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Loudoun fires superintendent after grand jury blasts schools’ handling of sex assaults


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The Loudoun County Public Schools board has fired Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler, shortly after the release of a state grand jury report that blasted school leaders for their handling of two sexual assaults by the same student last year — and that called Ziegler a liar.

The board fired Ziegler via unanimous vote shortly after holding a 2½-hour closed-session meeting Tuesday night, according to school video posted online. Loudoun schools spokesman Wayde Byard confirmed the firing in an interview Wednesday morning but declined to characterize the board’s rationale, including whether the termination was a direct response to the grand jury report.

News of Ziegler’s firing was first reported by ABC7 News. The former superintendent could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ziegler and school officials have faced intense criticism for their response to the sexual assaults, which took place in May and October of last year. In particular, officials have been blasted for their decision to transfer the student assailant from one high school, where he assaulted a student in a girls’ bathroom, to another high school, where he assaulted another student in a classroom.

Byard said he did not know whether the board intended to fire any other staffers. He said he also did not know what steps the board would take to respond to the grand jury report. The report is slated for discussion at the board’s next public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday.

“Right now, the only concrete action I know the board has taken is to terminate the superintendent’s contract,” Byard said. Asked about the superintendent’s payout, he said, “I have not seen the package yet.”

Grand jury report condemns Loudoun schools’ handling of sex assaults

The grand jury report concluded that Ziegler was informed about the May assault on the day it happened but that he later lied about his knowledge of the event during a board meeting on June 22, 2021. When asked by a board member that day whether Loudoun had records of “assaults in our bathrooms or in our locker rooms regularly,” Ziegler replied with a falsehood, the report states.

Ziegler said, “To my knowledge we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.” A witness told the grand jury this statement was a “baldfaced lie.”

Ziegler previously said that he misunderstood the question at the school board meeting. He said he believed the board member was asking whether the school had records of sexual assaults committed in bathrooms by transgender or gender-fluid students.

The grand jury concluded in its 91-page report that Loudoun administrators badly mismanaged the sexual assaults because of incompetence and a lack of interest in the events. But the grand jury also found there had been no “coordinated coverup” of the assaults between Loudoun school officials and the school board, as some had alleged. Instead, the school board had been mostly kept in the dark about the assaults, the grand jury found.

Ziegler had served as interim superintendent for about half a year before being named permanently to the position in June 2021. A former special-education and social studies teacher, he began working for the Loudoun school system in 2019, as assistant superintendent for human resources and talent development. He oversaw the district’s transition from online-only learning during the pandemic to four days a week of in-person instruction for about 40 percent of its 80,000 students, receiving praise for his leadership from Board Chair Brenda Sheridan (Sterling).

But Loudoun schools drew unfavorable attention from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who made the district a target during his campaign last year. He ordered the grand jury investigation during his first days in office and, this spring, tried to force all nine members of the school board to seek reelection in November, which would have shortened the term of most of them.

Several Loudoun parents, education activists and county leaders across the political spectrum shared messages late Tuesday supporting Ziegler’s firing. Many had previously called for his removal along with that of other school leaders.

“I fully support the School Board’s decision to fire the Superintendent in light of the recent grand jury report. I hope this is the first in efforts across agencies to review and revise policies, including cross-agency communication,” Loudoun County Supervisor Juli Briskman tweeted Tuesday night.

Ian Prior, a Loudoun parent and founder of the conservative parents-rights group Fight for Schools, tweeted that Ziegler’s firing was not the end. “It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,” he said.

And Loudoun4All, a left-leaning parent group that advocates for social justice and racial equity in the school system, released a statement praising Ziegler’s firing and calling for the firing as well of Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman, who was criticized in the grand jury report as failing to communicate well with the school system about the assaults.

“Loudoun4All believes that while the School Board firing Dr. Ziegler was an important step toward accountability for the failures revealed in the Grand Jury report, it cannot be the only step,” the parent group wrote in its statement. “For his failure to take the initial charges of assault until he was forced to by the public outcry, for his failure to cooperate with LCPS, and for his refusal to provide the charges to LCPS, Loudoun4All feels that Sheriff Chapman also needs to resign.”

Chapman did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday.