Loudoun County School Board Votes Not to Release Blankingship & Keith Report


During its February 14 meeting, the Loudoun County School Board (LCSB) voted not to waive any applicable privileges regarding the Blankingship & Keith Report. School Board member John Beatty made a motion and Tiffany Polifko seconded the motion to publicly release the report. Discussion provided the opportunity for members to share why or why not the report should be released, with a shared interest in acting in the best interests of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) students. The motion to release the report failed with a vote of 3-6, with Beatty, Polifko and Corbo in favor and Mahedavi, Morse, Ogedegbe, Reaser, Serotkin and Sheridan opposed.

 

The report is the result of an independent investigation requested by the school division following incidents of sexual assault in LCPS during the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

 

In January 2022, the School Board withheld the report from disclosure and, following the issuance of the Special Grand Jury Report, the board hired the law firm of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders, LLP to review the report and advise the board regarding the potential public release of the report. 

 

The School Board cited a number of reasons why the report should not be released publicly. First, the report was commissioned in anticipation of litigation involving LCPS and the School Board and contains attorney work product and attorney-client privileged communications that are central to those matters. 

 

“Under the best of circumstances, waiving attorney-client privilege is fraught with pitfalls, which is why it is done exceedingly rarely. Being open and transparent is important, but so is the right of our students and staff to be able to communicate with legal counsel without it being made public – that is such an important principle that it’s one of the cornerstones of the American legal system,” stated LCSB Chair Ian Serotkin. “Releasing the report would cause a subject matter waiver of every communication anyone in LCPS had with legal counsel broadly related to these incidents over the past year and a half. If I could disentangle the release of the report from that, I would. But we cannot.” 

 

Additionally, the report contains personally identifiable information regarding students. While this information has been reported publicly, much of that information is nonetheless protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is the federal law that protects the privacy of students and their educational records.

 

School Board member Erika Ogedegbe shared that she felt conflicted about releasing the report, but believed after a review that a heavily redacted or summary report would draw more concerns about transparency from the general public. She cited the additional concern of prolonging the trauma of victims associated with the report.

 

Acting Superintendent Daniel Smith stated that “While the School Board has voted not to release the Blankingship & Keith Report, LCPS will remain focused on continuing to make improvements wherever we can and working toward our goal of empowering each student to maximize their potential and make meaningful contributions to the world.”

 

Published February 15, 2023