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Virginia parents say daughter sexually assaulted by teacher, Title IX office made mistakes

Virginia parents say daughter sexually assaulted by teacher, Title IX office made mistakes (WJLA){p}{/p}
Virginia parents say daughter sexually assaulted by teacher, Title IX office made mistakes (WJLA)

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After 11 months of fighting for accountability, two Virginia parents are breaking their silence after they say their daughter and other female students were allegedly sexually harassed and sexually assaulted by their teacher.

The parents told WJLA they've been going through the Title IX process at Loudoun County Public Schools for almost a year.

They said they even reached out to their school board member, Harris Mahedavi, for help–but the family says their school board member has “done nothing.” The family is hoping to bring attention to the alleged Title IX issues at LCPS.

“The mandate, the driving philosophy seems to be to protect LCPS at all costs. It’s not about focusing on students, focusing on the victims,” Jason Harding said.

In March 2022, Jason and Tumay Harding said they received a text message from their daughter, who at the time was a tenth-grade student at Stone Bridge High School.

I was sitting at the kitchen island, and I received a text from my daughter and she said, 'Mom, you're going to get a call from the vice principal, don't worry.' And I said 'What's going on? You're scaring me.' And she wrote, 'I had it the easiest - the other girls not so much,”' Tumay Harding said.

Tumay Harding said she then received a call from the vice principal at Stone Bridge High School.

“And the vice principal told me, 'Your daughter and two other girls have come to us with allegations against a teacher at the school. But don't worry, I'll get her to the cafeteria for lunch.' And I said, 'Wait, what? What what's happening? What happened? I don't know anything about this,”' she said.

Tumay Harding said she picked up her daughter and her classmates, with their parents' approval, from school and that’s when she learned of the allegations.

He would come up from behind them and rub their backs and then rub their shoulders and touch their waists and move them side to side,” she said. “He started talking to them very inappropriately.”

“Sexually suggestive comments,” Jason Harding added. “Things guys in a locker room might joke around with each other but you would never think of a teacher saying to a student.”

In a school board meeting in Dec. 2022, Loudoun County School Board Chair Ian Serotkin told the public that the LCPS Title IX office was expanded after two other sexual assaults happened at two schools in 2021, including Stone Bridge High School, which led to the attorney general’s special grand jury investigation, a scathing report and the firing of the superintendent.

“And one day my daughter and her friend (and) I soon found out that he (the teacher) would allow them to skip their own classes and come to his class anytime without writing a pass because the pass would, of course, have a trail and he made it easy so that they could be best buddies and that they could come and talk to him and complained about things," Tumay Harding said. "So there was the slow grooming process right there."

The Harding family has been going through the so-called improved Title IX office at LCPS for more than a year.

“The operation is run at a minimum in an incompetent fashion without adherence to standard Title IX policy and done in a very haphazard fashion,” Jason Harding said.

"We’ve had to fix their mistakes at least 10 times,” Tumay Harding claims, and her husband said it was "at our own cost bringing on our own lawyer who is an expert in Title IX policy."

The family said LCPS refused to open a Title IX investigation.

“It’s like a corrupt auto insurance company that automatically rejects every claim, and then keeps rejecting, keeps rejecting,” Jason Harding said. “The most frustrating thing for us is we entered this process assuming they would be advocates for our daughter and would explain to us this policy – and knowing Title IX to have a dedicated Title IX team investigator – we are going to get to the truth of this and that’s the exact opposite of what happened.

"We got the runaround in so many different circumstances, were provided incorrect policy that they had to later backtrack around, were presented situations where we were giving evidence and didn't have the ability to review or make any changes with regards to testimony, things of that nature," he continued. "Only to find out that everybody else, including the accused, was able to go and review and tweak and change things.”

WJLA asked LCPS if the teacher is still employed at Stone Bridge High School. LCPS said yes and that the teacher is on leave.

Disgusted, absolutely disgusted,” Jason Harding said. “We know that the Title IX process can get very drawn out. We're coming up on a year since the accusations were made. But from an HR [human resources] perspective, they did a very comprehensive investigation. They know of previous reports of similar conduct and have waited for the Title IX findings to make their final HR determination. So he's been on paid vacation essentially for the past year. His contract obviously was renewed in the fall so they can continue this farce.

"And it's appalling to us that he's still getting paid by the county," he continued. "I don't know if it's the prior superintendent, Ziegler, that was afraid to take action or they're using the cloak of the Title IX investigation to somehow give them some latitude or if they were trying to hide from the headlines because they didn't want to see a teacher fired for this particular reason? But we're mortified and appalled that he's still employed by the county.”

Tumay Harding said it took her nine months to learn from the school system if the teacher was on paid or unpaid leave.

“He is a predator,” she said. “God knows how many girls he’s hurt in the past. Through research of our own – not through Title IX – or anyone else has helped us do. I found out a girl that was also assaulted by this man a year prior to our children’s assault and harassment and Title IX and HR did nothing about it. They walked him out for a week and he came back in. We want his teaching license to be taken away and to never be around children again because we feel he’s a dangerous man."

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“We think the investigation, top to bottom, should be completely reviewed because so many elements of it were done in an improper inconsistent, inequitable fashion,” Jason Harding said of the LCPS Title IX office.

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