Judge rules school board can see assault video

The Shenandoah Valley-Herald

WOODSTOCK — A circuit court judge has ordered the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office to allow the county school board to view a video of alleged sexual assaults involving members of the Strasburg High School boys’ basketball teams.

Judge Thomas J. Wilson issued the order on April 29. Counsel for the two bodies met in Woodstock’s historic courthouse on April 27 to debate whether the School Board should be able to view the video during disciplinary hearings for the students allegedly involved.

School Board Chairwoman Karen Whetzel and Vice Chairman Richard Koontz released a statement Monday expressing the board’s satisfaction with the ruling.

“We will continue to grow and heal from the unfortunate experience of the past months, and are committed to doing our part in helping our school community move forward,” the statement read.

The 75-minute video allegedly depicts boys’ basketball players assaulting four of their teammates on a school bus during a return trip from a Dec. 19 game in Moorefield, W.Va.

Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley called the contents of the video “appalling” and “violent.” During one assault, Raley testified, a player removed a victim’s pants while another “jabbed” the victim’s genitals with his hand.

A report from Linda Hodges, the division’s Title IX investigator, said anal penetration was also performed, but SHS Prinicpal Morgan Saeler said that wasn’t clear in the video.

Seven players were charged with assault and battery by a mob in juvenile and domestic relations court in January. Six of them have been suspended from school since then but are taking online classes.

Lindsay Brubaker of Harrisonburg, one of the School Board’s attorneys, argued the tape is school division property since the division owns the county’s school buses.

Harwell “Sam” Darby, Jr. an attorney for the sheriff’s office, said the tape is evidence in a criminal investigation and must therefore be kept sequestered.

Sheriff Tim Carter said Investigator Kolter Stroop will be present when the board views the tape, whenever that may be.

“I’ve reached out to Dr. Raley,” Carter said. “We’re set to meet this week and make coordinations for the disciplinary hearings. We’re available whenever they need it.”

Raley testified April 27 that he, Saeler and Hodges were allowed to see the tape multiple times, but that access was cut off when the division’s investigation ended in mid-March.

Saeler reported the alleged crime to Strasburg police, the sheriff’s office and the school division on Jan. 12. The report led the division to cancel the school’s varsity and JV basketball seasons.

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