Outspoken groups on both the left and the right were in agreement that Loudoun County’s school system needed to move on from Superintendent Scott Ziegler, following the release of a report on a special grand jury investigation into the school system’s handling of two sexual assaults by the same student last year.
“It’s disappointing that it took this long,” said Ian Prior, the executive director of the group Fight For Schools. “It really shouldn’t have taken a year, but it is a good first step.”
Amanda Bean, from the group Loudoun For All, shared a similar viewpoint.
“We think it really needed to be done,” said Bean, who called it an important step toward accountability. “I think it was pretty clear that Dr. Ziegler did need to be fired.”
But while the two both agree more needs to be done, they differ on exactly what.
Prior pointed out others mentioned in the report — “the deputy superintendent, the director of operations, the lawyer for Loudoun County Public Schools, the chief of safety and security.” He argued, “The Loudoun County School Board needs to take a hard look at that report and really make sweeping changes and bring in real leadership that can repair the damage that’s been done over the past two years.”
Loudoun County school board plans to appoint an interim superintendent during an emergency meeting Thursday. According to the board’s agenda, members will decide if Dr. Daniel Smith — the district’s chief of staff since April — will temporarily lead the school system.
Prior said he hopes that the board would start providing more oversight of the school system going forward.
“For far too long it’s been backwards,” Prior said. “It’s been the superintendent that runs the show and the school board is really just a rubber stamp. That needs to change. The school board needs to act as the people’s representatives, and hold this administration and any future administrations accountable.”
Bean said that beyond the school system, Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman deserves blame for the role his office played in the investigation after the first sexual assault.
“There were some very serious failings. The sheriff’s office did not want to pursue a case against the assailant in the original attack,” said Bean. “He didn’t really pursue charges until there was public outcry at a school board meeting.”
The report says the grand jury heard testimony that the sheriff’s office “did not see fit” to charge the assailant after the first assault and told school officials the case was “shaky.” After the June 22, 2021, school board meeting, which made national headlines when the father of the victim was arrested, the report said, “the calculus changed.”
Chapman’s office denied that, calling the allegation “absolutely not correct.” In a statement to WTOP, the office said it “immediately and thoroughly” investigated both sexual assault cases, adding that detectives “promptly conducted interviews and filed search warrants for DNA, social media, and school surveillance footage.”
“There was no delay in the investigation,” the statement read.
The sheriff’s office added that it followed all confidentiality laws required for juvenile cases, while communicating with all the entities involved in the case, including the Juvenile Court Services Unit, the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Office, and the Loudoun County Public Schools.
“From the onset of this investigation, we dedicated significant resources and I’m proud of the work accomplished by the many LCSO members who assisted with this investigation,” the statement said. “I am pleased that my recommendation for a Virginia Attorney General’s Office review of the incident was performed.”