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Ziegler Indictments: Retaliation and/or Threatening a Teacher for Publicly Expressing Their Views

 

 

 

This incident occurred in March 2022, almost a full year after the Stone Bridge HS rape, and LCPS Title IX still “didn’t know what to do here.”.

 

To all you LCPS principals, assistant principals, and LCPS Admin officials, read this article closely because Ziegler was fired for retaliation.  I hope the principal in the Broad Run elementary school especially takes note of this after her BLM fist-in-the-air stunt went public. She has a reputation for retaliation against staff.

LoudounNow: 12/16/22

 

Two of the three misdemeanor indictments brought against former Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler are related to the firing of a special education teacher who, after reporting she was repeatedly groped by one of her students, filed two Title IX complaints, testified to the special grand jury investigating the school district, and spoke out at a School Board meeting.

Ziegler is charged with retaliating or threatening a person for publicly expressing their views on a matter of public concern, and with penalizing an employee for a court appearance. While the particulars of the cases are not yet public, court filings indicate the conflict of interest charge relates to retaliation or threats against Erin Brooks, and the charge for penalizing an employee for a court appearance relates to her firing.

Both are for offenses alleged to have occurred on June 7, 2022, the day Brooks spoke out at a School Board meeting—and the day the School Board approved as part of their consent agenda Ziegler’s action not to renew her contract.

 

Brooks, formerly a teacher at Rosa Lee Carter Elementary School, filed a civil lawsuit in June claiming she was retaliated against and that the division “demonstrably failed to enforce its own policies and regulations.”

According to her lawsuit, Brooks had made multiple complaints since February about a student who was inappropriately touching her dozens of times a day. She also alleged her teaching assistant Laurie Vandermuelen and other students were being touched inappropriately. Brooks said she believed the student’s behavior was intentional and indicative of something that possibly had happened to the student, according to the complaint.

Between February and May Brooks made several attempts to get help from school administrators, including Principal Diane Mackey, Special Education Dean Jennifer Hedges and the Intellectual Disabilities Consultant for the division, Elizabeth Miller. 

Suggestions from administrators included using a cardboard cutout with a “quiet hand” to hold up when the student approached her and having Brooks wear an apron to “slow down the penetration” when the student touched her private parts as well as suggestions to talk to the parents. 

Brooks, a victim of sexual assault previously, reported the daily and multiple incidents were causing her “extreme emotional distress,” according to the complaint. 

She also reached out to Lisa Boland, the Title IX compliance officer at the time, about what she called sexual assault and harassment. Boland told Brooks she would talk it over with another compliance officer, Justin Donovan, in March. Donovan told her a few days later he and Boland “didn’t know what to do here.” Brooks asked Donovan, “where do I go to get help so I can go to school without getting touched?” according to the complaint. 

In late March Brooks reached out to Miller for help and was told to “hang in there.”

Around the same time, March 22, Brooks met with Principal Mackey to discuss her employment and was told she received all excellent marks and there were no recommendations for changes. Brooks said Mackey asked about the situation with the student and said she didn’t believe the student’s actions were sexual. 

According to the complaint Brooks said it was then she realized division personnel would not protect her from further assaults. 

Using her division email account, she emailed documents about how the division was handling her complaints to the personal email account of her teaching assistant, Vandermuelen. 

Also on March 22, during the public comment section of the School Board meeting a resident spoke up about sexual harassment happening at the school. Brooks said she didn’t know the person nor had she shared any details about what was happening to her with him, according to the complaint.

 

Brooks also contacted the Loudoun County Department of Family Services Child Protective Services about the student because she was concerned the behavior was brought on from something the student was experiencing. CPS showed up at the school on March 24, but was told to come back because the student wasn’t there that day.

Brooks filed another Title IX complaint on March 25 using a link on the division’s website, according to the complaint, which caused Mackey to be in Brooks’s classroom observing her “seven to nine times per day.”

On March 29, Brooks was brought in for a meeting with Mackey and Alix Smith from the division’s Department of Human Resources and Talent Development to talk about the emails Brooks had sent to her teaching assistant. Brooks also received a letter that day stating she was being investigated by the department for disclosing confidential student information.

In mid-April she was informed her Title IX complaint was dismissed. Her later appeal was also denied. 

In late April she was subpoenaed to testify before the special grand jury empaneled at the request of Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate how the school division had handled two sexual assaults by the same student. Brooks had to ask for a leave of absence in order to attend and had to provide a copy of the subpoena to Mackey. 

Weeks later, in mid-May, Brooks was told in a letter the investigation into whether she disclosed confidential student information had found that she had violated several division policies and would need to complete additional trainings on the matter. That same day, May 18, Brooks was told the findings of the investigation in a meeting with Mackey and human resources employees. During that meeting, Mackey gave Brooks an “unacceptable” employment rating and told Brooks her contract with the school division would not be renewed for the 2022-2023 school year.

The complaint noted the unacceptable rating was given weeks after Brooks got “profuse praise” in her March evaluation. 

Brooks spoke up during the public comment section of the June 7 School Board meeting and addressed both Ziegler’s unwillingness to renew her contract as well as what she called a “smear campaign” launched by Human Resources. She also addressed being called to testify before the special grand jury and said, “I’m thankful that I was subpoenaed to a special grand jury as a witness who testified to egregious decisions and behaviors. Please stop the intimidation, stop with the defamation, stop trying to cover this up.”

Brooks was put on administrative leave June 9 pending an investigation that she violated professional conduct and disclosed personally identifiable information.

On June 10, the school system issued a statement about Brooks and Vandermuelen, picked up in news outlets, saying “these teachers improperly distributed student’s records without the consent of the family and without the knowledge of school staff for reasons that are unrelated to their job duties and this profound breach of trust to their students has been addressed appropriately by LCPS.”

On the same day, Mackey sent an email to the school stating Brooks shared private information about the student publicly. 

The retaliation charge against Ziegler is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Penalizing an employee for a court appearance or serving on a jury is a Class 3 misdemeanor with a possible fine of up to $500.

Ziegler also faces one count of providing false information to a publication, a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. The offense allegedly occurred June 22, 2021, the day of a raucous School Board meeting that culminated with the public being kicked out of the meeting room and the father of one of the school sexual assault victims bloodied and arrested by deputies.


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