Virginia Attorney General-elect Mark Herring, Jr. said Saturday he would investigate Loudoun County School District for possible criminal wrongdoing in a letter he sent to the sheriff’s office this week concerning a police investigation into alleged sexual assault in a school.
Herring, a Democrat who was elected governor on Tuesday, said in a statement that he was “asking the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office to carefully review reports that school administrators failed to secure their building and prevent this from happening.”
In his letter dated June 30, Herring wrote that he was “extremely disturbed” to learn that police investigated an alleged rape in a school bathroom in May. He also said he was concerned about a “fatal disparity” in the legal process against the student charged with rape “regardless of her gender.”
The incident in question was reported to police in May and the investigation is ongoing. The school district has declined to comment, but its Board of Supervisors passed a resolution directing Superintendent Jake LeFever to gather “all the facts and to report them to the Board, if necessary,” according to CBS News.
The Washington Post reported that despite the alleged sexual assault, the school board approved a four-day suspension for the girl at the time of the incident in May. The school reportedly did not release details of her suspension but said her punishment would be consistent with her peers for what it described as a “self-reported incident.”
“You would not expect a school system, school board, or board of supervisors to have a zero tolerance policy regarding the safety of children but to go around and do the exact opposite,” Herring wrote in his letter.
“I find it troubling that the Board of Supervisors have chosen to punish this student for these alleged actions and have agreed to suspend her without pay for a total of four days at her pre-appointed location where she will be repeatedly supervised while she is at work. That is no equal or representative punishment. This clearly misrepresents what she did, to put her own interest above the safety of her school system and to ignore her fear of retaliation from the student involved in the incident,” Herring wrote.
Herring, who also serves as the chairman of the Virginia General Assembly’s Democrats, said the situation “even raises concerns whether the child is still a student, whether she had complete access to her school and who authorized a temporary student to be in the building where the alleged assault occurred,” according to CBS News.
He also expressed the “desire to ensure that the parents of all parties involved are consulted,” and specifically asked that the Commonwealth of Virginia ask the U.S. Department of Education for a “reasonable explanation” as to why a school allowed an unsupervised student “into a classroom to participate in what appears to be a game of musical chairs.”
The situation has drawn comparisons to the 2010 incident at Virginia Tech in which a male student sexually assaulted a female student in an engineering building. Also in 2010, a student accused a fellow student of spiking his drink with something that made him drop an iPhone and drop his pants. That incident resulted in significant police investigation but no formal charges filed.
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Gov. Ralph Northam, D, called on Northam, who then was lieutenant governor, to address the allegations against Northam after pictures of what appeared to be a blackface party dress turned up on the governor’s Facebook page on Wednesday.