ASHBURN, Virginia — The Loudoun County School Board faced a barrage of angry parents Tuesday evening as they held their first public school board meeting in the aftermath of a damning grand jury report detailing their incompetent response to the sexual assaults of two female students.
The grand jury was charged with investigating the county’s response to the rape of one female student at Stone Bridge High School and the violent sexual assault of another female student at Broad Run High School by the same male student.
In addition to the report, the grand jury indicted former school superintendent Scott Ziegler for three misdemeanor counts and former communications director Wayde Byard for one felony count.
The report said the school district “failed at every juncture” and could have prevented the second assault, but they were too self-interested.
Many parents called for multiple school personnel, particularly division counsel Robert Falconi, to be fired. They also called on all school board members to resign, except the newly-elected, pro-parent board member Tiffany Polifko.
“Shame on you for all your wickedness and duplicity,” speaker Meggan Jenkins said. “Two girls became sacrificial lambs to further your political agenda.”
Jenkins was likely referring to the fact that in between the assaults, the school board was considering a motion allowing male students to use female restrooms and locker rooms — a policy already allowed in the district but not made official. Such a policy would have become more controversial by the first assault, as the rapist was wearing a skirt and decided he wanted to use the girls’ restroom.
Stone Bridge student Angelina Mineo also gave a powerful address, asking the school board how she is supposed to go to school with a principal who “covered up a rape.”
“I just want to start off by saying I’m thoroughly disgusted with all of you. All of you are supposed to protect young students like me, and you failed at doing that,” she said. “How am I gonna look at my principal the same way? I have to walk past him every day to go into my school. How am I supposed to look at him the same way knowing he covered up a rape?”
Mineo was suspended for two weeks last year for not wearing a mask and drew a dichotomy between the discipline she received and the lack thereof received by the perpetrator.
“What disciplinary action did he take against this rapist? ‘Oh, yeah, let’s transfer him to another school,'” she said, mockingly. “Brilliant idea. Look what he did: he did it again. And you act so surprised. Are you kidding me?”
Another speaker, Abbie Platt, said something similar happened to her son, explaining, “My seven-year-old was suspended for [not] wearing a mask. You didn’t even suspend a rapist.”
Both of the parents of the first victim spoke this evening. The father, Scott Smith, made national headlines by being arrested and removed from a school board meeting after Ziegler blatantly lied to him about his own daughter’s rape.
Jessica Smith, the child’s mother, said, “From the very beginning, we were determined as parents to not let the Loudoun County school system sweep what happen to our daughter and another parent’s daughter under the rug as you repeatedly tried to do.”
“We are as determined now as we were back then not to remain silent as you wanted us to do,” she continued. “The assault on our daughter and the subsequent assault by the same individual of another young lady were both predictable and preventable. You need to clean house now.”
Mr. Smith directed attention at Falconi, saying, “You, Falconi over there, bud, it says clearly in this report in several different paragraphs what you did, how you instructed them. What’s that? … My attorneys will take you down, bud, we’re not scared of you.”
He was referring to portions of the grand jury report that said the entity would have indicted Falconi, but that there is no statute in Virginia that they could use to indict on witness tampering.
Ian Prior, a Loudoun resident, also spoke at the meeting.
“You hitched your wagon to a political agenda and Scott Ziegler, the man who would implement that agenda, your lightning rod,” Prior, who is the executive director of Fight for Schools and a senior adviser at America First Legal, said. “And despite an independent review, despite the facts and evidence that we laid at your doorstep, you kept him on and you praised his integrity.”
“You gave him a $30,000 raise and a $300,000 golden parachute,” he continued. “You and your allies tried and fail to discredit us. You and your allies tried and failed to discredit and obstruct a grand jury, and then you spiked the football on your own 20-yard line. You chose to be history’s villains. There is no escape from that legacy.”
Before the public comment period, Falconi presented to the board policy changes related to recommendations made by the grand jury report.
Polifko appeared to be skeptical of them, saying, “cleaning up the language” would not address “the real problems here and the elephant in the room.”