A 14-year-old Loudoun County student and her mother have accused Loudoun County Public Schools officials of covering up and mishandling an alleged rape in a classroom at Trailside Middle School in Ashburn.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of the alleged victim claims that during the 2017-2018 school year a teacher at Trailside Middle School worked to gain the trust and manipulate the student in question. The relationship escalated to include sexual contact and eventually a rape within a locked classroom in the spring of 2018, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in late May in the Eastern District of Virginia.
The plaintiffs are seeking more than $10 million in damages. The juvenile student is identified as Jane Doe in the suit.
“I want justice for my daughter, and [the teacher] is going to keep doing this to other students,” the mother told the Times-Mirror. “There are probably other girls who have been abused, maybe other students will be brave enough to talk now.”
Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard said the teacher remains at the school. The school system released a statement after local parent and frequent school system critic Brian Davison spoke about the allegations at the May 28 School Board meeting.
The school system's statement says: “The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office conducted an investigation in coordination with the Department of Family Services. According to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, after a complete investigation and after gathering all facts, evidence and statements, the Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney’s office declined charges in the case.”
Loudoun County Public Schools also says it investigated the allegations and determined they were unfounded, according to Byard.
The student's mother says she informed Trailside Principal Bridget Beichler and other school officials in March 2018 of her concerns about the teacher's interactions with the student prior to the alleged rape. The mother claims LCPS officials failed to take appropriate actions to protect her from further harm.
After the student became uncomfortable with the teacher's alleged touching, she confided in her mother. Her mother reported the alleged touching to Beichler and Assistant Principal Patricia O'Connell. She also consulted with a friend's husband who had an in-person meeting at Trailside on March 12, 2018, to discuss the alleged incidents, according to the mother.
Beichler told the student's mother it was reported to Loudoun County's Child Protective Services and she would have a “stern talk” with the teacher, according to the mother.
After the meeting, the teacher's demeanor changed and he became hostile to the student, according to the complaint. The teacher gave a survey to the student asking if she felt “emotionally safe” talking to the teacher. She responded positively because she feared further retaliation, the suit states. The teacher allegedly became nice to her again and gave her candy and special attention in the classroom. The student reportedly spent time in his classroom during resource time and the teacher provided more personal stories.
The alleged rape and other sexual assaults against the accuser occurred in the locked classroom in May 2018.
The plaintiff's attorney, Fenlene Edrington of Moreton & Edrington in Reston, told the Times-Mirror the firm helped the family file the case because she was concerned about Loudoun County Public Schools' handling of the matter.
“The allegations of this 13-year-old child are very concerning, but equally concerning is LCPS's refusal to provide copies of its purported investigation to the child's family. In short, LCPS has informed this family your straight-A student who has never had behavioral problems at school has accused her teacher of raping her. We investigated this matter and concluded that your child is lying. We will not provide you a copy of our investigation. When the child continued to talk about the allegation, LCPS suspended her,” Edrington said.
The teacher has declined to take a polygraph and declined a medical exam, according to the alleged victim's mother.
“He has been given every opportunity to prove it didn't happen. He hasn't done that, and neither has LCPS. There has been no action to demonstrate his innocence,” the alleged victim's mother said.
After the alleged rape, the lawsuit states that the investigating officials failed to bring in an expert on sexual assault procedures, resulting in two ineffective interviews with the student. At a third interview, the student was able to draw a picture of the sexual assault for the CPS caseworker; however, the investigation was prematurely concluded, the complaint states.
Beichler reportedly suspended the student in March of this year for 10 days after the student sent an email to Trailside staff asking them to be vigilant against the teacher and labeling the instructor a sexual predator. According to the lawsuit, the email was sent after school hours, off school grounds and with the student's own personal device. The student's mother appealed the suspension, and it was reduced to three days.
In addition to compensation, the plaintiffs seek to have the suspension expunged from the student's record as well as full records related to the incident from the school.
Officials with the Loudoun commonwealth attorney's office said after speaking with law enforcement the office decided not to bring charges in the matter.
The student's mother told the Times-Mirror she is hoping for some accountability from the school. She believes a lack of effort has been put into the investigation, despite the fact that her daughter has offered information such as identifying physical features of the teacher's body. She would like to see the investigation re-opened by professional investigators who are “impartial, neutral and professional.”
Davison has launched a nonprofit called Loudoun Open Government Organization to assist victims with finding legal representation and counseling sessions.
Editor's note: The Times-Mirror is not naming the teacher at this time because they were not charged with a crime following an investigation of the claims.