Did former Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler retaliate against a public schoolteacher for speaking to a special grand jury, and did he unlawfully discharge her from her position?
That’s the question a jury in Loudoun County, Virginia, had to consider as day two of his trial continued Wednesday.
Ziegler was indicted on two misdemeanor counts for allegedly retaliating against Erin Brooks, a LCPS teacher who testified to an attorney general’s special grand jury investigating the school system’s handling of sexual assault allegations. Ziegler is accused of firing Brooks unlawfully.
Prosecution argues school did not do enough to help Brooks
Ziegler’s attorney has said Brooks was a probationary employee, and could have her contract not renewed without cause.
The special grand jury was empaneled by Virginia Attorney Jason Miyares under an executive order from Gov. Glenn Youngkin to investigate how the school system handled two sexual assaults by the same student at two different high schools in 2021.
The allegations involving Brooks did not directly relate to the 2021 sexual assaults.
Testimony in the trial began Tuesday when Brooks appeared as the first witness. 7News reporter Nick Minock told WTOP that Brooks outlined the timeline of the assaults against her by a fifth grade student with special needs as well as her various attempts to ask members of the school system’s leadership for support.
According to Minock, school board member John Beatty also testified Tuesday, saying that it was highly unusual that the superintendent did not renew Brooks’ employment contract. The school board voted to not renew the teacher’s contract.
The final witness for the prosecution on Wednesday was LCPS school board member Denise Corbo, who said she had heard activist Ian Prior’s description in March 2022 that administrators did little to help a teacher who said she had been repeatedly grabbed inappropriately by a student. During cross examination, she told Ziegler’s attorney that she was just learning on the witness stand that the student Prior was describing was a 10-year-old, nonverbal, autistic child.
Corbo said she stands by her assertion that the school system should’ve intervened to help the teacher.
The trial progressed after Ziegler’s team unsuccessfully tried to have the case dismissed last week. After the prosecution rested Wednesday, the presiding Judge Fleming Jr. denied the defense request to throw out the case, saying, “the jury has plenty of evidence” before it, and “that’s why we have trials.”
The defense told Circuit Court Judge Douglas Fleming, Jr. it had approximately three more witnesses to present Thursday.
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.
This is a developing story. Check back on WTOP for updates.