Ideology over safety in Loudoun County
Parental anger over a student’s alleged rape highlights the heightening tensions over school transgender policies in Virginia
Hundreds of parents attended a June 22 school board meeting in Loudoun County, Va., where officials were debating an expansive new transgender policy. But the meeting dissolved into angry chanting and abruptly ended. Law enforcement officials arrested one man for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
That man, Scott Smith, 48, of Leesburg, became a symbol for what the National School Board Association called in its Sept. 29 letter to the Biden administration “a form of domestic terrorism” against public school officials, often during contentious school board meetings across the United States.
But Smith’s story, and Loudoun school officials’ role in it, is more complex. It sheds light on the anger and distrust at least one parent harbored toward school officials in a district where many fear ideology is taking precedence over the protection of children.
Until that night, Smith, a local plumbing contractor, had never attended a school board meeting. About three weeks prior to the June meeting, on May 28, his ninth grade daughter was allegedly raped in the girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School by a 14-year-old boy who reportedly identified as “gender fluid” and wore a skirt. Smith said that when he arrived at the school, officials had not called for outside police or medics. (An onsite school resource officer was investigating the girl’s claim.) Smith became irate, prompting officials to call for police backup and report “an upset parent,” according to dispatch records from the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office obtained by The Daily Wire.
After outside police arrived, they escorted Smith’s daughter to a local hospital, where medical workers administered a rape kit.
Smith said the prosecuting attorney told him and his wife that the boy was placed under house arrest and would not return to county public schools until he was tried in court. The boy was charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, according to Autumn Johnson, an attorney at the Stanley Law Group, the firm representing the Smiths. The sheriff’s office said it did not release the perpetrator’s identity because “the suspect and victim were familiar with each other, the investigation was complex, and the public announcement had the potential to identify a juvenile victim.”
Nearly five months after the incident, the Smiths learned the same boy who allegedly raped their daughter faced new accusations from another student at a different high school in the county. On Oct. 6, the boy forced a female student into an empty classroom and inappropriately touched her, according to the sheriff’s office. The Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj told FOX 5 DC she had allowed the boy to transfer to Broad Run High School, with the stipulation that he wear an ankle monitor, because she believed it was unlikely he would re-offend. School officials never notified Broad Run parents of the student’s history of alleged rape.
The Smiths said through their attorney that they believe both incidents were “fully predictable and preventable.” They say the district’s transgender policy will only increase the likelihood of incidents such as what happened to their daughter.
In August, the school board formally adopted a transgender policy in line with state guidance. It requires teachers to use transgender students’ preferred pronouns and permits students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity, not their biological sex. Three teachers recently filed a lawsuit against the school board challenging the policy.
The family plans to file a lawsuit against the school district for violating its Title IX rights, according to Johnson.
Smith said he became emotional at the meeting after multiple speakers insisted the transgender policy presented no danger to students. Superintendent Scott Ziegler stated that he had no knowledge of any sexual assault occurring in school bathrooms within the county. Smith was angry by the time an activist allegedly taunted him and denied his daughter’s rape.
Ziegler has since apologized for his statement, saying he’d misunderstood the question and regretted making “misleading” comments. On the same day Smith’s daughter was allegedly raped, Ziegler alerted school board members in a confidential email of a female student claiming she was sexually assaulted by a male in the women’s restroom at Stone Ridge, according to a report on Thursday from WTOP News. Board member Beth Barts resigned last week, though it was not clear whether it was in connection to the alleged assaults.
Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation of Virginia said Smith’s case highlights the concerns of many parents and pro-family groups in the debate over transgender guidelines: “We are treated as though we have created this insane hypothetical situation … but this has always been about the safety of girls.”
In Loudoun County, Cobb argues “school officials are more concerned with covering up a sexual assault that could harm their agenda than caring for a victim and protecting the community.”
Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report and corrected it to reflect that Scott Smith said when he arrived at Stone Bridge High School, no outside police or medics were present.
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