The Loudoun County School Board voted unanimously to fire Superintendent Scott Ziegler without cause after a grand jury report blamed Ziegler and his administration for much of the district’s mishandling of two 2021 sexual assaults.
The board spent much of the Tuesday evening meeting in closed session and didn’t publicly discuss Ziegler’s termination. In an emergency meeting Thursday, the board appointed former division Chief of Staff Dr. Daniel Smith to be interim superintendent.
At a Tuesday evening meeting of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, many supervisors criticized district officials.
Supervisor Kristin Umstattd criticized a statement from school board Chair Jeff Morse and Vice Chair Ian Serotkin that emphasized that the grand jury had issued no indictments.
“The victory lap that has played out online by members of the school board and by the school system that no indictments were issued against school administration or elected officials is insanely self-serving and callous,” she said.
“Dr. Scott Ziegler needs to be fired,” said Chair Phyllis Randall. “We had a young women violently raped and another one assaulted. And this was for all intents and purposes on his part, a coverup.”
Randall said the supervisors don’t have authority over the district, but she called on the school board to terminate Ziegler and said that the victims’ costs should be covered.
“What’s happened to them is a tragedy. They were failed at multiple levels, multiple levels. and if it can happen to them it can happen to other people as well. So school board, and LCPS, get it together. Get it together. Fire him. Fire him today. Fire him tonight.”
“If you read that report, you can’t come up with anything else. Fire Dr. Ziegler.”
The grand jury report was a vindication for parents and Republicans who were outraged by the 2021 assaults at the schools. Governor Glenn Youngkin was elected in part by a wave of parents energized about school policy and national headlines had featured Loudoun County Public Schools for a number of controversial decisions and for the district’s handling of the assaults. Youngkin ordered the grand jury as one of his first actions, but his effort to force all the school board members to run for reelection in 2022 failed.
The report largely blamed school administration for botching its response to the assaults and for keeping the school board in the dark. Still, the report also identified problems at Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj’s office and Sheriff Mike Chapman’s office.
On Wednesday, the conservative group Fight for Schools celebrated Ziegler’s termination.
“Last night, 14 months after Fight for Schools and hundreds of parents called for the termination of Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler, the school board FINALLY did the right thing and terminated him,” the group said in an email. “We will continue to demand the termination of others identified in the grand jury report, but for now . . . . it’s a start.”
“Though we applaud this first step toward accountability, the fact that Mr. Ziegler was allowed to remain in his position, and worse, was given a $30,000 raise after the Democrat-run school board became aware of these incidents, is a massive indictment on those board members who supported Mr. Ziegler and attempted to downplay and dismiss this story until media coverage and the grand jury report forced them to address it,” the Republican Party of Virginia said in a statement, calling for more accountability from Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj.
Progressive group Loudoun4All also praised the board for firing Ziegler. It noted that former LCPS Chief of Staff Mark Smith was fired in January “likely as a result of his failure to meet the requirement of filing a Title IX investigation at the time the first assault was reported.”
However, Loudoun4All also called for Chapman to resign.
“In light of the revelations from the Grand Jury Report, Loudoun4All believes that while the School Board firing Dr. Zielger was an important step toward accountability for the failures revealed in the Grand Jury report, it cannot be the only step,” the group said in a release.
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Scott Ziegler” by Loudoun County Public Schools. Background Photo “Loudoun Public Schools Building” by Loudoun County Schools.