An embattled Virginia school board voted against releasing a potentially damning internal report on two student sexual assault cases, just months after a grand jury indicted school officials over the incidents.
The Loudoun County School Board voted 6-3 to shield the report from the public, with board members Jeff Morse, Atoosa Reaser, Erika Ogedegbe, Ian Serotkin, Brenda Sheridan, and Harris Mahedavi opposing its release. Disgraced former county superintendent Scott Ziegler and former public information officer Wayde Byard were indicted in December over their handling of the sexual assaults perpetrated by a student who identified as "gender-fluid."
"This is about justice, integrity, and service," board member Tiffany Polifko, who supported the release, told her fellow members before casting her vote, according to the Washington Post. "You can't have justice without truth."
The sex assault cases catalyzed frustration over the state of public schools in Virginia, helping Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R.) to win his election in November 2021 on a platform to restore parents' rights in education. Ziegler was fired following a special investigation commissioned by Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares (R.) that showed "administrators pursued their own interest instead of that of their students."
Ziegler faces three misdemeanor charges for false publication, prohibited conduct, and penalizing an employee for a court appearance. Byard faces a felony charge for perjury. An email released in October 2021 by Loudoun schools revealed Ziegler knew about the rape case that took place in a high school bathroom, even though he had said weeks before there had been no reports of sexual assaults.
The six members who opposed the report's release cited concerns over student and faculty privacy. One said Ziegler's departure precluded the need to release the report. Only Polifko and fellow board members Denise Corbo and John Beatty pushed for it to become public.
Scott Smith, the Loudoun County father whose daughter was the victim of the sexual assaults, lambasted the board following the vote Tuesday night.
"How can you send a child to school tomorrow with this school board in charge of your child's safety?" he said, according to WJLA. "How can you do that? How can a parent with any intelligence send your child to school tomorrow? Mine won't be in school tomorrow. Absolutely not."