she said at the school board meeting.
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