In a split decision, a jury found former Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler guilty of retaliating against a former special education teacher who complained about the district’s response to her complaints about being groped in her classroom.
A jury comprised of one man and six women found Ziegler guilty of retaliation and prohibited conduct by a public employee on Friday after a five-day trial. However, the jury did not find the former LCPS superintendent guilty of punishing an employee for testifying before a jury.
"Justice has finally been served in Loudoun County," Attorney General Jason Miyares said in a statement.
"Nearly two years ago, Loudoun County Public Schools and the Loudoun County School Board were thrown into the public spotlight for all the wrong reasons. One of the casualties of their neglect and mismanagement led to the retaliatory firing of a dedicated and caring school teacher. Today, my office brought a measure of justice for Erin Brooks. The Office of the Attorney General will always be a voice for victims, and we’re grateful for the jury’s verdict."
As The Loudoun Times-Mirror reported Friday, Ziegler’s attorney indicated that his client plans to appeal the conviction. The former superintendent is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 4 and faces up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
In response to a Monday inquiry from The Christian Post, Loudoun County Public Schools told the outlet that it did not have a statement to offer on the verdict.
According to the report, Ziegler recommended to the school board in June 2022 that Rosa Lee Carter Elementary School should not renew the contract of special education teacher Erin Brooks. The recommendation came after Brooks allowed Ian Prior, executive director of the political action committee Fight for Schools, to speak for her during a school board meeting in March 2022.
Brooks had formally complained on Feb. 28, 2022, that a 10-year-old disabled boy in her classroom was groping her and her teaching assistant, Laurie Vandermeulen.
As The Loudoun Times-Mirror reported last month, Brooks testified that the groping started happening 30 to 40 times per day for several weeks after the boy returned from winter break in January 2022.
The former special education teacher said that the administration had a “feeble response” to her complaint, and a piece of cardboard Brooks was supposed to put in front of her to prevent the groping was shown to the jury. Brooks was also told to wear an apron to deter the student from groping her.
The teacher emailed Prior in March 2022, and the conservative testified on Sept. 28 that the teacher and her assistant did not provide him with any confidential information. During the school board meeting, Prior told the board that a student had inappropriately touched two staff members, and he urged the district to resolve the issue.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Ziegler fired Brooks for contacting Prior to speak before the board on her behalf. Rosa Lee Carter Elementary School Principal Diane R. Mackey testified on Sept. 27 that the groping stopped after the student was moved to another classroom.
The principal said Brooks did not provide the student with an iPad to help him communicate, which is part of the boy’s Behavioral Intervention Plan, according to The Loudoun Times-Mirror.
Mackey speculated that this was the reason for the student’s behavior toward Brooks, arguing that Brooks was not following the approved intervention plan. The student’s last day in the classroom was March 22, 2022, the same day Prior spoke for Brooks and her teaching assistant before the school board.
The teacher had also sent 26 emails about the situation to her teaching assistant’s personal email address, which Brooks claimed was to document the district’s response. According to Ziegler’s statement during the June 2022 school board meeting, Brooks and Vandermeulen “improperly distributed student records” without the consent of the boy’s family and the school staff.
While the jury determined that Ziegler did not renew Brooks’ contract due to the situation with the student, the jury found that the former superintendent did not retaliate against the teacher for her grand jury testimony in April 2022.
Ziegler will also stand trial on Feb. 26 on a separate misdemeanor charge related to a June 2021 school board meeting, where the superintendent falsely informed parents concerned about the district’s proposed trans bathroom policy that the district had no record of any sexual assaults in bathrooms.
A male student wearing a skirt sexually assaulted a female student inside the girls’ bathroom on May 28, 2021, at Stone Bridge High School. The same male student sexually assaulted another girl a few months later after he was transferred to Broad Run High School.
Prosecutors for the case were appointed by Attorney General Miyares, who announced the unsealing of four indictments against Ziegler in December 2022 following a special grand jury investigation into the district’s handling of the sexual assaults.
The report cited the school board meeting where Ziegler denied that any sexual assaults had taken place, referring to the former superintendent’s claims as a "bald-faced lie." The grand jury report also criticized the school board and district's "lack of cooperation" throughout its investigation.