Questions Mount Over Virginia Schools Lawyer Who Hired His Former Firm For Secret Rape Report
Glenn Youngkin, governor of Virginia, center, holds hands in prayer with Jason Miyares, attorney general of Virginia. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

The top lawyer for an embattled Northern Virginia school district has emerged as a central villain in the coverup of a bathroom rape by a skirt-wearing boy, even though he narrowly avoided an indictment in May.

Following The Daily Wire’s bombshell, October 2021 story of the rape coverup by Loudoun County Public Schools, district officials pledged to hire a law firm to conduct an independent investigation. In-house attorney Robert Falconi apparently steered LCPS’ insurance company to hire his former employer, Blankingship & Keith, for it.

But when the report was finished, LCPS declined to release it to the public — and even refused to hand it over to state Attorney General Jason Miyares. At a court hearing last week, a judge ordered the district to produce the report to Miyares — but not the public — within a week.

The hearing, part of the criminal prosecution of former Superintendent Scott Ziegler, who was indicted for falsely saying there had been no bathroom sexual assaults, raised questions about Blankingship’s role at Loudoun and who it was really working for. The school district claimed it wouldn’t release the report because of “attorney-client privilege,” but the judge said that Falconi hired the firm and couldn’t show that the “client” the school board — asked him to invoke the privilege. In fact, school board members weren’t given copies of the report, but Ziegler was.

The judge ruled that attorney-client privilege didn’t apply, and separately said the school district’s lawyers were using “closed-door meetings” to hide information in ways that could violate the Freedom of Information Act.

Last week, a school board member, John Beatty, blamed Falconi for compounding the bathroom rape scandal, saying that he and other board members were not lawyers and had trusted the advice of the district’s lawyer, and that it was bad legal advice.

Shortly after winning election, Miyares launched a special grand jury. Falconi and Blankingship tried to shut down the panel and even hide its own arguments for secrecy by filing under seal. Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled that “additional sealing is unwarranted.”

The grand jury’s fact-finding report suggested that Falconi “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 report said.

Ziegler falsely claimed that Title IX prevented the school system from removing the rapist from school until his criminal case had been adjudicated — a decision that allowed the youth to sexually assault a second girl in a classroom.

But years-old records reviewed by The Daily Wire cast doubt on claims that Loudoun wasn’t familiar with Title IX, because Falconi had previously worked for neighboring Fairfax County Public Schools, which got into trouble for problems with Title IX. Under Blankingship’s and Falconi’s watch, FCPS was disciplined by the federal government for its failures, and the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) walked it through exactly what it needed to do.

Falconi worked for Blankingship from 2012 to 2017. For at least a decade, the firm has been paid about a million dollars a year for legal for work FCPS. Falconi later became in-house counsel for FCPS and then, beginning in August 2021, for LCPS, according to his LinkedIn profile.

In 2012, a girl filed a complaint with OCR alleging that she had pleaded with administrators for help stopping sexual harassment, but they did little. She later filed a supplement “advising of additional instances of rape, anal rape, and physical assault with weapons she endured, as well as death threats directed to her,” according to a lawsuit. A medical examination corroborated evidence consistent with anal rape.

Thousands of pages of documents reviewed by The Daily Wire show that Falconi and another Blankingship attorney played lead roles in that OCR investigation, in which the federal agency said it had “concerns that the Division does not have a system to track reports of sexual harassment to determine whether there may be a hostile environment at a particular school, whether individual schools are responding in a prompt and appropriate manner to reports of sexual harassment, whether the Division’s efforts to educate students regarding sexual harassment are effective, or whether school-based investigations of reports of sexual harassment are prompt and equitable.”

The other lawyer was John Cafferky, who went on to represent the Loudoun school board in the rape coverup matter as a Blankingship attorney.

In December 2012, the attorneys said they were “baffled” by the request for documents about Title IX compliance, saying “we just don’t store information in the manner requested by OCR. Frankly concerned by the broader scope in this case.” A Fairfax representative told OCR that Title IX training was “not centralized” and “is done in a bunch of ways throughout the system. She stated that the Division does not keep track of it,” according to OCR minutes.

OCR told Fairfax’s attorneys that “the education materials are, in general, much more focused on bullying than on sexual harassment.” It also “expressed concern” that Fairfax had reported no incidents” through the federal government’s Civil Rights Data Collection tool – a situation that was later mirrored when Loudoun falsely reported to a state database that there had been no sexual assaults.

The Fairfax incident also triggered a letter acknowledging that — contrary to what Loudoun would claim years later — Title IX did not mean that schools couldn’t act until a criminal investigation was closed. “FCPS will move forward immediately after witness interviews are conducted by the police and in no case will FCPS wait until the completion of the full police investigation before initiating its own investigation,” a document submitted to OCR said.

In 2014, Fairfax entered into an agreement to settle the complaint, with FCPS agreeing to more faithfully implement Title IX procedures. But a few months later, OCR wrote a letter to Falconi finding a “breach” of the agreement.

Despite being one of the largest school districts in the country, evidence suggested that Title IX compliance was an informal afterthought in the “Office of Equity and Compliance,” which was tasked with overseeing it. The phrase “Title IX” did not appear at all in district budget documents until 2015.

In 2018, further evidence emerged that Fairfax was still not complying with Title IX or its promises in the 2014 agreement. A second girl sued alleging that administrators failed to protect her after she reported a sexual assault on a bus. After the first incident, “FCPS agreed to take prompt and robust action to comply with Title IX, which led to creation of the Bullying and Harassment Management System (BHMS),” her lawyers wrote. “As of December 2016, although the system had been in effect for three years, ‘about 30 schools that have never entered anything into the system and most also do not have an appropriate person identified as their Bullying and Harassment Liaison.’”

Instead, the evidence related to her complaint was destroyed, leading a judge to sanction the court system.

In August 2021 LCPS hired Falconi, LCPS went on to its own scandal for its seeming apathy towards Title IX — and Falconi, in turn, hired Blankingship. LCPS declined to comment.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Questions Mount Over Virginia Schools Lawyer Who Hired His Former Firm For Secret Rape Report