RICHMOND, Va. - An attempt by the Loudoun County School Board to shut down a grand jury investigating the school system’s handling of two sexual assaults was rejected Friday by the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The high court upheld a ruling in July by a circuit court judge who denied the school board’s request for an injunction to stop the grand jury from proceeding.
The board argued that a special grand jury empaneled by Attorney General Jason Miyares is politically motivated and violates the mandate in the Virginia constitution giving local school boards authority over educational affairs.
Miyares maintains that the grand jury is needed to uncover why the school system allowed a boy who had been accused of sexually assaulting a girl in one high school to transfer to another high school, where he was convicted of sexually assaulting a second girl. Miyares empaneled the grand jury after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, on his first day in office, issued an executive order requesting an investigation by the attorney general’s office.
Youngkin and Miyares, both Republicans, had criticized the school board during their successful 2021 campaigns. They said the board was not transparent in how it handled the case as it revised its guidelines over policies governing transgender students. The assaults attracted national attention in part because the boy was wearing a skirt when he committed at least one of the attacks. The boy was later convicted in juvenile court.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the school board "has offered no convincing argument" for why the grand jury investigation infringes on the provision of the state constitution that vests the supervision of schools in each school division to the local school board.
"A grand jury investigation does not render the power of local supervision meaningless," the court wrote. "The School Board will continue to oversee the County’s schools exactly as before. The constitutional power to administer a school district does not bring with it immunity from investigation for violations of criminal law."
The court also addressed the board’s concerns that the grand jury will "overstep its bounds and proceed beyond investigating criminal violations."
"The special grand jury is not hiring and firing teachers, spending money allocated for the schools, deciding where schools should be built, and so on, i.e. nothing the grand jury is doing restricts the School Board’s core constitutional power of supervision over the schools in Loudoun County," the court wrote.
Miyares released this statement following the ruling:
"As Attorney General, I made a promise to Virginians to investigate what happened last year in Loudoun County. In July, I defeated the Loudoun County School Board’s attempt to block the investigation in the trial court. Today, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed that victory. We are pleased with the court’s ruling and ready to move forward. This is yet another win for both Loudoun families and the Commonwealth in our fight for justice and answers."
Governor Youngkin also released a statement on the ruling:
"Today’s ruling by Virginia’s Supreme Court to uphold our investigation in Loudoun is a victory for parents, teachers, and students. After the Loudoun County School Board failed to address sexual assault incidents in their district, were not held accountable for their actions and continuously et down students and parents n Virginia, I signed an exe tive order on my first day in office authorizing an investigation by Attorney General Miyares into the Loudoun County Public Schools."
Wayde Byard, a spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools, declined immediate comment, but said the board was expected to comment later Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.