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Fired Loudoun County Schools head indicted after grand jury finds district mishandled sexual assaults

A woman sits with her sign during a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, on October 12, 2021.
A woman sits with her sign during a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting in Ashburn, Virginia, on October 12, 2021. | ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

A special grand jury indicted Loudoun County Public Schools' ousted superintendent and its public information officer following an investigation into whether the district lied to parents about a sexual assault to quell controversies amid its quest to enact a transgender bathroom policy. 

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced Monday that a Loudoun County judge ordered the unsealing of four indictments issued by the special grand jury against former Superintendent Scott Ziegler. The jury also indicted the school system's public information officer Wayde Byard. 

Ziegler is facing "one count of misdemeanor false publication," "one count of misdemeanor prohibited conduct" and "one count of misdemeanor penalizing an employee for a court appearance." Byard was indicted on one count of felony perjury. 

"The Office of the Attorney General will be prosecuting these cases and has no further comment on this matter," the statement reads. 

In response to an inquiry from The Christian Post, Loudoun County Public Schools directed the outlet to its Monday statement, saying it placed Byard on leave without pay following the indictment. Ziegler was fired last week

"While LCPS will await any additional updates from the Special Grand Jury, LCPS plans to address the recommendations of the Special Grand Jury in the School Board's December 13, 2022 work session," the school district's statement reads. 

"The Board will consider policy-related and process improvements to implement to further ensure the safety and care of all LCPS staff and students and restore trust within our community."

As The Christian Post reported, the Loudoun County school board voted last week to fire Ziegler shortly after a grand jury released a report accusing the district leaders of "looking out for their own best interests" in response to sexual assaults committed by the same student. 

The unanimous decision to fire Ziegler came during a closed session. The former superintendent will still be paid his $323,000 salary and receive compensation because he was technically fired without cause. 

The first sexual assault occurred on May 28, 2021, at Stone Bridge High School, where the male assailant, who reportedly wore a skirt, assaulted a girl inside a girls' restroom stall. The student was later transferred to another high school in the district, Broad Run High School, committing another sexual assault on Oct. 6. 

According to the grand jury, the incident on Oct. 6, 2021, could have been prevented, but LCPS's "lack of curiosity and adherence to operating in silos" allowed the assault to occur.

The grand jury's report attributed the lack of action leading up to the second sexual assault to "a culture of fear" within the district where "anybody speaking up or daring to step out of place faces some sort of reprimand."

During a June 2021 school board meeting, parents expressed concern about Policy 8040, a since-enacted proposal to allow trans-identified students to use bathrooms that correspond with their preferred gender identity. When asked during the meeting, Ziegler informed parents that "we don't have any records of assaults occurring in our restrooms." 

However, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman asserted in a Nov. 10 letter to the superintendent that Ziegler had prior knowledge of the assaults before the meeting. 

"[D]espite a public statement at a School Board meeting on June 22, 2021, denying any knowledge of sexual assaults in any LCPS bathrooms, you sent an email on May 28, 2021, to members of the School Board advising them of the incident — thus invalidating your public statement," Chapman wrote. 

The grand jury agreed with Chapman in its report, calling Ziegler's claims during the June meeting a "bald-faced lie." The report also called out the school board and district's "lack of cooperation" throughout the grand jury's investigation. 

In a statement to CP last week regarding the grand jury's report, Loudoun County Public Schools prematurely commented that the district is "pleased" the report found "no evidence of criminal conduct on the part of anyone within LCPS." The district also condemned Attorney General Miyares, a Republican who took office this year, accusing him of pursuing the investigation for "political gain."

The spokesperson for the district did disclose that the report's criticisms against LCPS employees are "quite serious," and the next school board meeting would involve a reflection on the report's recommendations and "take action as determined by the full Board."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: samantha.kamman@christianpost.com. Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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