2 indicted, including former superintendent, in Loudoun Co. schools probe

WTOP's Neal Augenstein on Skype with Dimitri Sotis to talk about the basis of the charges against recently fired superintendent Scott Ziegler and spokesman Wayde Byard.

The former superintendent and spokesman for the school system in Loudoun County, Virginia, have been indicted by a special grand jury.

Former superintendent Scott Ziegler has been charged with one count of misdemeanor false publication, one count of misdemeanor prohibited conduct and one count of misdemeanor penalizing an employee for a court appearance, the office of Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a statement Monday; spokesman Wayde Byard has been indicted on one count of felony perjury.

Ziegler was fired last week, after the special grand jury issued a report about the school system’s handling of two sexual assaults by the same student in 2021.

The school system said in a statement that Byard was placed on leave Monday afternoon.

The indictments were ordered unsealed Monday by a judge, Miyares’ office said; the indictments themselves date from months ago.

The first indictment against Ziegler charges that he “did knowingly and willfully state, deliver or transmit by any means whatever to any publisher, or employee of a publisher, of any newspaper, magazine, or other publication or to any owner, or employee of an owner, of any radio station, television station, news service or cable service, any false and untrue statement, knowing the same to be false or untrue, concerning any person or corporation, with intent that the same shall be published, broadcast or otherwise disseminated.”

It says he made the statement June 22, 2021. That’s the day of the Loudoun County School Board meeting that a raucous discussion of the sexual assaults made nationwide headlines. The special grand jury report said a witness testified that Ziegler told “a bald-faced lie” when he said at the meeting “to my knowledge we don’t have any record of assaults happening in our bathrooms” a month after such an assault had just happened.

Ziegler said shortly after the meeting that his remarks applied specifically to accusations of assaults by people who were in those bathrooms thanks to the school system’s transgender policy.

The second and third indictments against Ziegler date from Sept. 28 of this year, and charge that Ziegler retaliated against Erin Brooks “for expressing views on matters of public concern” and for making a court appearance.

Brooks was one of two special education teachers who sued the school board in June. Brooks claimed she was retaliated against when her contract wasn’t renewed after she complained that a student had repeatedly sexually assaulted her.

The school system said the student was a nonverbal elementary school student with significant intellectual disabilities, whose actions were being mischaracterized; the school system’s statement said the teachers improperly shared students’ records, an accusation Brooks and the other teacher denied.

Byard is accused of lying under oath Aug. 2.

Miyares’ spokeswoman, Victoria LaCivita, told WTOP the special grand jury has not been discharged yet.

Ziegler and Byard are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday, Ziegler called the grand jury process “Attorney General-controlled, secret, and one-sided,” called the accusations “false and irresponsible” and a product of “partisan forces” in Loudoun County “which have divided our community.” He added that he “will vigorously defend myself.”

The assaults

The grand jury was commissioned by Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares after he and Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office at the start of the year. Both criticized the school system during their election campaigns.

After the first assault occurred in a girls’ bathroom stall at Stone Bridge in May 2021, the student was charged in juvenile court and barred by court order from returning to Stone Bridge, according to the grand jury report.

Administrators then transferred him to nearby Broad Run High School, where the second assault occurred in October 2021. He was convicted in juvenile court of both assaults.

The report says teachers at both schools warned administrators of the student’s disturbing conduct weeks before each assault occurred. Even the student’s grandmother spoke up and warned the student’s probation officer, referring to her grandchild as a “sociopath,” according to the report.

Parents’ reaction

The parents of the sexual assault victim at Broad Run High School expressed their frustration on how much they’ve had to deal with the traumatic situation.

“One thing we feel is important to note is that over the last 14 months since our daughter was assaulted, not one member of the school board, LCPS administration, or even our local high school leadership has reached out to check on how she is doing, lend any type of support or even apologize for what we are going through as a family. That alone speaks volumes to what we have endured throughout this ordeal,” they said in a statement.

“Parents need to feel that they can send their kids to a safe learning environment. This County has great residents and we need our elected and public servants to represent and show that greatness as well.”

Patrick M. Regan, who represents the victim, issued a statement on the grand jury report.

“My client is a minor and a victim of sexual assault,” Regan said. “The victim’s family and
I have vowed to work tirelessly toward getting justice for their daughter.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and Jack Moore, and The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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