RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia jury has convicted a former schools superintendent on a misdemeanor charge in connection with what prosecutors said was the retaliatory firing of a teacher who reported that an elementary school student inappropriately touched her.
Former Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler was acquitted on a separate misdemeanor count after the five-day trial, local news outlets reported. The charges stemmed from a special grand jury commissioned by Attorney General Jason Miyares that investigated the school system’s widely criticized response to two sexual assaults committed by a high school student against female classmates in 2021.
“Justice has finally been served in Loudoun County,” Miyares said in a statement.
Ziegler faces up to a year in jail, in addition to a possible fine, according to the attorney general’s office. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 4.WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. reported Ziegler and his attorney left the courthouse Friday afternoon without answering questions.
“I can tell you that we intend to file a motion to set aside the jury’s verdict, which will happen prior to sentencing and before any appeal,” the attorney, Erin Harrigan, wrote in an email Saturday to The Associated Press.
She offered no further comment.
The charges heard this week were not directly related to the matter of the assaults but to allegations by a special education teacher, Erin Brooks, who said the school system retaliated against her after she reported that a special needs student at an elementary school had repeatedly touched her inappropriately.
“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,” Miyares said in the statement.
John Whitbeck, Brooks’ attorney, told The Washington Post that Brooks was pleased with Friday’s verdict.
Ziegler still faces a separate misdemeanor charge of false publication, which is set for trial next year, court records show.
Miyares empaneled the grand jury after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, on his first day in office, issued an executive order requesting an investigation by the attorney general’s office of the school system’s conduct in connection with the assaults.
The school system sought to quash the investigation, calling it politically motivated. But the Virginia Supreme Court ruled it could move forward.
Youngkin and Miyares, both Republicans, had criticized the school board during their successful 2021 campaigns. The assaults attracted national attention in part because the boy was wearing a skirt when he committed at least one of the attacks. The boy was later convicted in juvenile court.
The grand jury issued a scathing report that accused the school system of mishandling the teenage perpetrator and said authorities ignored multiple warning signs that could have prevented the second assault.
The school board unanimously voted to fire Ziegler late last year, shortly after the report was issued.
A perjury case against the district’s longtime spokesman that also stemmed from the grand jury’s probe previously went to trial. A jury acquitted Wayde Byard in that matter.