Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility'More people should be investigated': Loudoun County leaders respond to indictments | WJLA
Close Alert

'More people should be investigated': Loudoun County leaders respond to indictments

Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall
Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

After a judge ordered the unsealing of indictments for former Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler and one other school district employee, county leaders are pushing for more accountability and the continuation of an investigation into the entire system.

On Monday, court documents revealed Ziegler was charged for three misdemeanors - false publication, prohibited conduct, and penalizing an employee for a court appearance - while Byard was indicted on one count of felony perjury.

Loudoun Co. former superintendent Ziegler, school official indicted by special grand jury

This announcement comes less than a week after the school board unanimously voted to fire Ziegler the same day the special grand jury report was released.

Scott Smith, the father of one of the victims at the center of the special grand jury investigation, spoke out shortly after the announcement of the charges, adding he believes the school board and other school district leaders need to also lose their jobs.

"I wish I could have seen [Ziegler and Byard] in handcuffs," Smith said. "They're all liable. They're all accountable, and everybody needs to lose their jobs."

County leaders are also pushing for more accountability.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall said she is thinking about the victims in these cases, while also pushing for further investigation into the actions of other school district leaders.

"My initial thoughts were with two of the young ladies and their families. Recovery from what they have gone through takes a long time to happen," Randall said. "The only feelings that I've changed is I don't know the process of firing someone with cause versus without cause, but I wish they could have done that, and I wish the money he's about to receive because he was fired without cause, so it's going to be well over $300,000, could go to these young ladies and their families. It can't, but that's unfortunate because I do think LCPS should pay for any treatments for as long as it takes for these young ladies."

Randall is referring to the fact Ziegler was fired without cause instead of with cause, meaning he will continue to earn his $325,000 salary over the next year.

She also said it was important to hold others accountable because of the system-wide failure outlined in the special grand jury report.

"I think there have been people in LCPS who have been conveniently uncurious. It's not that they didn't know, it's that they didn't want to know. There's no way all of this could happen and no one knew. I definitely think more people should be investigated and possibly held accountable because many levels in LCPS failed these young ladies. I think what's most important to remember is if that's not fixed - if whatever happened that allowed for this to take place does not get addressed - then it can happen again," Randall said.

These remarks echoed what Randall and her colleagues said at last week's board meeting.

Loudoun County school board member calls for swift action from interim superintendent

Supervisor Kristen Umstattd said she is not sure the details we now know would have surfaced had it not been for the special grand jury investigation.

"I think the indictments clarify that it was probably a good thing the special grand jury was involved in this because I'm not sure we would have learned any of this without their investigation and report," Umstattd said.

Like Randall, Umstattd said she does not believe the job is done with Monday's announcement and last week's firing of Ziegler.

"I think the job of the school board going forward and the special grand jury, which I think has not closed up its work, is to find out exactly what went wrong in the system," Umstattd said. "I think they are going to find there are cultural changes that need to be made in the system. We heard teachers are afraid to bring concerns to administrators."

Three more members of the county board provided similar statements to 7News, pushing for investigations to continue.

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Koran Saines provided the following emailed statement:

Obviously, this is a time for reflection and shows that work must be done in LCPS and with LCPS staff. Dr. Ziegler was rightfully fired by the School Board after the grand jury report. I hope the interim superintendent holds more people accountable because reading the grand jury report there definitely were many missteps that could have prevented the sexual assault at Stone Bridge High School. There also were further missteps that resulted in the offending student being transferred to Broad Run HS where he sexually assaulted another student. LCPS must learn from this and ensure these mistakes are never again repeated.
As I stated last week at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting, I call on LCPS to release the results of their internal investigation. If they are unable to release their full investigation, they should at least release an executive summary. The public has a right to know what LCPS uncovered in their investigation. Sharing that with the public is an important step that LCPS must take to begin restoring public trust.

Loudoun County Supervisor Sylvia Glass also emailed a statement to 7News:

I am upset that all the events of the last year and a half even occurred, as almost every aspect was entirely preventable. As the judicial process runs its course, I trust it will assist Loudoun County Public Schools, our greater community, and those directly affected, heal and move forward from this difficult time. The survivors and their families are in my prayers and should be a top priority. I hope as the School Board and the Interim Superintendent continue to examine how internal people and policies failed to safely operate at LCPS, that they will not stop solely at the indictments and recommendations from the Special Grand Jury.

Loudoun County Supervisor Juli Briskman sent 7News the following statement:

I support the School Board’s decision to release Dr. Ziegler. The charges unsealed today, in this ongoing investigation, are gravely concerning. Like any parent and resident of Loudoun County, I was horrified by the details of the grand jury report. I hope that the continued investigation will answer lingering questions. Clearly there needs to be better communications and more accountability from LCSO and LCPS. I would like to hear from LCSO how they plan to adjust operations to make sure sexual assault victims and ensuing investigations in our schools are handled with the sensitivity and seriousness they deserve. As the community moves forward with new leadership at the helm of LCPS, it is my hope that all relevant parties make the necessary substantive changes to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again and that our community can begin the healing process.

However, the county board is largely limited to statements like this, since they have no power to take punitive action or make personnel decisions for the school district.

"The county government and LCPS are two different entities. If this was county government, we would start top-down, bottom-up, inside-out, and review everything. If we do not fix it, it can happen again. I think LCPS should do that," Randall said.

At this point, members of the county board largely can only pressure the school board and district to take action.

"We do have funding capability, but 86 % of the kids who live in Loudoun County go to Loudoun County Public Schools. I'm not going to defund the school system," Randall said. "I have called many, not all, of my school board colleagues directly. I've called them directly and talked to them directly about this. I'm applying pressure publicly and privately to them."

Umstattd said she, too, will pressure the school board and district to take further actions.

"We talk with our school board members fairly often, and we can encourage them to take what we think might be a more transparent approach to these kinds of issues. Certainly, I hope that's what happens going forward," Umstattd said. "They were clearly kept in the dark, and I think the special grand jury report points that out. They need to make sure they are not in the dark any longer going forward."

7News reached out to all of the school board members who were serving at the time of the crimes outlined in the special grand jury report.

Only Ian Serotkin replied, sending the following emailed statement:

At this time I do not have anything to add to the message to families LCPS sent out earlier today. The School Board will review the recommendations of the Special Grand Jury during tomorrow’s meeting.

During an emergency meeting last week, the school board appointed Dr. Daniel Smith as the school district’s interim superintendent.

Randall said she believes the school board needs to search outside of the county for the permanent job, but not to appoint one until after next year's election.

"Of course they should have a nationwide search for a new school superintendent, but I believe that nationwide search should happen with the next school board. Next year is an election year," Randall said. "I believe you leave the interim superintendent in place. I think this school board in its entirety is too damaged to try to hire a new superintendent in its last year, as people are running for offices and being involved in campaigns."

Comment bubble

The school board will have a meeting Tuesday, starting at 4 p.m., where they are scheduled to discuss the special grand jury report before their 6 p.m. dinner break.

Loading ...