School Board Suspicion

Raidon Bingham, Reporter

It appears the saga of LCPS school meetings has entered a new chapter of scandal and lunacy. On October 11th, a bombshell was dropped upon the already crumbling reputation of the county school board: under supervision of the board, LCPS swept a sexual assault case under the rug and silenced an outraged father who saw through the façade. Such devastating news could not come at a worse time; conservative opposition has been hounding the board’s agenda for the past year, and the movements’ declines completely reversed considering the alleged cover up. Backlash has been swift and merciless- calls for the board’s resignation are gaining more and more voices.

The LCPS school board has long been a figure of extreme controversy and has awkwardly skirted several times with national attention. It seems the spotlight does not fit the board, and its members have taken action to quell the various reactionary protests at their meetings. Steps such as internal reform, attendance policy, and even federal appeal have all failed to place the reins of control back in the board’s hands- and has only further escalated conflict with its administration. What started initially with a transgender policy has descended into a full-blown culture war between both members of the public and LCPS itself. Loudoun County has become an outlet for both ideologies’ anger, and it has now spiraled out of control.

On May 28th, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office received a report of an alleged sexual assault in a school bathroom. The complaint came from Stone Bridge, one of the several high schools in Loudoun County, and accused a transgender student of trapping and assaulting a female student in the female bathroom. As was protocol, the sheriff’s office conducted (and is still conducting) an investigation into the matter. However, the school entered no investigation of its own, and the case quickly faded back into obscurity. That was, of course, until the June 22nd school meeting.

The chaos that characterized the June 22nd assembly was what initially dragged LCPS into the pit that it is now. Rowdy protesters and agitated counter-protestors both took to the microphone to lash out, and the school board found themselves forced to suspend the meeting. Several arrests were made, and the eyes of the nation fell upon Loudoun County. One of these arrests was Scott Smith, a father of a student in LCPS, who questioned the board on their “failure to protect students” and accused the board of covering up his daughter’s case because of her accuser’s identity. The LCPS superintendent, Scott A. Ziegler, sharply dismissed the claims “…the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist,” Ziegler said, continuing by saying that “[they] don’t have any record of assaults occurring in [their] restrooms.”

After the meeting, parents were outraged to find that, in fact, there had been an assault. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office released information that there had been an attack, and that the investigation was ongoing. Furthermore, the parents found, the student in question had been quietly transferred to another school, presumably to avoid disciplinary action. After the transfer, another sexual assault was reported on May 23rd, though information on the perpetrator was withheld. The aggravated public soon connected the dots between the two cases, and now hundreds across social media have demanded accountability for the actions of the LCPS school board. “Forget about the recall… Every school board member and the LCPS superintendent should resign their positions immediately,” said conservative radio host Larry O’Connor on Twitter.

These recent events have cast shadows on the school board and demands for a recall have increased. LCPS, and furthermore the administration of Loudoun County as a whole, is teetering on a precipice between uneasy cooperation and a collapse of public trust.