Superintendent fired for administration’s ‘lack of curiosity’ after student’s sexual assault arrest

A Virginia grand jury determined that a second alleged sexual assault could have been prevented.

Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler has been fired after a Virginia grand jury accused the district’s leaders of “looking out for their own interests” in transferring a teenager who had been charged with sexually assaulting a student in a high school bathroom.

Scott A. Ziegler (Photo: Loudoun County Public Schools )
Scott A. Ziegler (Photo: Loudoun County Public Schools )

At his new school the next school year, the suspect then received only a verbal admonishment after multiple students complained about his aggressive behavior. And only a few months later—in October 2021—he was arrested again, this time on suspicion of sexually battering and abducting another student at the school, according to the grand jury, which was impaneled by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

The grand jury determined that the second alleged attack should have been prevented and blamed that assault on “a remarkable lack of curiosity and adherence to operating in silos by LCPS administrators.” District leaders were also accused of deliberately depriving the school board of information and even lying about what they knew about the student’s initial arrest.

“We believe that throughout this ordeal LCPS administrators were looking out for their own interests instead of the best interests of LCPS,” the grand jury wrote in its report. “This invariably led to a stunning lack of openness, transparency and accountability both to the public and the special grand jury.”

Ziegler, a first-time superintendent who had only been at the helm since June 2021, was terminated by the school board Tuesday night, the day after the grand jury released the results of its investigation, WTOP reported. He was first hired by Loudoun County Public Schools in 2019 as assistant superintendent for human resources and talent development. Earlier in his career, he worked as an assistant principal and a special education and social studies teacher.

A saga at Loudoun County Public Schools

The following highlights the key details of the grand jury’s timeline of the allegations:

In May 2021—just four weeks after the Loudon County Public Schools reopened for in-person learning—a teaching assistant at Broad Run High School wrote to superiors warning them that the future suspect’s troubling behavior toward female students could lead to someone getting hurt. The assistant wrote that the boy came into class with his arm around girls’ necks and often sat in their laps.

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It was about four weeks later that the student allegedly raped a girl in a bathroom. During the several ensuing hours that the suspect remained “at large” in the building that day, the alleged victim’s father was escorted from the school after having an outburst sparked by being denied entry after the incident. With the suspect still unaccounted for, the school’s principal urged Ziegler to obtain a “no trespass” letter against the girl’s father.

On the same day, the district’s chief operating officer notified Ziegler that the bathroom attack was related to a district policy that details the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students. But an email message that the principal sent to the community that evening focused on the father’s outburst but did not mention the alleged sexual assault.

The suspected student was charged in July 2021 with two counts of forcible sodomy. After he was released on the condition of not returning to Broad Run High School, administrators transferred him to Stone Bridge High School, which is just a five-minute drive away.

In the first several weeks of the 2021 school year, teachers reported that other students had complained about the boy stalking them and asking them about posting nude pictures online. Another student also accused him of grabbing her and hitting her on the head repeatedly with a pencil. In none of these incidents did the principal, Ziegler or other administrators notify the teachers of the student’s arrest or the seriousness of the allegations against him—even though he was required to wear an ankle monitor and was supposedly being monitored closely by the principal.

On Oct. 6, the suspect allegedly “snatched an unassuming female out of the hallway, abducted her into an empty classroom, nearly asphyxiated her and sexually assaulted her.” The teen has remained in police custody since his second arrest.

In its conclusion, the grand jury criticized district leadership for weak responses when handling difficult situations, and thus conveying a sense of apathy to the public. “Stronger leadership would address problems head-on instead of letting them snowball,” the grand jury wrote. “As nine members of this community, we are certain the public would award such leadership.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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