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'It's happening in the bathrooms': Widespread misconduct reported at AHS

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Judy Le at meeting

Albemarle County Public School Board member Judy Le introduces herself at a meeting with parents on Tuesday.

Parents are raising the alarm about what they say is rampant misconduct at Albemarle High School, including sexual assault.

Albemarle County Public Schools said it is investigating at least one incident, which it declined to identify as sexual assault and said involved the school’s junior varsity football team in October, but parents at a public meeting on Tuesday evening with school board member Judy Le said that is not enough. They told Le they want school resource officers on campus, more surveillance and a review of the school division’s policies regarding sexual assault.

“I really, truly believe there are more serious things going on in our schools than we’re understanding,” one parent, who asked not to be named, told Le at Tuesday’s meeting.

Cristy Cambio, another parent who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, told The Daily Progress that she knew of two incidents of sexual assault occurring within the past six months at the school: one involving the junior varsity football team and another separate and unrelated incident.

Le declined to comment to The Daily Progress on either.

There have been wide reports of fights, truancy, vaping and sexual misconduct on campus at Albemarle High School this school year.

A Crozet Gazette story published on Oct. 7 said “brawls” occur at the high school on a weekly basis, teachers are struggling to discipline students and some personnel have already left.

Also in October, the county school division canceled a junior varsity football game and opened an investigation into what the division would only describe as “an incident.”

“An incident occurred involving a few members of our junior varsity football team in the locker room. We still are learning all of the details and we engaged the services of the police department to assist us with our investigation,” the school division said in an email to parents at the time. “Based upon our initial findings, we have instituted disciplinary measures in some instances.”

That investigation remains open, according to school division spokesman Phil Giaramita.

Giaramita told The Daily Progress that the Crozet Gazette story was “written mostly on hearsay” and “a lot of what was alleged in the article was not true.”

“Pick any year and there are going to be a number of disputes or disagreements among students,” Giaramita said. “Those kinds of things over the course of the school year happen probably in most high schools.”

But parents at Tuesday’s meeting suggested there are more of “those kinds of things” happening than the school division even knows about.

“Are things really getting reported, are they actually being addressed?” one parent asked.

Other parents suggested incidents are occurring in corners of the school without surveillance, where teachers, faculty and staff cannot report or address them.

“Newsflash: It’s happening in the bathrooms,” Cambio said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Cambio was one of the parents who suggested the division hire school resource officers to patrol the school.

The Albemarle County School Board voted to remove school resource officers in all schools in 2020.

Instead, schools have “student safety coaches,” which Giaramita said check in with students periodically to make sure they feel safe. The division has also added social and emotional counselors, Giaramita said, and students can report bullying anonymously via an online system called Anonymous Alerts.

Parents Tuesday said that isn’t enough.

“We need to not be left in the dark,” Cambio said.

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