School records are being subpoenaed in the commonwealth’s ongoing investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools and Equality Loudoun is getting involved, the Times-Mirror confirmed on Monday.
Equality Loudoun, which is one of the largest advocacy groups for LGBTQ+ rights in the county, provided a redacted letter to a set of parents from Loudoun County Public Schools indicating that several education records may have been disclosed stemming from a subpoena issued by the Office of the Virginia Attorney General.
The letter stated that the search request may have disclosed several unrelated student records. Equality Loudoun President Cris Candice Tuck said the letter was directed to parents of a transgender teenager.
“There’s absolutely no reason the attorney general’s office or the grand jury investigation would need the personal private records of any students, regardless of their status as a member of the LGBTQ+ community or not,” said Tuck. “It’s absolutely unnecessary. It’s a massive overreach of the government.”
Equality Loudoun said the records request is regarding the ongoing investigation into Loudoun County Public Schools’ handling of two assault cases at a pair of high schools last year, and a special grand jury that recently convened, confirmed by LCPS.
Equality Loudoun claimed that the attorney general’s investigation is seeking to obtain the records of “queer students” in Loudoun County and condemned the targeting, according to the May 7 social media post.
Tuck also claimed that the records subpoenaed were based on keyword searches for “transgender policy,” which he said should be entirely unrelated to the handling of the sexual assault case.
However, Victoria LaCivita, a spokesperson from the attorney general’s office, said in response that “these uninformed allegations regarding the confidential proceedings of the special grand jury are unequivocally false.”
It is not immediately clear why student records were subpoenaed.
Wayde Byard, public information officer with LPCS, confirmed in an email to the Times-Mirror that parents are permitted to amend education records.
Equality Loudoun said it is reviewing additional options for parents and caregivers seeking to possibly remove items from a student’s cumulative file to prevent it from being disclosed.
As stated under Policy 8630, “a parent of a student or any eligible student who believes that information contained in the records of that student is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the privacy rights of the student may request the custodian of those records to amend them.”
Within 15 days after receipt of such a request, the policy states that the custodian shall decide whether or not to amend the records as requested and shall notify the parent or eligible student of the decision.
If the decision is to refuse the request for amendment, the parent or eligible student shall be informed of the right to a hearing to challenge the contents of the student’s records and the procedure to obtain a hearing, the policy states.
Tuck said Equality Loudoun has established a legal defense fund for LGBTQ+ families whose students’ privacy is being threatened. He also recommended that parents review Policy 8360 for potential options on maintaining student records if they feel they could be affected.
As previously reported last month, LCPS confirmed that a grand jury convened to investigate the incidents surrounding the assault cases last year.
In January, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) signed Executive Order Four, requesting that the Attorney General conduct a full investigation into LCPS, specifically the school division’s handling of the assault cases of which a high school teenager assaulted two girls at two separate schools, Stone Bridge and Broad Run, last May and October.
On Jan. 12, the teenager was found guilty of sexual assault and abduction, and ordered to an undisclosed residential treatment center.
Theo Stamos, a Democrat and former elected Commonwealth’s Attorney in Arlington County, is leading the investigation, according to LaCivita. In 2014, he led a special grand jury investigation against former Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio that ultimately led to the dismissal of the recall petition.
Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler and the School Board directed LCPS staff to take several steps to help protect our students from such incidents happening in the future, according to an April 13 statement.
Highlights include expanding the size and scope of the Title IX office by hiring a full-time Title IX Coordinator and additional investigative staff, expanded the Office of Division Counsel to better assist staff with issues relating to legal compliance, and audited harassment and discrimination complaints raised over the past school year to ensure that such complaints had been addressed appropriately.
Circuit Court Judge James Plowman denied a request from Fight for Schools, a local political action group, to force the release of an “independent review” of the school division’s handling of the assaults last month.
LCPS, which commissioned the review, has previously said the report would not be made public.
The group is also seeking to remove Ziegler and members of the School Board from office, in part due to their handling of the assault cases.