Virginia schools continue to face issues with sexual assault cover-ups and denials. In Prince William County, one father brought up the issue after his daughter was assaulted, but the school board was silent.
Jeff Darr stood up at a school board meeting on Wednesday and informed the members that his 13-year-old daughter had been assaulted.
“I was wondering if you all could explain to me how the policies and procedures are for the administrators to handle that situation,” Darr said in the school board meeting.
He was met with silence from the board members.
“Does anybody have any answers?” Darr asked again.
Babur Lateef, chairman at-large of the school board, finally answered by telling him that “we typically don’t go and have a back-and-forth here” and that he should address the board via email or make an appointment.
Darr said he didn’t understand.
“So where do you find the rules and regulations at?” he said, again asking where administrators could find the correct procedures for handling sexual assaults in school.
In response, he was told to step aside and someone would address his questions. Meanwhile, a security officer approached him and appeared to put his arm on Darr’s back.
But the father said he wanted to make this public so that everyone could be informed and that was why he showed up for the school board meeting.
“So, we won’t be answering you, but you can certainly keep asking,” Lateef said.
Darr asked again for the definition of sexual assault.
“I want to know the school’s definition of sexual assault, because my daughter was told … that if it’s above the clothes, it’s not sexual assault,” Darr said, as he got choked up.
“And that’s the way the county does the kids here? It’s messed up,” he said.
“That’s my daughter, and no one wants to do nothing about it. Suspend a boy for one day for improper touching, and I don’t think that’s right,” Darr said. “So somebody needs to do something. Somebody needs to look into the matter and do something.”
He added, “I’m pretty sure if it’s happened to her, it’s happened to plenty of children here. It’s ridiculous.”
WTTG -TV followed up by reaching out to the Prince William County Police Department, which said it was aware of a sexual assault that happened in November during a Hylton High School field trip.
The department said that a “thorough police investigation was conducted into the accusation.”
Diana Gulotta, the director of communications for Prince William County Schools, released a statement Friday, according to WTTG.
“PWCS takes any act of sexual assault or violence seriously and such acts will not be tolerated,” she said. “PWCS has specific procedures and highly trained personnel to assist students and parents in resolving claims that involve certain forms of unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature as required by Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
“School administration learned of this incident on the day it is alleged to have occurred and notified law enforcement. The PWCS Title IX office has taken action to investigate the allegations and to offer supportive measures consistent with legal requirements.
Do you think the school board’s response was appropriate?
“That process is still ongoing. For student privacy reasons, we cannot share information about the alleged incident, the investigation, or any findings, discipline or other actions that may result. PWCS administrators are working with the family of the complainant to respond to their concerns.”
Throughout the past several months, other sexual assaults in Virginia schools have come to light. Loudoun County schools were widely criticized over the gross mishandling of assaults perpetrated by a 15-year-old student.
Darr’s public questioning of the school board was very reasonable, but he was brushed aside. This should be causing serious concern for all parents with children in Prince William County schools.
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