A Virginia school superintendent apologized and a board member resigned on Friday as the suburban district faces fiery backlash over its handling of sexual assault claims at two high schools.
Loudoun County School Superintendent Scott Ziegler had denied at a June meeting that there were any records of incidents in any schools’ restrooms despite a furious district father’s claim his daughter was attacked in the girl’s bathroom by a boy “wearing a skirt.”
The accused attacker was charged after that incident but assaulted another girl in an empty classroom after he was transferred to another high school, parents said.
“First, let me say to the families and students involved — my heart aches for you and I am sorry that we failed to provide the safe, welcoming, and affirming environment that we aspire to provide,” Ziegler said at a news conference on Friday.
His comments in June stemmed from a misunderstanding and recent events are leading to the district reviewing its policies for a potential overhaul, he claimed.
“I regret that my comments were misleading and I apologize for the distress that error caused families,” Ziegler said. “I will do better in the future.”
Parent Scott Smith was arrested in a viral video of the June 22 school district meeting when he was confronting officials over an attack on his daughter in the Stone Bridge High School bathroom on May 28.
The county sheriff’s office confirmed it arrested a 14-year-old boy on two counts of forced sodomy at that location and that date, but didn’t confirm details such as if the assault happened in the restroom. A news release didn’t include the accused’s name because of his age.
The accused was the same boy who attacked someone at Broad Run High School on Oct. 6 and is now on electronic monitoring, according to WTOP.
The sheriff’s office confirmed an arrest in that case, but didn’t explicitly say it was the same boy, noting the now-15-year-old suspect was charged with sexual battery and abduction for allegedly forcing a girl into a classroom and inappropriately touching her.
After Smith’s arrest at the June 22 school board meeting, the superintendent said there were no records of “assaults occurring in our restrooms.”
He had said rumors of “the predator transgender student or person simply does not exist.”
On Friday, Ziegler said he wrongly interpreted questions about incidents in the bathrooms as involving transgender and gender-fluid students.
“Multiple board members asked questions about the process, the experiences of students, and plans for transgender students and bathroom use during that discussion,” Ziegler said. “My mindset was in line with that subject.”
School board member Beth Barts also resigned Friday, though she didn’t discuss her reasons why.
“This was not an easy decision or a decision made in haste,” Barts said in an email to administrators. “After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family.”
Loudoun school district has been a battleground on the issue of “critical race theory” in schools, with a parent organization called Fight for Schools pushing to recall school board members who backed the teaching.
Ian Prior, executive director of the group, welcomed Barts’ resignation in a statement.
“We have made known our displeasure with her actions as a school board member over the past several months, but today she has done the right thing,” Prior said. “Her former colleagues should take notice.”