The chief of staff for Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia no longer has a job following accusations that the school district violated Title IX by failing to conduct a timely investigation of multiple sexual assaults.
LCPS told Fox News in a statement Wednesday that the chief of staff position once held by Mark Smith is now "vacant." It is not immediately clear why Smith, who was also the school district's Title IX coordinator, is no longer in the position, whether he resigned or was fired.
An unnamed school board member told WJLA-TV that Smith "is gone" because he failed to meet certain "obligations" under Title IX, a federal statute that bans discrimination based on sex.
"He had obligations under Title IX and they weren’t met. He was not a Title IX expert, but it was his job,” the school board member reportedly said. "Someone had to pay and it was him."
The school district is being tight-lipped about the situation. WJLA reporter Scott Taylor said that LCPS Public Information Officer Wayde Byard hung up the phone on him twice while he was trying to confirm Smith's departure.
Fox News reported that a LCPS web page previously listing Smith as the chief of staff was removed Wednesday.
WJLA reported that the school district is seeking to hire someone with Title IX experience.
The alleged Title IX violations are related to two sexual assaults of students at LCPS schools that were first reported by the Daily Wire and later confirmed by the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department.
The first assault took place in a bathroom at Stone Bridge High School on May 18, 2021. Police arrested a 14-year-old male suspect on charges of one felony count of forcible sodomy and one felony count of forcible fellatio after an investigation. The same suspect was later charged with crimes related to a second assault at Broad Run High School on Oct. 6.
Last week the suspect, now 15, was found responsible for the crimes and sentenced to a juvenile treatment facility. The court required him to register as a sex offender for life.
The school district did not disclose the sexual assaults to the public before the Daily Wire revealed what happened in its report. At a school board meeting one month after the first incident, Superintendent Scott Ziegler publicly denied that there was any record of sexual assaults taking place in school bathrooms at a contentious school board meeting where he spoke in favor of a policy that would let transgender students use the bathroom of their preference.
Outraged parents accused LCPS of covering up the sexual assaults in schools. Ziegler later apologized and claimed that federal Title IX rules prevented the schools from conducting their own investigation into the incident until police had finished their investigation.
According to the Daily Wire, this claim was contested by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which has said, "Although a school division may need to delay temporarily the fact-finding portion of a Title IX investigation while the police are gathering evidence, once notified that the police department has completed its gathering of evidence (not the ultimate outcome of the investigation or the filing of any charges), the school division must promptly resume and complete its fact-finding for the Title IX investigation." Federal law also requires that a school is "obligated to conclude a grievance process within a reasonably prompt time frame."
Ian Prior, executive director of the parents' advocacy group Fight for Schools, said in a press release that Smith's departure shows LCPS violated Title IX in its handling of the sexual assault.
“We have been saying for months that Loudoun County Public Schools violated Title IX and this report confirms that,” Prior said Wednesday. "While it is a positive development to see that LCPS is taking action, the fact remains that the buck stopped with Superintendent Scott Ziegler and the former leadership of the school board.”
“Ziegler remaining while his subordinates take the fall only further diminishes the trust in LCPS leadership, particularly when there is a publicly funded 'independent' report on the failures of LCPS that Ziegler refuses to release to the public,” he added.
On Tuesday, an independent report on how LCPS handled the sexual assault cases was completed, but officials said the report will not be released to the public.
Byard told WJLA that Virginia law and attorney-client privilege prevent the school district from releasing that information.
"The report is complete. It is being withheld from disclosure in its entirety under Va. Code 2.2-3705.1(2) relating to materials protected under the attorney-client privilege. Furthermore, portions of the record are being withheld from disclosure under. Code 2.2-3705.4(A)(1) relating to scholastic information and Va. Code 2.2-3705.1(1) relating to personnel information concerning identifiable individuals," he said in an email to WJLA.
"Of course, they are not going to release what happened," Scott Smith, the father of the teenage girl who was assaulted at Stone Bridge High School last May, said.
"What happened is horrific," he told WJLA. "There are so many high-up players involved in this cover-up. It’s just unbelievable."