Wednesday, October 20, 2021

RETROSPECTIVE: 'Loudoun County Parish' - Questions Raised After Loudoun Co. Student Transferred to Different School Following Sexual Assault

Source: Fox 5 DC

Published: October 14, 2021

By: Lindsay Watts

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (FOX 5 DC) - A student in Loudoun County is facing accusations in two sex assaults at two different high schools, prompting questions about why he was transferred to another school after the first arrest.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, parent after parent excoriated board members, accusing them of covering up the first crime. But it wasn’t the school board who made decisions in the case.

The male student, then 14, was charged with two counts of forcible sodomy after an alleged attack on a female student at Stone Bridge High School in May.

The teen was arrested in July. Parents and the community were not alerted of the arrest.

After being arrested for sexual assault at Stone Bridge High School in Loudoun County, the same teen was accused of forcing a girl into an empty classroom at Broad Run High School, where he allegedly groped her.

The sheriff’s office says it’s because, "the suspect and victim were familiar with each other, the investigation was complex, and a public announcement had the potential to identify a juvenile victim."

The Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office recommended the student be removed only from his own school and wear an ankle monitor.

FOX 5 asked Commonwealth's Attorney Buta Biberaj why.

"We believed based on the facts that he had no history of having done this prior to this offense that was alleged," said Biberaj.

She said because of that, there was a belief it was unlikely he would re-offend. She said her office consulted with the family of the victim and the office of probation about the decision.

She said the judge agreed with the recommendation.

"I would ask this: for people to be patient because as we know what sometimes is reported initially is not then what the end result of all the facts are," said Biberaj.

A spokesperson for LCPS said he wasn’t able to reveal if the principal and other administrators at the student’s new school, Broad Run High School, knew of the charges when he started classes there.

The sheriff’s office says on Oct. 6, the same boy, now 15, forced a female student into an empty classroom and touched her inappropriately.

An alert to parents did go out in that case. The sheriff’s office said it was able to resolve the investigation more quickly because the circumstances were simpler than in the prior case.

Melissa Sickmund, director of the National Center for Juvenile Justice said she understands the anger from parents.

Data from her organization shows over 700,000 juveniles were accused in delinquency cases in 2019. About 75% were not locked up prior to their criminal proceedings. There’s no data on how many went back to school, but Sickmund says it’s not uncommon.

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