Washington Post covers the Loudoun school sexual assaults... YES- one student arrested for 2 separate sex crimes a few months apart
A teen accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student at a Loudoun County high school in May is also accused in a second sexual assault less than five months later at another county high school, according to the Loudoun County commonwealth’s attorney.
The duel allegations sparked anger from parents who showed up at a school board meeting Tuesday night and blasted school officials for their handling of the incidents and the student’s enrollment in a new school after the first allegation.
Some parents who spoke at the meeting grew emotional, saying they feared for the safety of their children in Loudoun County Public Schools. Still others called for the resignation of Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler and of the school board.
Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde Byard on Wednesday said the district cannot comment on the alleged student transfer because of state and federal privacy laws protecting student records.
The first alleged assault occurred May 28 at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. In a Wednesday statement that followed growing focus on the incident on social media and news reports, the sheriff’s office said one of its school resource officers was notified of the alleged assault the same day and an investigation was quickly started. Officials said it was conducted over several weeks by the sheriff’s office Special Victims Unit.
Authorities said in the statement that on July 8, a 14-year-old male was arrested in the case and charged in juvenile court with two counts of forcible sodomy.
In the statement, the sheriff’s office said it did not report the incident in a news release at the time of the arrest because “the suspect and victim were familiar with each other, the investigation was complex, and a public announcement had the potential to identify a juvenile victim.”
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said in an interview Wednesday that the youth at some point was released from juvenile detention as the case proceeded.
“Based on the information that we had and the fact that we were waiting for forensic evidence to come back, the statute required his release,” Biberaj said. “He appeared to be a good candidate to be put on electronic monitoring based on the information that was provided.”
The same youth also has been accused in an Oct. 6 alleged sexual assault at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Biberaj said.
In an Oct. 7 news release, the sheriff’s office outlined the allegations, saying a 15-year-old male student had “forced the victim into an empty classroom where he held her against her will and inappropriately touched her.”
That incident also was reported to a sheriff’s office school resource officer, authorities said. They said the teenager was charged with sexual battery and abduction of a fellow student. In the Oct. 7 news release, the sheriff’s office said the teen was being held at the county juvenile detention center. It was not clear Wednesday whether he was still detained.
In its Wednesday statement, the sheriff’s office said it quickly issued a news release because the case “did not involve complex circumstances, the arrest was immediate” and the information “was unlikely to disclose the identity of the victim.”
The sheriff’s office said that because both alleged assaults involve juvenile suspects, the office would not confirm that the same youth is charged in both.
In its statement, the office noted it “is not involved in school discipline (nor the placement of students).”
At the heated school board meeting Tuesday night, at least a dozen people — of 42 registered to speak — criticized the schools for the handling of the allegations.
Cheryl Onderchain, a mother to twin daughters at a Loudoun high school, said the student accused of the assaults was transferred to the same school her children attend. She charged that the transfer put her daughters in harm’s way, and that school officials had failed in their responsibility to keep girls safe.
“Do you even have a moral compass?” Onderchain said, addressing the board and the superintendent. “Resign, before you face a federal indictment.”
Another mother, Monica Sadeghi, said she originally signed up to speak so she could ask how the Loudoun school system planned to address widespread learning loss caused by the pandemic, a problem she said affected her son.
But Sadeghi changed her mind after she read news reports online about Loudoun’s management of the alleged assaults, she said, deciding she had to raise that issue instead.
“How do you expect parents across this county to drop their children off at school and trust you all to keep them safe?” Sadeghi asked the board. “Every single one of you should be ashamed of yourselves.”