Loudoun Co. schools expect ‘significant’ changes after special grand jury report

The school board in Loudoun County, Virginia, expects to make “significant policy changes” in the aftermath of a special grand jury report that criticized its handling of two sexual assaults by the same student in 2021, Chair Ian Serotkin said.

The county also plans to hire a firm to lead its search for a new superintendent this month, with the goal of hiring a candidate by the end of the current school year, Serotkin told WTOP in an interview.

The board fired Scott Ziegler in December, a day after a special grand jury report criticized the county’s response to two in-school sexual assaults by the same student in 2021. Daniel Smith, the school system’s chief of staff, was appointed interim superintendent days later.

Serotkin, who became the board’s chair for 2023 during a meeting earlier this week, said the school system is also taking steps to address recommendations from the grand jury report.

The report recommended providing as much information as possible to the community during major events, and tightening policies on which social media apps can be used on Chromebooks and other student devices, among other things.

Board members considered some of those changes during a work session this week, Serotkin said, adding that the county has initiated reviews for over 10 policies that align with some of the grand jury report’s recommendations.

“They’ll go through a committee, they’ll go through a public review process, because input from the public and from our advisory committees is very important, even though we’re trying to move quickly,” Serotkin said. “I would expect to see significant policy changes based on those recommendations, as well as potentially other actions as well that aren’t policy-based.”

The policy review marks the latest fallout from the special grand jury, which Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares impaneled. During his campaign, Gov. Glenn Youngkin vowed to investigate the school system for its handling of the situation.

The special grand jury charged Ziegler 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. Spokesman Wayde Byard was indicted on a count of felony perjury.

Despite the national focus on the school system, Serotkin, who served as vice chair on the board last year, said county leaders remain focused on creating positive experiences for students.

Serotkin pointed to a series unprecedented circumstances, including COVID-19, “and our students being out of school, navigating a global pandemic, attacks on public education, public education being the focus of national politics in a way that it had never been before,” he said.

One recent achievement, he said, is the board’s decision to make a change to the budget, so that the first few Advanced Placement exams students take were free as of fall 2021. The county also increased bus driver salaries to alleviate shortage issues, Serotkin said.

“I always just try and keep what’s in the best interests of our students in mind and just get positive things done for our students,” Serotkin said.

And, he said, “What I try and remember is that most of the things that people come and complain about or have become in the zeitgeist of national politics are not things that we have on our agenda or our policies in LCPS.”

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and Rick Massimo contributed to this report.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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