By Zachary Stieber
The superintendent of a Virginia school district on Friday appeared to admit the district violated state law in failing to properly report alleged sexual assaults, as a state official confirmed the matter is under review.
Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler made the admission during a brief appearance before reporters, where he read a prepared statement and took no questions.
Ziegler said that the district made “errors in our state reporting regarding disciplinary incidents in schools,” adding that it “inadvertently omitted some information in the past.”
“That is extremely concerning, and we are taking steps to make sure that process is improved. I will say that I have no reason to believe at this time that any missing reports were due to an intent to hide any information from the Virginia Department of Education,” he said, blaming an alleged “lack of oversight” that was in place before he was appointed in June, even though he served as interim superintendent starting Jan. 1.
Ziegler appeared to be responding to a report by The Daily Wire that the district failed to record multiple instances of alleged sexual assault even though it’s required to by state law.
Ziegler said during a school board meeting on June 22 that he was unaware of any record of assaults happening in the district’s restrooms, nearly a month after a girl was allegedly raped by a male in a bathroom at Stone Bridge High School.
State law says that reports “shall be made” to school and district authorities regarding all assaults on school buses, on school grounds, or at a school-sponsored activity.
State law also directs district superintendents to annually report such incidents to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). But a public database of reports showed at least one assault that was not reported to state authorities.
A Loudoun County Public Schools spokesperson declined to comment on Ziegler’s Friday remarks but did not dispute the characterization that Ziegler acknowledged state law was not complied with.
Superintendents who fail to comply or secure compliance with the reporting requirements are subject to sanctions.
A VDOE spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email that the agency has reviewed the submissions made by Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) concerning discipline, crime, and violation “and is in communication with LCPS regarding the accuracy of their reports and whether the division is in compliance with state reporting requirements.
The spokesman confirmed that the submissions are required annually and that superintendents are required to certify their accuracy.
“This is a matter that VDOE takes very seriously and is actively investigating discrepancies in the LCPS reports,” he said.
In his statement, Ziegler said he made misleading comments during the June meeting. He said his remarks came after wrongly interpreting a question about incidents in bathrooms as only involving transgender or “gender-fluid” students.
“I regret that my comments were misleading and I apologize for the distress that error caused families. I should have asked Board Member Barts clarifying questions to get to the root of her question, rather than assuming what she meant. I will do better in the future,” he said.
He also apologized for how the district handled two recent alleged assaults. “Let me say to the families and students involved: My heart aches for you, and I am sorry that we failed to provide the safe, welcoming and affirming environment that we aspire to provide,” he said.
A spokeswoman for father Scott Smith said in a statement to news outlets that Ziegler’s statement on behalf of LCPS “is the first acknowledgment that we have had that they are in fact responsible for their bad decision-making and policies that resulted in the two sexual assaults that happened in our high schools.”
“Today, Superintendent Ziegler said what we already knew: that the actions of the Loudoun County School Board and Administration ‘failed to provide the safe environment’ for the Smith’s daughter,” an attorney for the family added, before accusing LCPS of prioritizing “misguided policies of political correctness over student safety.”
Ziegler’s statement came as the county’s education leadership is under heightened scrutiny, in part because the board passed a policy that forces LCPS staffers to address students by any pronoun they choose, and lets students who claim to be another gender use that gender’s facilities.
The policy drew a fiery response at the June meeting, which was disbanded after Smith and another parent were arrested.
Smith recently revealed that his daughter was allegedly raped by a male inside a girl’s bathroom in her high school. He has described the male as utilizing the softness toward transgenderism to get inside the facility.
Smith has accused district leadership of covering up the assault.
The Loudon County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to The Epoch Times an incident took place in May at Stone Bridge High School but declined to provide more details, citing an ongoing investigation. It also declined to confirm reports that the same male was behind a sexual assault that took place at a different LCPS high school in October.
A Freedom of Information Act request seeking more details on the incidents and the arrest of Smith was sent.
LCPS told The Epoch Times earlier in the week via email that school board members “are typically not given details of disciplinary matters” and were not aware of the alleged rape until it was reported on in media outlets.
A member of the school board facing a recall petition resigned from the board on Friday, and attorneys for the Smith family filed a lawsuit this week against the district.
Allen Zhong contributed to this report.
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