WASHINGTON (SBG) - A movement in Loudoun County, Virginia, became the center of a national controversy regarding school policies and safety. Parents accused the school board of covering up a sexual assault inside a high school bathroom after the same teen who sexually assaulted a girl at one school was later transferred to another school while he awaited his court date.
“We failed to provide the safe, welcoming, and affirming environment that we aspire to provide,” said Loudoun County Superintendent Scott Ziegler in a statement last month.
Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin said on the campaign trail that he would demand an investigation into the Loudoun County School Board and the superintendent, calling it “gross negligence.” But Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said that is a “loaded term.”
“I would say that there is certainly a lot of misinformation and miscommunication going on,” said Sheriff Chapman to The National Desk’s Jan Jeffcoat. “The fact is that this particular individual was involved in a sexual assault in one school and then he moved to another and that really did create a dangerous situation for the students of the other school.”
Title Nine has been cited as the reasoning behind why the student was allowed to transfer to the second Loudoun County high school while undergoing an investigation for sexual assault. Federal protocols require schools to provide an education to an accused student until a criminal investigation is complete.
“We do our investigation, we provide the information, provide the details what happens in the interim there largely has to do with the juvenile court and their decisions with the Commonwealth attorney,” said Sheriff Chapman. “It's a decision that's done by the school to put that person back in school.”
According to Sheriff Chapman, the superintendent was aware of the incident the day that the assault occurred and that the student had been charged.
“They knew exactly what was going on throughout the entire circumstances of this case,” said Sheriff Chapman. “But I do think it's a dangerous thing to take a child that did commit a sexual assault or was recently accused of committing sexual assault, and then put them in another school and jeopardize the safety of other people.”
Sheriff Chapman says a recent claim by Ziegler that he had never been notified during his time as superintendent that a student was charged with a crime is “disingenuous.”
“Most of the incidents that occur, the schools report them to us and we investigate them so they're the ones that know about all these incidents prior to us knowing about it,” said Sheriff Chapman. “For him to say that is really misleading.”
Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland directed the FBI and US Attorney officials to address the threats of violence made against school board members. But Sheriff Chapman says that in any incidents that occur, the laws that apply are state and local laws, not federal.
“We had difficulty making misdemeanor cases on state charges, let alone trying to go federal, so I think that’s a pretty extreme step to try to do,” said Sheriff Chapman. “To take that and put that into the hands of the federal government seems like a pretty far reach.”