Virginia's Loudoun County school district is being rocked by sexual misconduct allegations, with three cases surfacing in recent days.
Loudoun County police on Thursday charged high school counselor Ann Barrett, who allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with an underage student from 2013 to 2015. Loudoun County Public Schools placed Barrett on leave in May after the case surfaced. The counselor turned herself in and was later released on bond.
Police are also investigating a boy at Harmony Middle School who allegedly groped male classmates last week in a hallway.
And on Tuesday, the Daily Mail reported that the 15-year-old "gender-fluid" high schooler who last month was found guilty of raping a classmate in a school bathroom sent nude photos of himself to a girl when he was in the fifth grade. The girl's parents decided not to seek charges against the boy as long as the school district separated him from their daughter.
Sex crimes in Loudoun County Public Schools gained national attention last month when the Daily Wire reported on that 15-year-old’s two sexual assault cases. In May, the student raped a female peer in a bathroom. District superintendent Scott Ziegler claimed he was not aware of any sexual assault allegations during a June school board meeting, but internal emails showed that he knew of the rape the day it occurred. The perpetrator was transferred to another district high school while investigators processed DNA evidence against him. Last month, he allegedly sexually assaulted another student in a classroom at that high school.
Sexual assaults and other incidents in schools have driven concerns among parents that their children's safety is being jeopardized by school officials who play politics, Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, told the Washington Free Beacon.
"I think there's a real sense among parents right now that districts are neglecting basic things like student safety in favor of advancing a political agenda," Neily said. "And you don't have to have a letter by your name to be upset by that. It's a really bad look for people, and voters are unhappy."
Education issues turned out Virginia voters for Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who on Tuesday defeated Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. Youngkin campaigned on greater parental involvement in public education, and McAuliffe tumbled in the polls late in the race after a gaffe during a debate in which he said, "I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." The Republican won by a 2-point margin, just one year after President Joe Biden took the state by 10 points.
Students from at least 20 Loudoun County high schools staged a walkout last week to protest the district's handling of sexual assault cases. More than 2,500 students participated, the Washington Post reported, and some students in nearby Arlington Public Schools participated in solidarity.
Neily said it should not be the responsibility of students to hold school officials accountable for their safety.
"It shouldn't be incumbent on students to flag this," Neily said. "What are the priorities of the Loudoun County School Board? What are you spending your time and finite resources on? Because if it's not keeping children safe, people need to be held accountable."