LORTON, Va. - A Northern Virginia high school has a new principal, a new student activities director and assistant director, along with a new girls' track coach after alarming accusations surfaced detailing sexual harassment, bullying and verbal abuse.
The accusations were made against a former girls' track coach at South County High School in Lorton and involved several female athletes on that team who came forward against him, according to parents.
FOX 5 spoke to the mother of one of the students who shared what happened after her child and others reported the incidents to South County's administration.
"Their names were not kept confidential and everybody knew who came forward. There was a big retaliation against them from other track athletes, parents, other kids in the school. There was bullying with signs saying, 'we don't believe liars' and it basically became a very public display of going against the victim's that came forward," the mother, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her child's identity, told FOX 5.
The student's mother said when the sexual harassment accusations surfaced against the coach last spring, she was assured an investigation would be conducted by the athletic director and assistant director. She said the coach in question was placed on leave for a week and returned the following Monday.
That's when she said her daughter and the names of other accusers were leaked to the school community.
Fairfax County Public Schools said there were personnel changes at South County, stating that the former principal retired. FOX 5 was also told the student activities director and assistant director were reassigned to new positions at other schools in the district.
The girls' track coach reportedly left on his own.
"He was rating them, having other kids rate the way they looked in their clothes and at away-track meets there was also inappropriate behavior there," the student's mother said. "There was also inappropriate talk with the girls about their relationships with boyfriends and what they participated in with boyfriends and how that should or should not impact their track performance, also talked about weight and different body shaming type of statements."
The student's mother said she was speaking out now because she felt there was a culture of school staff allowing and covering up sexual misconduct, focusing on protecting adults instead of students.
In a letter sent to South County parents in August, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand stated:
"(T)he changes that have been made at South County were necessary, and will remain in place. In all personnel matters, an established process is followed that includes careful review of all facts. No personnel decision is taken without serious consideration of the impact to all involved. While we cannot address any specific details regarding any FCPS employee, my number one priority is always the success and well-being of our students."
The new account comes on the heels of the county's school board approving a resolution to strengthen the way sexual misconduct is addressed on campus. Fairfax County Public Schools Board Member Elizabeth Schultz said more needs to be done urgently and is demanding the district take action on Oct. 11 to provide concrete steps for staff to prevent sexual misconduct and harassment.