News and Commentary

Loudoun Chief Of Staff No Longer Employed After Rape Handling

"Someone had to pay and it was him.”

   DailyWire.com
Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Chief of Staff Mark Smith is no longer employed by the school system, local news reported, an apparent casualty of the district’s handling of the bathroom rape first revealed by The Daily Wire.

A school board member told news channel WJLA, which first reported on the change, that “he had obligations under Title IX and they weren’t met. He was not a Title IX expert, but it was his job… Someone had to pay and it was him.” Title IX is a federal regulation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools.

WJLA cited the anonymous school board member after the district’s spokesman, Wayde Byard, hung up on its reporter twice when the reporter asked who the district’s current chief of staff was, the outlet reported.

The removal undercuts Superintendent Scott Ziegler’s initial partial apology, in which he blamed the federal government and said Title IX rules prevented it from doing more–possibly an attempt to hide behind politicization by alluding to Donald Trump’s previous education secretary. Ziegler said a main way the school system was learning from the incident was that it would lobby to change Title IX.

“It is important to know that Title IX directs how schools must investigate allegations of sexual harassment/assault and provides equal protection for both victims and the alleged perpetrators. Throughout these recent events, the Loudoun County Public Schools complied with our obligations under Title IX. However, we have found the process outlined under Title IX by the U.S. Department of Education to be insufficient in addressing issues at the K-12 level. We believe the process could be strengthened with some reforms,” he said.

In October, The Daily Wire asked Byard how that squares with language from the federal government’s Title IX enforcers, which seemed to make clear that far from blocking LCPS from protecting students from a rapist by taking action without waiting for a criminal conviction, it actually demanded that it do so. Byard did not respond to those questions then and did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

LCPS has implied that the reason it moved the perpetrator of an alleged May 28 bathroom rape to a different school — where he was arrested for a different classroom assault on October 6 — was because Title IX required it to do its own investigation, which it could not do until after the police had completed their work. The assailant’s mother told the Daily Mail that LCPS actually intended to return him to the same school when classes resumed in the fall, citing Title IX, until the court intervened.

The suspect was arrested in July, indicating that the police’s investigation stage was over and the district had had weeks after that to respond.

But even if that were not the case, the federal government has long been clear that schools do not need to wait until a criminal case is closed to conduct their own investigation. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has said, “Although a school division may need to delay temporarily the fact-finding portion of a Title IX investigation while the police are gathering evidence, once notified that the police department has completed its gathering of evidence (not the ultimate outcome of the investigation or the filing of any charges), the school division must promptly resume and complete its fact-finding for the Title IX investigation.” Title IX also requires that a school is “obligated to conclude a grievance process within a reasonably prompt time frame.”

Ian Prior, head of parent advocate group Fight For Schools, said on Twitter, “So @LCPSOfficial admits what we have been saying since day 1 – they violated Title IX. Now what about Scott Ziegler? Is he not the head of the organization?”

As The Daily Wire has previously reported, the other prong of Ziegler’s statement intended to regain the community’s trust — that the reason he falsely said that no sexual assaults had taken place in school bathrooms is that he misunderstood the question — was also factually dubious.

Ziegler said he thought the question to which he was responding, from school board member Beth Barts, referred only to “transgender or genderfluid students.” But that seems unlikely for two reasons. First, Barts immediately responded to his answer with a follow-up that made clear she was referring to any sexual assaults, wondering how his answer could be true when she knew of an incident of hazing on a boys’ sports team. Second, the rapist did meet the definition of gender-fluid under all but the most pedantic definitions. He was wearing a blouse and skirt during the rape, and a photograph shows him wearing rainbow socks, standing in front of a gay pride flag, and wearing a necklace that says “kitten.”

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