ASHBURN, Va. - The Loudoun County Joint Board of Supervisors and School Board committee held a meeting Monday afternoon to discuss school safety.
The conversation at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building was held after the sexual assault cases FOX 5 covered resulted in Virginia's attorney general calling on a special grand jury to investigate.
The special grand jury report stated, "LCPS as an organization tends to avoid managing difficult situations by not addressing them fully … This has not served them or our community well, and the culture needs to change. Stronger leadership would address problems head-on instead of letting them snowball."
The purpose of Monday’s meeting was to provide information regarding the School Resource Officer (SRO) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) and Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS), with specific information pertaining to investigations into sexual assaults in schools. That includes reviewing:
1. Training required to investigate sexual assault claims.
2. Collaboration with non-profits or victims’ assistance programs to support victims.
3. Chain of command for SRO investigations.
4. Protocol between LCPS/ LCSO for investigating sexual assaults.
5. Funding and staffing needed for LCSO to appropriately investigate sexual assault cases.
6. Interview protocols for underage sexual assault victims.
That is why the Loudoun County Public School Board members, the Board of Supervisors, and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office are working together to establish protocols that need to be followed when sexual assault cases are being investigated.
"Let me just start by saying I don't believe that we have a systemic issue in our schools of sexual assault," County Supervisor Juli Briskman said.
Loudoun County Supervisor Juli Briskman
She addressed the sexual assault incidents that happened at both Stone Bridge and Broad Run High Schools back in 2021 and resulted in a teen being held responsible for the crimes.
"The charges and arrest came very, very late in my opinion, and communication failed," Briskman added.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office received backlash for the way the department handled the situation, as well. The special grand jury report mentioned school officials testified that multiple investigators called it an "iffy case" and a "shaky case."
"The recommendations that came out from the special grand jury, the eight of them, had no specific recommendations," Lt. Colonel Christopher Sawyer said. "Ultimately, those recommendations that came through the report were all based on Loudoun County Public Schools."
In order to create change, the advisory committee made two recommendations. One includes making sure school resource officers are trauma-informed, so they know how to properly interact with and interview young victims of sexual assault. The second suggestion is to let parents know when their kids are being questioned by law enforcement in non-violent situations.
Briskman asked tough questions throughout the presentation to ensure changes can be done in an appropriate and safe manner.
Before any official new rules go into effect, they will first be discussed at a school board meeting.
Read the full presentation here.