A 15-year-old, whose sexual assaults of two girls at two different high schools became a hot-button issue in the recent Virginia governor’s race, has been sentenced to a confined high school and placement on the sex offender registry.
Authorities say the boy sexually assaulted a girl in a bathroom in May and forced another into a classroom and touched her breast. He was convicted earlier this year, and was sentenced on Wednesday to living in a “locked residential programme” for the remainder of his high school years.
The individual must register for Virginia’s sex offender list, and will be on supervised probation until the age of 18, but will avoid jail time.
“You scare me. What I read in those reports scared me and should scare families and scare society,” said Loudoun Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge Pamela Brooks during sentencing, noting this case was the first time she ordered a minor onto the sex offender registry.
The first attack took place at Stone Bridge High School on 28 May 2021, when the individual assaulted a girl in a bathroom stall with whom he had previously had consensual sexual encounters.
Police arrested the boy, then 14, and he was moved to another school and forced to wear an ankle monitor.
Then, on 6 October, the boy assaulted another student at Broad Run High School, where he forced a girl into an empty classroom, put an arm around her neck and a hand over her mouth, and touched her inappropriately.
The case generated a storm of controversy, both locally and beyond.
Students, some of whom chanted “Loudoun County protects rapists” walked out of class in protest of how the district handled sexual assaults. (The county has had an independent review of its sexual assault policies since the incidents took place, but hasn’t shared results with the public, citing confidentiality concerns.)
The case began receiving national attention in conservative circles, after the father of one of the victims claimed the teen aggressor was “gender fluid”, and insinuated a school policy allowing trans people to use the bathroom matching their gender identity was to blame for the attacks.
“For months, we’ve seen chaos seep into our schools, escalating into violence. Violence in our schools that lack security,” the then-GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin, who is now governor, said in a stump speech at the time. “A new instance each week until the unthinkable happened: Virginia — and America — awoke to the news that a young teenage girl had been sexually assaulted in her Loudoun County school and worse, the school administrators covered it up, and Loudoun’s commonwealth attorney targeted the victim’s family.”
Officials, however, made no mention of the boy’s gender, and his lawyers have said he’s not trans or gender fluid. Stone Bridge’s bathroom policy wasn’t in effect at the time of the attacks.
(Linking gender non-conforming people to sexual violence is a common trope in some conservative circles, and isn’t backed up by the factual record; rather, it is trans people themselves who face an epidemic of sexual violence from cisgender people, not the other way around.)
While campaigning on behalf of the Democrat’s unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, former president Barack Obama critised the controversy around gender and bathrooms stemming from the case, which he argued was unfounded.
"We don’t have time to be wasted on these phony trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage, the right-wing media’s pedals to juice their ratings,” he said at the time.
Local officials sounded a similar tune.
“People have taken the narrative and done what they want with it instead of relying on the truth,” Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj said last month.
Scott Smith, the father of one of the victims, who was arrested during a heated confrontation at a school board hearing, says he isn’t prejudiced.
‘I don’t care if he’s homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, transsexual. He’s a sexual predator,’ Mr Smith said of the teen assailant, speaking with The Daily Mail.