As the parents, students, staff, and residents still process the constant stream of revelations coming from the Loudoun County Public Schools and the school board regarding cases of sexual assault over the last year and their apparent cover-ups, one school board member has submitted her resignation.
On Friday, just one day after The Daily Wire revealed that LCPS failed to properly report several cases of sexual assault as required by state law over a span of years, Beth Barts, a school board member representing Leesburg, revealed on Facebook that she has submitted her resignation, effective Nov. 2, 2021.
"This was not an easy decision or a decision made in haste. After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family," the resignation letter stated.
"While serving as the Leesburg representative on the Loudoun County School Board, I was afforded many deeply rewarding opportunities for which I am truly appreciative. I am grateful to have had a role in empowering students to achieve academic and personal success in supportive and most importantly inclusive school environments," the letter continued.
"I am especially proud to have participated in helping steer the Loudoun County School System through the uncharted waters of educating students throughout a global pandemic. Though not an easy task, I remained committed to doing what was best for all of Loudoun County Public School students and staff," she added.
"I have remained dedicated throughout my tenure to providing the best service to the community that I could. While I look forward to a return to a simpler life of volunteer service, I will miss my office hours and the conversations I had with so many of you in our community," the letter continued.
School officials also released a statement about Barts' resignation, thanking her for her service, according to WJLA.
"I want to thank Board Member Barts for her service to the Leesburg District," said School Board Chair Brenda L. Sheridan. "The School Board will announce its process for filling the Leesburg seat at its October 26 meeting and anticipates filling this position at its December 14 meeting."
Barts' resignation comes just two hours after LCPS Superintendent Scott Ziegler addressed the public regarding the recent sexual assault cases, and allegations that the cases had been covered up by the school district.
"First, let me say to the families and students involved — my heart aches for you and I am sorry that we failed to provide the safe, welcoming, and affirming environment that we aspire to provide," he said during a press conference. "We acknowledge and share in your pain and we will continue to offer support to help you and your families through this trauma. For all of our students, our school-based Unified Mental Health Teams are available to anyone who needs care."
"We acknowledge and share in your pain and we will continue to offer support to help you and your families through this trauma. For all of our students, our school-based Unified Mental Health Teams are available to anyone who needs care," he added. "It is important to know that Title IX directs how schools must investigate allegations of sexual harassment/assault and provides equal protection for both victims and the alleged perpetrators."
Ziegler noted that the schools were following Title IX protocols, but "we have found the process outlined under Title IX by the U.S. Department of Education to be insufficient in addressing issues at the K-12 level."
He recommended that the school board place the issue on their legislative agenda, "and that the board and its allied groups actively lobby for changes to allow more protections to victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault."
Ziegler also stated that despite reports, "I will say that I have no reason to believe at this time that any missing reports were due to an intent to hide any information from the Virginia Department of Education."
He said that the school district will report the incidents in real-time, also adding that in the "very near future," the district will have "alternative placements for students involved in discipline infractions that protect the safety of the student body and the rights of the accused."
Ziegler was referring to a report from The Daily Wire, which found that in at least two instances, they failed to report incidents of sexual assault to a public database.
That public database, called Safe Schools Information Resource (SSIR), has a deadline of July 16 for schools to report such instances.
In the May 28 incident, where a female student was sexually assaulted in a restroom, there was ample time to report the incident.
In another incident, occurring in October of 2018 where an underclassman football player was sexually assaulted by three teammates, that incident also went unreported, despite having months to do so.
Zielger also referenced the June 22 school board meeting in which Scott Smith, the father of the May 28 victim, was arrested by police for obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. "Lastly, I want to speak to my comments at the June 22nd board meeting related to bathrooms. Board Member Barts asked a question about discipline incidents in the bathrooms that I wrongly interpreted as incidents involving transgender and gender-fluid students. I did this because I was viewing the question in light of the general questions and debate around policy 8040 that was occurring at the time," said Ziegler.
"I regret that my comments were misleading and I apologize for the distress that error caused families. I should have asked Board Member Barts clarifying questions to get to the root of her question, rather than assuming what she meant. I will do better in the future," he continued.