The Student News Site of Loudoun Valley High School

MacKenzie Bunn

With Loudoun’s recent legal proceedings, the county has caught the public’s eye at a state and national level.

Former superintendent Scott Ziegler and public information officer Wade Byard indicted by grand jury

December 13, 2022

Loudoun County Judge James Plowman unsealed documents from Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares’s grand jury, indicting former superintendent Scott Ziegler on three misdemeanor counts and former public information officer Wade Byard on one felony.

The charges come amidst a renaissance of backlash regarding the school board’s handling of two sexual assault cases in May and October of 2021, brought about by the grand jury’s 91-page investigative report released Dec. 5.

Loudoun’s school board convened a day later on Dec. 6, and by Wednesday, Ziegler’s 18-month time as superintendent came to a close, and the county had no formal school superintendent.

The indictments are currently on the Circuit Court of Loudoun County’s docket for Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.

Scott Ziegler’s indictments

Ziegler’s first charge was a Class 3 misdemeanor for false publication. On June 22, 2021 during a now infamous school board meeting, when asked by another board member, “do we have assaults in our bathrooms or in our locker rooms, regularly?” Ziegler replied, “to my knowledge we don’t have any record of assaults occurring in our restrooms.”

Prior to the meeting, Ziegler had received emails regarding, and notified fellow board members of, the assault at Stone Bridge High School just months earlier. Ultimately, the statement was found to be knowingly “false and untrue” by the grand jury.

Ziegler’s second and third charges were for a less well known incident from the 2021-2022 school year: the case of Erin Brooks.

Likely overshadowed at the time by the assault at Stone Bridge, Erin Brooks, a teacher, repeatedly faced sexual advances and assaults by one of her students. Their behavior reportedly was experienced by Brooks’ colleagues and the perpetrator’s classmates as well.

Brooks’ principal and other faculty habitually dismissed her claims and offered irrelevant and intolerant “solutions” to the student’s behavior.

After being told by the principal that she, “didn’t believe it was sexual,” Brooks took matters into her own hands by filing with her superiors and filling out a Title IX Complaint Form—a measure which aimed to, “ensure that once any school or division employee has notice of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct, the division takes immediate and appropriate steps to investigate what occurred and takes prompt and effective action to stop the discrimination or harassment, prevent the recurrence, and remedy the effects.”

These efforts led to little concrete effort by her school’s administration and the school board, though her plights were highlighted when she testified to the grand jury in April of 2022.

Ziegler, among other higher-ups in Brooks’ school, was involved in penalizing her for her appearance in court and using his position to threaten and effectively retaliate against Brooks for expressing concern over the student and their behavior.

Brooks’ employment contract was not renewed for the 2022-2023 school year, and nothing came of her Title IX complaint.

Thus, Ziegler’s second and third misdemeanor charges were for penalizing Brooks for her court appearance, a Class 3 misdemeanor, and for exhibiting a conflict of interest when it came to prohibiting her conduct, a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Wayde Byard indictments

Since his time as public information officer started in 2000, Wayde Byard had been an icon of sorts to students and faculty across Loudoun. His time came to a close, however, after being placed on administrative leave in light of felony charges for perjury.

Byard’s offense occurred when he testified in August of 2022. Currently, no additional information pertaining to his statements have been disclosed, but as a Class 5 felony, Byard could face a $2,500 fine, up to 10 years in prison or one year in jail depending on the courts’ specifications.

Acting Superintendent Daniel Smith signaled the end of an era to long time Loudoun residents in an email sent to staff and parents

“Wayde Byard was placed on leave effective today, in accordance with LCPS Policy and Virginia State Code,” Smith said to parents. “Thank you for your patience and understanding through this period of rebuilding and refocusing, as we work to find solutions to support our students and community members, earn their confidence, and expand opportunities for all students to learn and reach their full potential.”

Staff received similar information, but with an addendum acknowledging the hectic nature of the school system and calling attention to faculty counseling resources.

“This is a stressful time for all of our staff,” Smith said. “I want to assure everyone that I value and support the work you do for our students, especially during such a tumultuous time.”

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