Court okays grand jury probe in school sex assaults
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — 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.
In a statement, Miyares called the ruling “yet another win for both Loudoun families and the Commonwealth in our fight for justice and answers.” Youngkin called the ruling “a victory for parents, teachers, and students.”
Loudoun County Public Schools issued a statement saying it appreciates the court’s consideration of the “unusual circumstances” regarding the grand jury.
“While LCPS is disappointed in the results, it will continue to comply with the Special Grand Jury’s requests and awaits the results of its investigation,” the school district said in a statement.