A Virginia grand jury investigating a public school district’s apparent coverup of the rape of a girl by a male student in a girls bathroom — which made national headlines after a Daily Wire investigation — blasted school officials for their “stunning lack” of transparency and “intentional amnesia” in a much-anticipated report released Monday.
In the fact-finding report, the nine-person Loudoun County panel disclosed for the first time that a teacher’s aide walked into the bathroom while the ninth-grade victim was being raped by her male classmate and saw two pairs of feet under a stall door, but did nothing. The 91-page report called out district officials for a host of lapses that continued long after the initial attack.
“We believe that throughout this ordeal LCPS administrators were looking out for their own interests instead of the best interests of LCPS,” the report stated. “This invariably led to a stunning lack of openness, transparency, and accountability both to the public and the special grand jury.”
The report also found that the district concealed the nature of the attack even as the district was preparing to impose a controversial new transgender bathroom policy. After the rape, the student was transferred to another school where he was involved in multiple incidents of misbehavior against girls that were known to officials but, until now, unknown to the public, the report said. Even the rapist’s own grandmother told officials he was a sociopath, but little was done, it said. The rapist soon committed another sexual assault, this time in a classroom.
The grand jury report was released to inform the public of its findings based on subpoenaed documents and testimony. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares noted in a statement that his office had requested the grand jury and that it has not been disbanded, meaning it could bring criminal charges at a later date.
The bathroom rape
On May 22, 2021, a male student wearing a skirt anally raped a ninth-grader in a girls bathroom at Stone Bridge High School, shortly before the school board was to vote on a policy for transgender bathroom use. The school did not disclose that incident publicly, nor a second sexual assault committed in a classroom October 6, and even school board members only learned that the same person was behind both when The Daily Wire broke the story October 11, the report said. The second assault “could have, and should have, been prevented,” grand jurors found.
The report reveals that in the days before the bathroom rape, a teacher’s assistant wrote to her department chair that the student “has come into class more than once with his arm around a girl’s neck. I have caught him sitting on other girls’ laps several times … if this kind of reckless behavior persists, I wouldn’t want to be held accountable if someone should get hurt.”
School officials seemed more interested in getting the teacher’s aide in trouble than the student. The department chair “questioned the true motivation of the author,” the report said. The department chair mentioned the email to an assistant principal, who “questioned whether the author of the email had followed proper protocol” — even though it had been only 14 days since school had opened for the year because of COVID and the student had been in trouble numerous times.
Two weeks later, he raped the ninth-grade girl. Messages obtained by the grand jury show the rapist using a school computer to send a message to his victim May 13 saying “You want to be f***” to which she responded “no.” On May 22, they met in a bathroom around noon, where the rapist “became ‘handsy’ and then more aggressive, which caused bruising on her chest. The female laid down on her stomach on the floor, and the male held her arms down as he penetrated her. While this was occurring, a special education teaching assistant walked into the restroom. This caused the male student to jump up. The female student was in a lot of pain and got up slowly, and when she was in a seated position the male student pushed her shoulders down and grabbed her face. The special education teaching assistant later said she saw two pairs of feet under the stall, but she did nothing about it,’” the report said. After the teacher left, the boy continued to sodomize the girl until 12:24 p.m., and by 1:28 p.m. it was reported to the principal.
By 2:30 p.m. that day, Scott Smith, the father of the victim, arrived at school after being told of an assault involving his daughter and was initially blocked from entering the school. He eventually entered but was escorted out of the building because he was upset at the school’s handling of the incident. The principal contacted the superintendent’s office about getting a no-trespassing letter against the victim’s father. The grand jury reveals that while all this was happening, the rapist remained “missing and at-large.”
By 3:30 p.m., Loudoun’s chief operating officer had arrived at the school and sent an email to the superintendent saying “The incident at SBHS is related to policy 8040,” the policy that would allow transgender males the right to use the girl’s bathroom.
The COO set up an online meeting, which grand jurors suggested set a coverup in motion.
“Six people joined that Teams meeting, including the superintendent and now-deputy superintendent,” the report found. “We believe this Teams meeting was the beginning of the complete lack of transparency by LCPS surrounding this situation.”
Officials told the grand jury they couldn’t recall details of this meeting—what the grand jury called “intentional amnesia.”
At 4:46 p.m., an email attributed to Principal Timothy Flynn went out to the school community notifying them of a security incident: the victim’s father’s unruliness. It made no mention of any sexual assault, and said at no time was the safety of the student body at risk. Instead, it said police were on site because a student’s father had caused a security issue, and offered counseling to any students traumatized by it.
“The email neither mentioned, nor hinted at, the sexual assault that took place in the bathroom, instead focusing on the father of the victim who arrived at the school. This email was drafted by the public information officer and ultimately edited and approved by the superintendent,” the grand jury revealed. It “deliberately makes no mention of the sexual assault that took place just hours earlier. Nor does it mention the fact the assailant had gone missing in SBHS for hours after he committed the sexual assault, jeopardizing the safety of all students,” the report said.
The school district did not disclose the rape in a state database as required, and did not discipline the student. It merely attempted to separate him from his victim for the rest of the year.
The school board meeting arrest and transfer
On June 22, the school board held a meeting at which they continued debate on their proposed Policy 8040. Smith attended the meeting and was arrested after he became angry following Scott Ziegler stating in the meeting, in response to a question exploring the potential safety implications of the policy, that no bathroom rapes had ever occurred — a statement the grand jury calls “a bald-faced lie.”
On July 6, court services told the school district of criminal charges, and the rapist was taken to the juvenile detention center on July 8, but “per state law, he was released on July 26, 2021. As part of his release, the court said the student could not return to Stone Bridge” and could not use computers, the report said.
He was released to the custody of his grandmother, who called his probation officer to tell him that her grandson was a “sociopath” and “does not care about consequences.” His mother told the probation officer that she had been begging the school for help for years, only to have them “enable [his] manipulative capabilities by siding with him.”
The office of Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj, a far-Left prosecutor who was seeking jail time against Smith, never contacted the school system about ensuring the student was moved, the report found, and the school district almost returned him to the same school, moving him to Broad Run High School shortly after it started the next school year in August.
The classroom abduction
At Broad Run, he enrolled in a graphic design course even though he was banned from using computers. That left him free to harass other girls in the class. Days after classes resumed in the fall, two female students in the art class asked their teacher to move them away from him in class because he was making them “uncomfortable” and “following them around,” the report said.
“The art teacher reported these events to the Broad Run principal, who failed to inform the teacher of the connection to the events at SBHS or that the assailant was a recent transfer,” it said.
On September 9, 2021, just two weeks into the school year, the rapist grabbed the shoulder of a girl “really hard” in class, tried to take her computer, and asked if she posted nudes online.
“The superintendent, deputy superintendent, and superintendent’s chief of staff all learned of this incident and knew it was the same individual who committed the sexual assault at SBHS,” as did the prosecutor’s office, the report said.
“Despite having a twelve-page disciplinary file, wearing an ankle monitor, being closely monitored by the Broad Run principal, knowledge of this incident by the highest administrators in LCPS, and a suggestion by the court services unit that a more serious punishment be given,” the rapist was simply asked to write the following:
“Less than a month later, on October 6, 2021, the individual snatched an unassuming female out of the hallway, abducted her into an empty classroom, nearly asphyxiated her, and sexually assaulted her,” the report said.
The second victim’s actions after the sexual assault suggest that she may have perceived that the school’s principal was more interested in enforcing coronavirus rules than protecting children from rape. The victim told a friend, and the pair “saw the BRHS principal in a nearly empty hallway where he was working from a mobile standing desk. Instead of telling him what had just happened, they adjusted their masks above their noses and kept walking. They subsequently went to the main office where they reported the incident to the BRHS SRO,” the report said. The rapist was taken into custody that day.
The next day, LCPS’ chief of staff, Mark Smith, emailed school board members about the incident — but seemingly only because he believed they were about to learn about it from the sheriff. He let them know of a sexual assault at Broad Run, writing, “I have been advised the LCSO may be planning a press release today regarding this incident. We will keep you informed as additional information becomes available.”
Nothing in that email, or the sheriff’s press released, “indicate[d] the assailant was the same individual who committed the SBHS sexual assaults on May 28, 2021. On October 8, 2021, Luke Rosiak from the Daily Wire emailed the public information officer for LCPS” that he was preparing to report that the culprit was the same person, the report said.
The director of communications, Joan Sahlgren, wrote to public information officer Wayde Byard: “I have worked w [division counsel] and will handle. No further action. Enjoy your day.” She wrote to the deputy superintendent and other top officials, “Team, TAKE NO ACTION. I have got this. Thanks.”
The school system never responded to The Daily Wire, and the grand jury wrote that “We do not have any evidence that she, or any other LCPS employee, informed anybody on the school board of the impending article. Three days later, on October 11, 2021, The Daily Wire published an article stating that the SBHS assailant and BRHS assailant was the same individual. Each school board member we asked stated they first learned about this connection from press reports, and not from any LCPS employee. Their reactions, irrespective of political ideology, were universally negative… One member asked ‘why are we left out’ and ‘why were we not made aware as soon as the second one happened?’” the report said.
On October 15, Ziegler held a press conference at which he read prepared remarks which, the report reveals, were written with the help of a public relations firm. The grand jury confirmed the issues with the statement identified by The Daily Wire at the time, finding that the report found that his statement “contained numerous, critical inaccuracies.”
Those included falsely claiming that the federal gender regulations known as Title IX prevented them from taking action–an apparent effort to shift blame to President Donald Trump. His education secretary Betsy Devos had made some changes relating to Title IX on college campuses, but they did not affect the LCPS situation. “No LCPS witness who testified was able to identify a single law, statute, policy, or agreement that prohibited LCPS from conducting a Title IX investigation until law enforcement had finished their investigation, the report said.
The report also provides evidence that Ziegler should have known the statement was untrue. On September 17, the director of school administration had told Ziegler and other top officials that “the SBHS assault should have ‘immediately’ and ‘automatically’ triggered an investigation. It is unknown how the superintendent or these officials responded — LCPS refused to provide us this email — but it was not until a month later, and after the BRHS sexual assault, that a Title IX investigation into the SBHS sexual assault was opened,” according to the report.
Ziegler also blamed the prior superintendent, even though the key events including the failure to report the May 28 sex assault to a state database occurred during his tenure.
Ziegler also defended his false statement that no sexual assaults had occurred in bathrooms by claiming he misinterpreted the question to refer to only assaults that would be related to Policy 8040. The grand jury said that the record shows that even if this premise were true, his answer was still wrong.
On October 21, 2021, LCPS released another statement — not because they wanted to but to get ahead of other information that was being released involuntarily because of a FOIA request. The district said it would conduct an independent investigation. It would later decline to release it publicly, something that blindsided school board members. School board members said they were given only 30 minutes to read the report and ask questions about it. They were given numbered copies of the report and forced to return it before leaving the room.
And those who had more time with it largely seemed to ignore it, the grand juror found.
“Few, if any, senior LCPS officials had any interest in what the independent review concluded. Notably, the deputy superintendent, who oversees student discipline and student instruction, testified she had no interest in reading it,” the report said.
“We were met with obfuscation, deflection, and obvious legal strategies designed to frustrate the special grand jury’s work,” the report stated. “Though LCPS declared in an April 13 statement its ‘inten[t] to cooperate with the lawful requests of the special grand jury,’ we experienced a much different posture behind closed doors.”
LCPS tried to get all officials and school board members to use an attorney provided by it, and that attorney vigorously tried to block subpoenas. One teacher refused to use this attorney, saying he “tried to ‘shut [her] up’ because ‘this won’t look well for the schools,’” — but the attorney claimed to represent her anyway, the report said.
Two school board members did not show up to their testimony, leading the court to say they would be arrested if they did not appear within two hours. They quickly arrived, with one of the board members explaining that she was acting on the advice of the lawyer.
LCPS attorneys were present at grand jury interviews and constantly interrupted when a witness was about to reveal information, and they falsely invoked attorney-client privilege, the report said. “Division counsel’s mere silent presence in a crowded room was enough for LCSB’s lawyer to claim the attorney-client privilege and instruct the witnesses not to answer… LCSB’s counsel also inappropriately used hand signals and other methods to communicate with witnesses while they were testifying,” it said.
“We believe LCPS division counsel was trying to control the flow of information to the special grand jury by using his position as division counsel to exert control and influence over all LCPS and LCSB individuals subpoenaed to testify. We also received testimony from one school board member that division counsel ‘blew a gasket’ when the school board member informed him that he did not need a lawyer, let alone a lawyer of division counsel’s choosing,” the grand jury found.
Ultimately, key emails were obtained by the grand jury only through subpoenas to school officials who refused to use the district’s lawyer.
“Unlike federal law, no Virginia statute explicitly addresses witness tampering, and the Virginia obstruction of justice statute does not cover this fact pattern. For those reasons, we were unable to consider an indictment against the LCPS division counsel,” the grand jury wrote.
The report said the superintendent’s secrecy was so extensive that even school board members only learned of the facts because of The Daily Wire. “We conclude that there was not a coordinated cover-up between LCPS administrators and members of the LCSB … they learned not from the superintendent’s office but instead from public reporting that the assailant was the same one from the May 28 incident,” it said.
However, in an attempt to justify Ziegler’s misstatement that no sexual assaults had occurred in bathrooms, when he knew one had occurred just days earlier, school board members all “parroted the same story” — one based on a lie, the grand jury said. Though the chief operating officer wrote the day of the event that it was related to Policy 8040, the transgender policy, they claimed this was only because Smith screamed about the policy in the hours after the rape. “There is absolutely no evidence the father said anything about policy 8040 that day, or that he even knew what policy 8040 was on that day. No school board member could provide any evidence that what they claimed happened had in fact happened,” the grand jury wrote.
“We strongly believe these stories coming from the board members is an effort by division counsel to get everybody on the same page to thwart, discredit, and push back against this investigation and this report, and to promote their own narrative. Of course, their narrative is completely undermined and contradicted by the sworn testimony of the chief operating officer. … Since the chief operating officer appeared with his own lawyer, neither LCPS division counsel nor LCSB’s lawyer was privy to his testimony.”
Loudoun’s far-Left school system also blamed the sheriff, a Republican, for not informing them of the incident, but this criticism is unfounded, the report said. “LCPS and LCSO both knew, within minutes of each other, about the SBHS sexual assault on May 28, 2021, and worked together at SBHS that day to collect student statements and evidence. An offense occurs on the day of the incident, and there is no doubt LCPS was notified of the offense on May 28, 2021.”
In response to the grand jury report, LCPS spokesman Wayde Byard sent a statement attributed to school board chair Jeff Morse and vice chair Ian Serotkin that said “we are pleased that the Special Grand Jury’s extensive investigation found no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of anyone within LCPS, and not a single indictment was filed as a result of this lengthy process.”
It said that while Attorney General Miyares stated publicly that LCPS “covered up a sexual assault on school grounds for political gain,” the report “neither cited any evidence to support this serious allegation nor made any such conclusion in its Report.”
Chief of Staff Mark Smith was fired over the handling of the incident, and school board member Beth Barts, a vocal proponent of Policy 8040, resigned. Ziegler and the division counsel, Robert Falconi, are still employed.