The political peril inflicted by Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe’s education stances deepened this week when a father accused the Loudoun County School Board of covering up the rape of his teenage daughter in a high school bathroom.
The episode in Loudoun County, Virginia, hit on hot-button positions Mr. McAuliffe has taken in backing permissive transgender policies and questioning parental rights in school decisions.
Mr. McAuliffe was lying low Wednesday and ducked questions from The Washington Times as the rape story exploded on the Virginia political scene.
Republicans seeking to push the party’s gubernatorial nominee, businessman Glenn Youngkin, over the finish line in the Nov. 2 election seized on the rape story to hammer Mr. McAuliffe and the state’s Democratic leaders.
“The Loudoun County cover-up is another indicator that Democrats and school administrators are absolutely out of touch with issues of importance to parents, students and families. It will most certainly have a deep impact on the gubernatorial and other elections,” Rich Anderson, chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, said in an interview.
Indeed, the episode added fuel to Virginia conservatives’ worries about culture wars inside schools and COVID-19 mandates for students.
Mr. McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor running for a second nonconsecutive term, was already under fire from parental rights advocates for seemingly siding with school officials and against parents when the two collide.
“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions,” Mr. McAuliffe said in the last debate against Mr. Youngkin when pressed about a mother’s attempt to remove pornography from a school library. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
The former governor was trying to walk back that remark before the bathroom rape emerged this week.
The shocking account of the sexual assault of the ninth-grade girl was first reported by The Daily Wire. The report included accusations that school board officials tried to squelch the story because it threatened to undercut support for a new policy to treat transgender students according to their chosen sex.
Scott Smith, the girl’s father, reacted angrily at a June 22 school board meeting when board members claimed to have no records of any assaults in school bathrooms. Law enforcement officials physically dragged Mr. Smith out of the room before he made any public statements to the board.
The National School Boards Association and its supporters circulated a video of Mr. Smith’s raucous arrest to show that parents speaking out against public school curriculum are dangerous and “domestic terrorists.”
The boy accused of assaulting Mr. Smith’s daughter was later charged with sexually assaulting another girl at a different school in the county, the father later told Fox News Channel.
The Washington Times could not independently verify his claims.
Loudoun County Public Schools spokesman Wayde Byard said the school followed federal law in dealing with the situation.
“LCPS is prohibited from disciplining any student without following the Title IX grievance process, which includes investigating complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. LCPS does impose interim measures to protect the safety of students involved in the original incident, deter retaliation, and preserve the integrity of the investigation and resolution process. LCPS has complied and continues to comply with its obligations under Title IX,” he said.
Mr. Byard said School Board members are typically not given details of disciplinary matters. “Consequently, members of the Loudoun County School Board were not aware of the specific details of this incident until it was reported in media outlets earlier this week. We are unable to locate any records that indicate that Scott Smith had registered in advance to speak at the June 22, 2021, board meeting,” he said.
The accusation that the rapist was a boy wearing a skirt in the girl’s bathroom also threatens to rekindle Virginia’s fight over transgender school bathrooms. Mr. McAuliffe has sided firmly on the side of school boards to have the last word on the issue.
“I’ve always felt that school boards have the pulse of the local community. They should be making their decisions,” the Democrat said last month at the final debate. “I hate all of this divisiveness that is going on today. I hate to see our children being demonized today. I just really dislike it.”
Mr. McAuliffe also vowed as governor in 2017 to veto any legislation similar to North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.”
A Republican state legislator at the time submitted a bill mandating that people use the restroom, locker room or changing room that aligns with their biological gender.
“Stay away from the socially divisive issues,” Mr. McAuliffe told legislators. “We are not going to put a wall up around Virginia.”
An Emerson College poll released this month showed that voters believe parents should have more influence in deciding a school’s curriculum by a 51.5% to 32.5 % margin. The rest of the respondents were on the fence. A YouGov poll released this week found that 62% of registered voters said Virginia’s school curriculum on race in history was a significant factor in how they vote, including 73% of Republicans, 61% of independents and 52% of Democrats.