LCPS Denies FOIA Request, Won’t Answer Questions

EdNews Virginia | June 14, 2023

Following a judge’s May 30 determination that a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) internal review of sexual assault incidents did not amount to privileged attorney-client information, the embattled district finally shared the documentation with Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.

A June 7 statement from the Loudoun County School Board (LCSB) noted that a majority of board members disagreed with the judge’s ruling, but they would “not contest this matter further.” The board’s statement claimed that only “individuals involved in the case and their lawyers in the matters of Commonwealth of Virginia v. Scott Ziegler, CR-37536, CR-37874, and CR-37875” would be able to view the document.

Given the judge’s ruling and the school board’s actions, it remains unclear why the document should remain hidden from the broader public. As attorney Curtis Schube has written, “If a document or communication is shared with a third-party, the communication is no longer exclusively between the attorney and client and the document is no longer privileged.”

Even Zeigler, the district’s former superintendent, has called for the document’s release. “I am perplexed why the LCSB voted on multiple occasions to keep the report secret. As I have maintained, releasing the report was never my decision,” he said in a recent statement. “I look forward to the full release of the report in a way that maintains the confidentiality and dignity of the students involved and brings much needed transparency to our community.”

Shortly after the school board’s June 7 statement was issued, LCPS denied a FOIA request from local news outlet WTOP, on the grounds that it would violate attorney-client privilege and disclose the records of district students and staff. On June 12, EdNews Virginia sent the following email to LCPS:

We have previously requested a copy of the district’s (taxpayer-funded) report on sex assaults — our request was denied.

We understand a recent FOIA request from WTOP to receive the district’s report on sex assaults was denied on the following grounds: (1) the report contained the personal information of district students and/or personnel; and (2) it fell under the category of attorney-client privilege.

We are now requesting an appropriately redacted version of the report. Considering how the report was handed over to prosecutors, there does not seem to be any valid basis on which to invoke attorney-client privilege.

In the event you cannot or will not share even a redacted version of the report, could you please explain why? And if the district continues to invoke attorney-client privilege, can you explain how to reconcile that with the fact the report was already shared with prosecutors?

LCPS refused to share even a redacted version of the report; a district spokesman further declined to answer EdReform Virginia’s questions, instead referring us to the school board’s June 7 statement.