A Loudoun County judge denied a motion this week to throw out charges against the former superintendent of Loudoun County Public Schools and an LCPS spokesperson after they were indicted by a special grand jury for the school system’s handling of a pair of on-campus sexual assault cases by the same student.
Former Loudoun County Schools superintendent Scott Ziegler, who was fired in December after a unanimous vote by the school board, and spokesman Wayde Byard, will have their cases proceed after defense attorneys in the case unsuccessfully argued that charges should be dismissed due to overreach by Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Republican state Attorney General Jason Miyares, who appointed a special grand jury last year to investigate the school system’s response to the incidents.
Loudoun Circuit Court Judge James Fisher denied the motion.
The special grand jury slammed school officials for failing to act following the assaults, saying they were more interested in safeguarding personal interests than those of the schools or the students.
The pair of incidents, highlighted in the grand jury’s scathing 92-page report published in December, drew national attention after the student, a teenage male who reportedly wore women’s clothing during a May 2021 attack in a girls’ restroom at Stone Bridge High School, was permitted to transfer to Ashburn’s Broad Run High School, where he sexually assaulted another female student just months later. The boy was subsequently convicted in juvenile court and ordered to undergo treatment and register as a sex offender.
The assaults incited months of intense debates over parents’ rights and public restroom concessions for transgender students, and became a key talking point in Youngkin’s 2021 campaign for governor. To date, there is no evidence to suggest the student in question is transgender. Additionally, at the time the first assault took place, students in LCPS were required to use restrooms according to their biological sex.
The special grand jury charged with investigating the school system’s handling of the assaults accused school officials of “a stunning lack of openness, transparency, and accountability both to the public and the special grand jury,” the report said, adding that there were several incidents in which LCPS administrators could have taken steps that would have prevented the second assault on October 6, 2021.
“They failed at every juncture,” the report said.
According to the investigation, communication between school administrators and Ziegler mainly dealt with the father of the first assault victim, who had been denied entry to the school in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
Correspondence between the Stone Bridge principal and the Ziegler’s office show that there was discussion about getting a “no trespass letter” against the father. The teen assailant, meanwhile, “was still at-large in the building” during that time, the report said.
Just before 5 p.m. on the same day of the May 2021 assault, the school principal sent an email to the community about what had transpired earlier.
“The email neither mentioned, nor hinted at, the sexual assault that took place in the bathroom, instead focusing on the father of the victim who arrived at the school,” the report found. “This email was drafted by the public information officer and ultimately edited and approved by the superintendent.”
The topic of transgender students using restrooms corresponding to their gender identity arose at a school board meeting the following month. In response to a question at that meeting, Ziegler, who had earlier sent an email to school board members acknowledging the assault, said, “to my knowledge, we don’t have any record of assaults in our restrooms.”
“We believe this statement was a lie,” the report said.
In what appears to be tied to this communication, Ziegler has been indicted on one misdemeanor count of false publication. He has been indicted on two misdemeanor counts of penalizing an employee for testifying before the grand jury.
Byard, who prosecutors say made several false statement to the special grand jury, was indicted on one count of felony perjury. He has been on leave since December.
Ziegler is set to stand trial on May 22 and July 10. Byard’s trial has been scheduled for June 20.
Read the full special grand jury report.
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