Pamela Croft - Tuscarora Principal

 Tuscarora High School Principal Pamela Croft

Parents in the Tuscarora High School community and across Loudoun County are outraged.

And they should be.

Over the past month they have been subjected to abject failures from Loudoun County Public Schools administration. From Superintendent Eric Williams, who is becoming alarmingly skilled at apologies, to Tuscarora Principal Pamela Croft, whose tone deaf response has been nothing short of astounding, the systemic protectionism within Loudoun County Public Schools has reached dangerous levels.

Children are being bullied, assaulted and weighing suicide within the walls of Loudoun's schools, but administrators' biggest concerns appear to be that someone will find out.

At what point do Loudoun's kids come first? When do parents' right to know trump the school system's reckless determination to maintain a glowing reputation?

It's a point we hate to concede, but we've become convinced that Loudoun's success in the classroom, strong test scores and high state rankings are in spite of – not thanks to – the current Loudoun County Public Schools administration. It's a shame Williams, Croft and Co. have cast such a gray cloud on hard-working educators inside Loudoun's classrooms.

There are times when doing the right thing is all that matters. This is one of those times.

Here are some facts about Loudoun County Public Schools' most recent problems.

It took the school system nearly 10 days to notify the Tuscarora community about an alleged heinous assault that occurred on school property. The disclosure came only after the allegations were reported by this newspaper.

These allegations go further than schoolyard fisticuffs. As described by numerous people to the Times-Mirror, the attack was a rape of a defenseless student, plain and simple.

Principal Croft's response during a Tuesday meeting with parents? That Tuscarora is “safe and has never been deemed unsafe.” Tell that to those with stories of bullying, athlete favoritism and inaction from Tuscarora's supposed leaders.

Through at least two messages to parents, Croft has failed to acknowledge any communication shortcomings. A reminder: School officials waited 10 days after the incident occurred and five days after they say they learned about it to alert parents.

Up the road in Lucketts came an equally egregious misstep, though fortunately no one was physically harmed during the situation that recently unfolded there.

At Lucketts Elementary, it took the school system more than a month to notify parents that the reason for a sheriff's office school resource officer's presence was because someone had made a threat against a school staffer.

Parents asked, and the school system evaded. When parents demanded answers, Williams finally sent a letter to the school community apologizing "for the missteps that have been made during our handling of this matter during the last two months.”

“As far as communication, it was just kind of like a one-two punch,” Laura Jane Dimbylow, who has children at both Tuscarora and Lucketts, told the Times-Mirror.

Not to diminish the pain and concern that faces Ms. Dimbylow and parents like her, but the feeling is no doubt less intense than the torture felt by the reported victim and his family at Tuscarora. Our thoughts and condolences are with them. We can't possibly grasp what they're going through – we can only support their recovery.

Hopefully the chiefs at Loudoun County Public Schools find the time to communicate the same.

(17) comments

MsIndependent

The crisis in Loudoun continues. Now we have Loudoun High School and their own controversy which remained hidden for a week. The scandals just keep on keeping on for LCPS. One thing is for sure, we will hear from the School when there is a snow in the next few weeks.

MsIndependent

One month and one day since the incident. Are these students still attending the high school? Principal has gone into hiding once again. Go Football Team. Yaaay!

LoCo97

Also sorry Tenorsu, But Pam has to go!! This is only 1, and a very critical one, of a litany of poor judgement and communication issues that have plagued that school under her supervision. I live in the district that would send my children to Tuscarora in the next two years. That WILL NOT be happening!!!

Jack Daniels

As a former employee of LCPS, I can say that Mr. William's is all about hiding things from the spotlight.

MsIndependent

DAY 23. All is silent on the Tuscarora front. Go Football Team!

GrantPalmer

Is there no space between releasing all of the facts of a case before due process is complete, and issuing dismissive and defensive statements to the public? It seems clear that a student is accusing several others of a violent assault which occurred on school property, during a school sanctioned activity, without supervision. There needs to be a police investigation (what happened, should criminal charges be filed, etc.) and a school response (are we communicating effectively within allowable parameters, not just now, but period? Are we sure our culture does not prioritize athletics and inadvertently support this type of behavior? What specific steps are we taking to ensure the safety of all students?) As a Tuscarora parent, the fact of the matter is that Principal Croft's communication skills are seriously lacking, and her lack of leadership in times of crisis is both revealing and concerning. Be better, LCPS.

Dionysius

This editorial seems like the fitting culmination to two weeks of irresponsible commentary on social media and in the comments to articles published in this paper. The suggestion that the lack of information arises from a “reckless determination” to obfuscate reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the law. You may disagree with the outcome, but it is hardly “reckless” to proceed deliberately. Respecting legal obligations and principles of due process and rights to privacy – for both the victim and the accused – is the “right thing” always, particularly under circumstances involving minors. In that regard, the manufactured outrage over a perceived need for information seems more like an opportunity to settle old scores with Principal Croft than the result of a thoughtful analysis of the current situation. The truth is that on the day the incident was reported to Tuscarora administration, the criminal authorities were called, the needs of the victim were addressed, and the alleged perpetrators were removed from the school and the football team. That is hardly a cover-up, and it is patently ridiculous to suggest otherwise. There isn’t a single thing that the vast majority of parents would have done differently had the communication been more prompt or more fulsome (in that regard, it is worth noting that the communication went out on the second school day after the incident was reported, not 10 days later as you suggest in this column). There was simply no need to override the rights of the accused or violate applicable law to serve the prurient interests of a group of parents and students unaffected by an isolated incident. There is one group of parents, however, who perhaps should be outraged, and that is the parents of Tuscarora football players. Innocent football players have been harmed by the lack of communication about the circumstances of the alleged assault insofar as the absence of fact has facilitated wide ranging gossip and slander. Calling the incident “hazing,” stating that team members watched or filmed the assault, implying that it reflects a sexually violent culture, etc. stigmatizes an entire team and has no basis in fact. The suggestion that somehow the outcome of the team continuing its season is the result of “athletic favoritism” is similarly baseless. Sometimes the most obvious reason should just be accepted - the season continues because the other members of the team are completely without blame. The irony of decrying “bullying” while stereotyping and slandering an entire football team is thick. And yet the parents most affected seem to have complained the least – perhaps because they have a different sense of sympathy for the victim and his family, and a profound sense of sadness for the former team members and their families because of the choices that were made. We grieve for all, and beg for a more measured, thoughtful discussion that respects the rights of the victim, the alleged perpetrators, and the members of the Tuscarora team, coaches, and administration unfairly tarnished by the falsehoods perpetuated in the aftermath of this tragedy.

Virginia SGP

What in the world are you talking about?

1. I have been on many teams and organizations. Hazing is/was commonplace among many such organizations (fraternities, military, teams, etc.). Nobody and I mean nobody believes this team was not aware of the incident within 24 hours after it occurred. The fact that nobody on THAT whole team thought this was a major issue (and one that lowers comraderie) and reported it shows just how tarnished that WHOLE team is.

2. An almost identical incident occurred 4 years ago at an Ashburn HS (Broad Run). Yet there appears to be no training to prevent this from occurring repeatedly. The coach appears to have been unaware for a week? I can guarantee no coach I have ever had that was worth his salt was so ignorant of major issues in the locker room.

You appear solely dedicated to protecting LCPS officials and other members of the football team who clearly were more interested in protecting the perpetrator teammates and their team's image than in reporting a crime. That is shameful. And this will happen again at another school if a systemic plan is not implemented (training about hazing and honor codes to report it).

ThatEpicMania

I believe the similar incident actually occurred at Briar Woods.

MsIndependent

I have been silent too long reading articles, watching news reports, listening to voice-mail messages from the Tuscarora Principal and the Loudoun County Superintendent regarding the crisis at Tuscarora High School where a football player was likely sexually assaulted by “no more than three” football players.

We are twenty-two days removed from the “alleged” incident and the general public knows very little more than what was reported by the Loudoun Times Mirror on October 9, 2018 when this story first broke. Pamela Croft who is the Principal of Tuscarora High School has shared in voice mail messages to the public that our students are safe and continues to say that “no more than three individuals” were involved in this incident of sexual assault at the school. Well Ms. Kroft, do you really think that is a satisfactory answer for a community of concerned parents who are worried about the oversight at this school? Can you imagine if the #METOO movement where victims of assault said that “no more than three” individuals assaulted them? How in the world can you walk into school each day and feel confident and positive as a leader when you dismiss assault by saying that there were “no more than three individuals” involved in an assault on a student? Are you that out of touch? Regretfully, I think you and the entire LCPS leadership is.

I attended the PTSO meeting last week in hopes of hearing some new news from you. Instead, I heard a Principal who read a prepared statement still scolding parents for gaining information from traditional and social medial outlets telling those in the audience to stop speculating. You said that we needed to “come together as a family” and my question is this, What Family? A football family where a team sports seems more important than the safety of over a thousand students under your care? The lesson you are teaching kids at the school is the almighty football program is more important than their safety and that assault is acceptable especially if “no more than three” individuals are involved.

Let put it into perspective. Let’s say kids left the recent homecoming dance and had a few drinks. No more than three individuals were drunk but those three kids got into a wreck. One kid ran into a ditch damaging his parent’s car, the other hit a girl crossing a cross walk and finally, the third ran across the double line on Rt. 15 hitting another car head-on killing a family of four. What would your response be? No more than three people were involved in this isolated incident of drinking? Listen to yourself! Do you have no shame, Principal Croft?

We are at day 22 and you can feel the pressure slowly easing off this controversy. The media is moving on to other stories, the Principal and Superintendent are breathing a sigh of relief, and the football team who “has been through so much” defeated undefeated Stone Bridge on Friday night after such a challenging few days. Parents demanding answers are treated as if they are the enemy for asking the administration tough questions. Why, maybe they are following the lead of a Principal who is frustrated for being held accountable for what seems to be one of the worst managed schools in the county.

We may never know the full truth into what happened on October 1, 2018 at Tuscarora High School. Something smells, yet, overtime the smell goes away but the lingering memory is forever etched in the back of our minds. As long as my child attends Tuscarora High I will always look at the Principal as a failed leader who should justly be fired.

Virginia SGP

You are 100% correct. Not only must the students/parents at that school be worried, but given this is the 2nd such incident in 4 years, it is very likely it will happen again. Another student will be subjected to these assaults and many more will likely be subjected to other hazing rituals if no system response is implemented.

Nothing will change under this school board. Speak out and change them in Nov 2019. Maybe then the administration will take these things seriously when they know they will be held accountable for student safety.

Tenorsu

I attended the same PTSO meeting ran by the Vice President, a Tuscarora parent. Mrs. Croft outlined the five days. Administration was notified on Friday followed by a three day holiday weekend. Students were not present so the investigation had to resume on Tuesday. The public was informed on Wednesday after 24 hours of legal investigation. At the meeting, parents were invited to speak. The majority of parents present were in support of the administration and asked for the divisive commentary to stop.

chrisnich

Sorry Tenorsu, but Pam has got to go. (Granted, she'll likely end up transferred to the administrative bowels of LCPS, but at least she won't be prominently leading school children.) To say that the "legal investigation" of a RAPE can't occur over a three-day weekend is offensive to the Sheriff's Department. And if it's true that the Loudoun Times Mirror knew about the incident before school officials, the school's leadership is out to lunch bigtime. Finally, Pam Croft's initial public statement expressing her concern about the football team's schedule being tarnished, showing zero sympathy for the victim was the icing on the cake.

Yes, it may take more time for all the facts to come out and justice to be served. But both the principal and football team need a serious "time out" until that point, not as punishment, but as protection of the process.

Tenorsu

I was at the same PTSO meeting ran by the Vice President, who is a Tuscarora parent. What the article fails to mention is that Mrs. Croft laid out a detailed timeline. The incident was reported to Administration on Friday. There was a three day federal holiday weekend which paused the process for three days since students were not in school. The investigation resumed Tuesday with the initial report on Wednesday. It should also be reported that the majority of parents at the meeting were in support of the administration and pleaded for the divisive commentary to stop. All parents were given a moment to speak in the agenda.

More Cowbell

Curious if Police were notified on Friday? If rape, cop out for claiming holiday weekend. Now we've learned over 14 people witnessed and video. Guys involved still playing football and attending class. Sounds more like nothing was done.

David Dickinson

Will people ever wake up from the deception? The public school system's #1 priority is to protect the public school system. Your child's education and safety are a pretense for the existence and expansion of their system.

doverboy

I have 3 children who have graduated from Loudoun County Schools, one from Tuscarora HS. I do not remember anyone being raped during their school years. If the gender of the person violated had been different would Ms Croft have handled the assault differently? This is a reflection of the culture she has established within that school since its inception.

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