A Loudoun County, Virginia, jury has found Scott Ziegler, the former schools superintendent there, guilty of using his position for retaliation in his firing of a special-education teacher.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. Ziegler was found not guilty on a lesser charge, punishing an employee for attending court, which would have carried a maximum fine of $500.
The charges stemmed from Ziegler’s decision not to renew the contract of elementary school teacher Erin Brooks for the 2021-2022 school year. Ziegler was accused of making that decision in retaliation for her testimony before a special grand jury. That panel was investigating the school system’s handling of two sexual assaults by the same high school student in 2021.
The allegations involving Brooks did not directly relate to the 2021 sexual assaults. Brooks told the panel she’d been groped repeatedly by a 10-year-old student and when she asked for help, school administrators gave her a piece of cardboard to deflect the boy’s grabbing and links to aprons to buy online.
A school principal testified that the student who grabbed Brooks had autism, was nonverbal and had “the cognitive understanding of a toddler,” and that his grabbing was not intended to harm, but to get attention.
Longtime school system spokesman Wayde Byard was indicted on a felony perjury charge related to testimony he gave to the special grand jury, but was acquitted in June. Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares empaneled the special grand jury to investigate the school system, under an executive order from Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who made the assaults in the school system a major part of his gubernatorial bid in 2021.
Ziegler faces another misdemeanor, apparently relating to statements he made at a June 2021 school board meeting after the first of the two sexual assaults by the same student in 2021. Ziegler will head to trial on that charge in February.
The retaliation charge that Ziegler was convicted of Friday had never been tried in a Virginia court. That may have contributed to the lengthy timeline of the trial, which began Monday and was expected to last just a couple days.