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Records of transgender students could have been disclosed amid unrelated investigation

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares speaks to the crowd during an inaugural celebration in Richmond.
Steve Helber/AP
/
AP
The office of Attorney General Jason Miyares is investigating how Loudoun County Public Schools handled the reporting of 2021 two assaults. (File photo: Steve Helber/The Associated Press)

On Monday, a Loudoun County judge ruled that a grand jury investigation into the public school district’s handling of two sexual assaults can move forward.

While the gender identity of the accused student is unclear, the assaults have been swept up into the political debate about transgender student bathroom policies. On the day he was inaugurated, Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued an executive order requesting a special investigation into the incidents in Loudoun.

But as part of that investigation, the attorney general’s office subpoenaed an unrelated transgender student’s records, according to Cris Candice Tuck, executive director of Equality Loudoun. 

Tuck said the family isn’t speaking publicly about the subpoena at the request of their child and added that Equality Loudoun hasn’t been contacted by any other families in a similar situation. 

“This young person had nothing to do with the case, knew no one involved [in the assaults],” Tuck said, who added that the issue of gender identity has been conflated with the issue of students' assaults. 

“And so, for a local parent who simply is out there worried about whether or not their high schooler is going to make it to the next grade, what they're going to wear to prom, to get this out of the blue … this is absolutely terrifying.”

VPM News obtained a copy of a letter sent in May by a school district attorney to the parents notifying them of the subpoena. The letter states that the grand jury’s search “resulted in several unrelated student records which include records of your child” potentially being disclosed. 

Tuck said the subpoena for this specific student’s records was dropped — and attributed that to public backlash after Equality Loudoun became involved in the case. 

“There were hundreds of thousands of responses from across the Commonwealth … saying this is absolutely unfair, this is a child who has nothing to do with this investigation, you're clearly targeting people based on their gender identity,” Tuck said. “All of a sudden, it became, well we're not actually after your student’s records. This was all a big misunderstanding.”

Tuck, who has been in touch with the family that received the letter, said their attorney informed them their child’s records had been caught up in a probe for records related to the search term “transgender policy.” 

“And so, they were intentionally targeting records and targeting information that had to do with that term,” Tuck said. 

VPM News has submitted a public records request to Loudoun County Public Schools and the attorney general’s office, seeking a list of the grand jury’s search terms. 

The school district’s attorney did not respond to questions sent from VPM News by deadline Tuesday, and a school district spokesperson cited student privacy laws that prohibited them from confirming how many students’ records had been subpoenaed as part of the investigation. 

Victoria LaCivita, communications director for Attorney General Jason Miyares, told VPM News via email that “it is incorrect to assume that any records are unrelated” to the grand jury probe.

LaCivita said she was unable to answer other questions due to the “highly confidential” nature of the investigation.

She also denied the claim that the office specifically targeted the records of transgender students, writing in an email statement to VPM News that "these uninformed allegations regarding the confidential proceedings of the special grand jury are unequivocally false.”

Megan Pauly covers education and health care issues in the greater Richmond region.