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.
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.
"They’re not guilty yet. They have not been adjudicated or in the adult words, convicted yet," Sickmund. "That part of the court processing hasn’t happened. And the system is in place to protect all of us. So imagine if it were your child. If you can imagine that your child might’ve actually done something wrong, how you would want to be treated. But even imagine your child didn’t do anything wrong, but they get caught up in the system. They get accused, they get arrested."
The father of the alleged victim in the May case told FOX 5 he did not know the suspect was going to return to a different school. Scott Smith’s attorney has announced plans to sue the school district over the handling of the case and his own arrest at a school board meeting.
Virginia’s department of education said Thursday it is "reviewing the discipline, crime and violence data submissions of Loudoun County Public Schools and is in communication with LCPS to determine whether the division’s reporting is accurate and whether the division is in compliance with state and federal law."
Also Thursday, Phyllis Randall, chair of Loudoun Co. Board of Supervisors released a statement saying in part:
"Loudoun, the Board of Supervisors learned of these alleged incidents at the same time and in the same manner as you. It’s reasonable for you to ask, "How is that possible?"….Upon learning of these alleged incidents, the BOS immediately asked for information and clarification. We received the same statements at the same time and in the same manner as you."
Randall said the board will continue to push for answers.