Loudoun County walkouts planned to show solidarity with sexual assault victims
LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (CBS News) — Organizers of a school walkout are asking students and teachers to wear white, make signs and leave class for 10 minutes on Tuesday. These walkouts are planned for multiple schools across Loudoun County.
This all stems from a sexual assault incident that occurred at Stone Bridge High School over the summer. Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney Buta Biberaj confirmed to WUSA9 that a teenage boy has been found guilty in that assault which took place in a bathroom in the school.
In a post circulating on social media, organizers said the walkout is to “show solidarity to victims of sexual violence and demand safety in our schools.”
Michelle Luttrell, the Principal at Loudoun County High School, said they were aware of the social media posts regarding a student walk-out demonstration on Tuesday.
Luttrell said they plan to provide a supervised environment for this protest to take place in a designated area on the front lawn. School security officers and school resource officers will also be on duty should a walk-out occur.
“Students who choose to participate will not be penalized for their participation; however, we do ask that students who participate do so peacefully, without signage, and in accordance with the Students Rights and Responsibilities we all reviewed and signed at the beginning of the year,” Luttrell said.
“The top priority of Loudoun County Public Schools is the safety and security of students and staff. Keeping this in mind, Loudoun County High School will provide a designated, safe space for students to exercise their freedom of expression,” Luttrell said.
On Oct. 15, Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler acknowledged that current procedures in place were not adequate in addressing sexual assault cases, and called for Title IX policy changes after media attention surrounding two alleged sexual assaults of students at two different LCPS facilities.
The assault was reported at Stone Bridge High School on May 28, and another occurred at Broad Run High School on Oct. 6, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives said an arrest was made in both incidents, and LCPS officials confirmed to WUSA9 that the same boy was charged in the assault and the alleged assault.
“I want to acknowledge that our processes and procedures were not adequate to respond to these recent events,” Ziegler said. “It has become clear that our administrative procedures have not kept pace with the growth we have seen in our county.”
At a press conference on Oct.15, Ziegler said he has spoken with multiple education officials, including the chief of staff for Elementary and Secondary Education in Secretary Miguel Cardona’s office, to lobby for changes to the way school systems investigate sexual harassment and assault allegations, allowing for more protections for victims.
“It is important to know that Title Nine directs how schools must investigate allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and provides equal protection for both victims and the alleged perpetrators,” Ziegler said.
“Throughout these events, the Loudoun County Public Schools has complied with our obligations under Title Nine. However, we have found this process outlined under Title Nine by the U.S. Department of Education to be insufficient in addressing issues at the K-12. level. We believe this process could be strengthened with some reforms.”
He also recommended that the Loudoun County School Board add the issue to its legislative agenda, and is asking that the LCSO notify the superintendent and principal of a school when students are charged with serious offenses in the future.
“Whether or not changes occur, in the future, our division’s procedure will emphasize the safety and protection of victims,” Ziegler said.
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