David Lias

David Lias

Vermillion School Board President Doug Peterson made a sound observation at the beginning of Monday’s meeting. He expressed his thanks to the hundreds of people present for the peaceful atmosphere at recent school board meetings.

The gatherings that have been held between the public and the board to discuss the school district’s new Gender Equity And Access policy, which was modified and approved by the board Monday night after a lengthy meeting, have been pretty quiet when compared to some of the news clips you see on television now and then that show discussions of other school board meetings on topics ranging from mask policies to curriculum become chaotic.

One thing that has been bothersome during some of Vermillion’s meetings held this fall, however, has been the use of false information about a rape case that took place in Loudoun County, Virginia.

This case has been politicized to attack transgender students and anyone who favors a policy like the one our board just approved.

The Virginia case was brought up at Monday’s meeting in Vermillion during the public input portion of the gathering, spoken as if it were gospel truth. It’s also not the first time it has been mentioned at recent school board meetings as the board has involved the public in crafting the district’s Gender Equity and Access policy.

There are a few twists and turns to the alleged rape story, so hang on.

The first assault allegedly took place in a restroom at Stone Bridge High School in Loudoun County on May 28. At the time, the school board was working on a policy that would allow transgender students to use the restroom facilities corresponding with their gender identities.

The two key words to remember at this point are “working on.” At the time of the assault, there was no restroom policy in place at the Virginia school.

After the May incident, according to news reports, the young man who committed the assault was transferred to Broad Run High School. On Oct. 7, he allegedly assaulted a second student at that school.

By this time, the Virginia school district had a policy similar to the one approved by the Vermillion School District in place.

This second assault, however, took place in a classroom, not a restroom.

To summarize: a young male student assaulted a female student in a restroom at Stone Bridge High School in Loudoun County, Virginia on May 28 before a transgender restroom policy was put into place. That same male student assaulted a second female in a classroom on Oct. 7 at Broad Run High School. A restroom policy was in place at that time, but the assault took place in a classroom, not a restroom.

But wait. There’s more.

On June 22, a middle-aged plumber named Scott Smith was dragged, lip bleeding and hands cuffed behind his back, from a raucous school board meeting in Loudoun County. According to the local newspaper “Loudoun Now,” he’d been swearing loudly at another parent and leaning toward her with a clenched fist when the police tackled him and pulled him outside.

He’d eventually be convicted of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and given a suspended 10-day jail sentence.

Smith’s image quickly went viral as a symbol of the sort of school board strife breaking out all over America – the type of conflict that Peterson is so thankful has never occurred at a Vermillion School Board meeting.

Smith revealed why he’d been so distraught. In an interview with The Daily Wire, a website co-founded by conservative Ben Shapiro, Smith said that his ninth-grade daughter had been sexually assaulted in a school bathroom by a boy wearing a skirt.

Smith was opposed to a proposed policy allowing trans kids to use bathrooms aligned with their gender identities, believing it made girls like his daughter vulnerable.

“The point is kids are using it as an advantage to get into the bathrooms,” he told the reporter, Luke Rosiak.

By the time Smith spoke to Rosiak, the story had become even uglier. In July, the boy was arrested in the attack on Smith’s daughter and charged with two counts of forcible sodomy. But pending a hearing, he was allowed to enroll at Broad Run High School while wearing an ankle monitor. In early October he was arrested again, this time for allegedly forcing a girl into an empty classroom and touching her inappropriately.

In late October, during a juvenile court hearing, a fuller picture of Smith’s daughter’s ordeal emerged. She suffered something atrocious. It had nothing at all to do, however, with trans bathroom policies. Instead, like many women and girls, she was a victim of relationship violence.

Smith’s daughter testified that she had previously had two consensual sexual encounters with her attacker in the school bathroom. On the day of her assault, they had agreed to meet up again.

“The evidence was that the girl chose that bathroom, but her intent was to talk to him, not to engage in sexual relations,” Biberaj, whose office prosecuted the case, told the New York Times. The boy, however, expected sex and refused to accept the girl’s refusal. As The Washington Post reported, she testified, “He flipped me over. I was on the ground and couldn’t move and he sexually assaulted me.”

The boy was indeed wearing a skirt, but that skirt didn’t authorize him to use the girls’ bathroom. As Amanda Terkel reported in HuffPost, the school district’s trans-inclusive bathroom policies were approved only in August, more than two months after the assault. This was not, said Biberaj, someone “identifying as transgender and going into the girls’ bathroom under the guise of that.”

In late October, the boy received the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict. The case dealing with the second attack he is accused of will be decided in November.

Research repeatedly shows that trans-inclusive bathroom policies have no link to sexual assault. It's trans people who are at higher risk of being assaulted if denied access to the facilities that match their gender identity.

So, the story is not, in any way, evidence that gender-inclusive bathrooms are a threat to women and girls. What happened can best be described as acquaintance rape.

Vermillion School Board member Carol Voss-Ward told the audience at Monday’s meeting the facts of this case after it was brought up by one of the citizens giving public input as a sign that the Gender Equity And Access policy would make restrooms in the community’s schools more dangerous.

The Loudoun case likely will continue to be brought up by people opposing the new policy here in Vermillion. We urge people who value the truth to kindly present the facts to anyone who may be misled.

The falsehoods being circulated in our community are hurting innocent people -- specifically trans people whose safety depends on having access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

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