Loudoun Superintendent Ziegler Offers First Public Retort: ‘That Was an Ambush’

School Superintendent Scott Ziegler for the first time publicly reacted to the barrage of criticism he has faced during his tenure at a joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and School Board Thursday.

The routine annual meeting Thursday, Feb. 10 is meant to be a formal presentation and explanation of the school system’s request for funding to the county board. The room was packed with TV cameras that had come into the usually quiet meeting following a press conference with the family of a girl raped by a fellow high school student and ongoing controversy around the school district. And a prepared statement by Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) excoriating Ziegler, and the presence of the TV crews, prompted Ziegler to declare: “That was an ambush.”

Kershner pressed Ziegler to release a third-party investigation into the handling of those rapes—Scott Smith, who spoke to press before the meeting, is the father of the teen rapist’s first victim. Afterward he was transferred to a different high school pending his trial, where he assaulted a second girl. But the school district has declined to release the investigation into its handling of that incident, even in a redacted format.

Kershner’s speech prompted Ziegler to defend himself at a public meeting for the first time.

“I was not given a chance to prepare a response and nor would a response be necessarily appropriate, because integrity to me means that when information needs to be kept confidential, it’s kept confidential,” Ziegler said. “And if that means I need to continue to be the lighting rod, I will continue to be the lighting rod, but make no mistake: this is not a failing school division. Mr. Kershner should judge us based on our academic results, based on the forward-thinking and most progressive budget that has been delivered to the board of supervisors in many years.”

Kershner had said he had “lost faith” in Ziegler’s leadership.

“Turn on the TV and our school board is on national news. We’re making bad decisions of mistreated parents and students,” Kerhsner said. “I have constituents who are beside themselves on a regular basis. Loudoun schools are in the news for all the wrong reasons.”

He pointed to the School Board’s handling of those assaults, as well as the decision to suspend elementary P.E. teacher Tanner Cross following parent concerns that he said he would not observe a school policy offering protections for transgender students.

Kersher’s law firm defended the teenaged offender, and he subsequently posted on Facebook arguing the Board of Supervisors should withhold funding, effectively shutting down the school system, until the report is released. That was not enough to win over the Smith family, who have also called to withhold funding until the report is released. Scott Smith was asked at the press conference before the meeting what he thought of Kershner being both the teenaged offender’s defense attorney and calling for halting school funding. Smith said Kershner had represented the boy before the second offense.

“What they did to my daughter, what his law firm did to my daughter, was absolutely disgusting. Yeah, he was hired to defend his client—quite honestly he did a pretty good job of it. But dragging my daughter through that to a trial, that was just disgusting,” Smith said. “But you know what? My daughter won. My daughter took every one of your junior attorney’s questions, answered them truthfully, and got a conviction for herself. I didn’t get it for her, she [Smith’s wife Jessica] didn’t get it for her—Kershner certainly didn’t help her, he tired to destroy her—but she won. She got a conviction. I think that his little Facebook post at 11 o’lock at night or whatever it was, I think he’s just trying to get in front of the snowball. I think the snowball’s going to run him over too.”

Kershner’s diatribe prompted a corresponding outburst from Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn).

“Dr. Ziegler, I want to apologize as a supervisor. You have to understand, Supervisor Kershner must build his President Trump, weaponized political rhetoric…” he said before being gaveled out of order by Randall.

But other supervisors and School Board members also reflected on the politically-charged environment overhanging this year’s school budget deliberations.

“I think all of us as elected officials would not be doing our jobs if we didn’t acknowledge that here is still a lot of discord in the community about this,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “…I just simply want to know what happened, and if there was a mistake, if it’s been corrected, and I don’t think those answers have come yet.”

“Some of the speakers at our board meetings has ripped the veneer off any kind of decency in humanity, and I was shocked at what I have to listen to day in, day out,” said School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg). “…I think we’ve got to calm it down, stop making political jibes at people and try to get our work done as collaborators, not as enemies.”

“Dr. Ziegler’s commitment to support student privacy and to be the lightning rod for criticism is a perfect demonstration of his integrity and why he continues to have my unwavering support,” said School Board member Brenda Sheridan (Sterling).

School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) encouraged patience.

“People are telling us to take actions, some drastic actions, but the prudent way to approach what we’re doing is a calm and measured response, which I believe Dr. Ziegler and the School Board continues to provide, to the situations that have arisen,” Morse said. “There have been a lot of concerns over the last two years, and we have an introspective look at this every day, and we are here to help the citizens and the children of Loudoun County and that’s our end focus. There are no conspiracies here.”

And Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) reiterated a sentiment she expressed to the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce the day before. She said the school system has made some poor decisions, but “an entity is never the sum total of their worst decisions or their worst moments.”

“It is okay for us to say that we have in many ways an excellent school system with a high graduation rate and kids who are thriving and doing very, very well, and we still have parents who do not feel like all questions have answered, and are worried about their kids’ safety and mental health,” Randall said. “Both of those things can survive at the same time. You can have a hero and still realize that your hero can make mistakes,” Randall said.

And, she added, “we’ve gotten off balance, and if we do not get back on balance and do it very quickly, what I honestly believe is the best county in the country will tear ourselves apart.”

After the meeting, Randall and Morse said despite the politically charged conversation around the school budget this year, they expect budget deliberations to happen as normal.

“The majority the board are making our budget deliberations, budget decisions, like we do every year,” Randall said. “We’re not going to not fund, adequately fund, the School Board based on political considerations, and to not adequately fund the School Board hurts teachers and students. And so, we’re not doing that.”

Morse said he trusts that is the case.

“That doesn’t mean necessarily that I expect full funding, but I trust that they will follow the same process we always have,” Morse said.

This article was updated Feb. 11 at 10:26 a.m. to correct an error about the high school incidents.

20 thoughts on “Loudoun Superintendent Ziegler Offers First Public Retort: ‘That Was an Ambush’

  • 2022-02-10 at 10:36 pm
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    “I was not given a chance to prepare a response and nor would a response be necessarily appropriate, because integrity to me means that when information needs to be kept confidential, it’s kept confidential,” Ziegler said.

    Politicianese for: I effed up and I cannot admit it in public without embarrassing my bosses.

  • 2022-02-11 at 8:21 am
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    Profile in Coward.

    Ziegler continues to shun his duties and whine about parents and supervisors asking him questions and holding him accountable for his actions. A question asked just last year is WHY is pornographic reading material still in Loudoun libraries? That is just for starters.

    Recent data clearly shows tanking student scores as well a an exodus of Loudoun students.

    A real leader looks forward to challenging questions from concerned parties. A real leader wants to solve parent concerns. A real leader is ready to address all kinds of issues any time of day or night.

    Loudoun needs a superintendent that will fight for the safety and education of kids.

    A coward whines that he was “ambushed” and not ready to talk……..

  • 2022-02-11 at 8:47 am
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    Ziegler whines as if he’s the victim here. How ironic. If anything he’s been heavily shielded from any consequences of his repeated coverups and incompetence.

  • 2022-02-11 at 8:49 am
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    Kershner should be ashamed of himself. He’s great at grandstanding but does absolutely nothing for the Catoctin district. If mistakes were made by the school system (and there were mistakes made) there are ways for the BOS to address it. Kershner just wants headlines and of course, as a home schooler attorney, he has an axe to grind in his fight with public schools.

  • 2022-02-11 at 8:57 am
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    Serial liars, even the best of them, will eventually lose control. We’re seeing this with Ziegler. The man cannot keep his stories (lies) straight, so he has to last out against those who have cornered him.

    He needs to go.
    The SB needs to go.
    LCPS needs a house cleaning.

    The children, parents and taxpayers of Loudoun deserve better.

  • 2022-02-11 at 9:13 am
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    Kershner is a grandstanding christian fundamentalist politician that has never supported public schools- his people don’t believe in public education and never miss a chance to weaken such.

    Kershner’s MO is to funnel taxpayer monies to private education. He wants taxpayers to pay for private religious schools (they call them vouchers). They prattle on about pornography in the libraries and sex education all the while disparaging “Government Schools”.

    There’s a tell for you- if a person refers to public education as “Government Schools” they been dabbling in christian reconstruction propaganda.

  • 2022-02-11 at 9:31 am
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    Zeigler needs to be fired and the school board needs to resign or face recall. The CA office is a joke and not even able to vet new employees. The BoS can’t say no to new taxes and spending. Is there any part of the county that is not run by incompetents or worse?

  • 2022-02-11 at 9:53 am
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    “Dr. Ziegler, I want to apologize as a supervisor. You have to understand, Supervisor Kershner must build his President Trump, weaponized political rhetoric…” he said before being gaveled out of order by Randall.”

    Mike Turner, accusing someone of using “weaponized political rhetoric,” while introducing “weaponized political rhetoric” into the debate. Great lack of self-awareness there.

    Mike Turner supports no transparency. Mike Turner supports sexual predator enablers. Mike Turner, an extreme political partisan, is absolutely convinced he is the smartest guy in the room: A prime example of how we have the worst possible people in charge, at the worst possible time.

  • 2022-02-11 at 10:29 am
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    I wouldn’t vote for Caleb Kershner for dog catcher. His dirty tricks shouldn’t be dignified with a response. There was no coverup of a rape. Instead, there were horrible lies spread by the Youngkin crowd. They created the myth of a Trans predator to win votes. How low can you go? Please hang in there, Dr. Ziegler. Thousands support you. Happy Valentine’s Day Loudoun!

  • 2022-02-11 at 10:44 am
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    Does either board understand what their actual roles are? Inquiry to assure that utmost efficiency is the priority in how the Superintendent is to be managed by the school board under state statute 22.1-79. The BOS didn’t even ask questions about how could LCPS manage to spend all of its $1.5 billion allocated against a full year (of in-person teaching) yet the system was closed much of that year. Asleep or carelessly distracted it is not worthy of representation of a hard working, typically two wage earner families most of whom didn’t grow up here and really don’t care what the name of numbered highways are! Maybe in the next local election the majority will show up and make better choices1 🙂

  • 2022-02-11 at 11:30 am
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    Can anyone explain how it’s not a conflict of interests (and why the media hasn’t picked up on this since they are always looking for the next big headline) for Supervisor Kershner to be in any way involved with this if he personally represented the kid that’s at the center of the report he’s trying to get released? For all we know, this report could in some way exonerate his client (I’m not saying it does and I’m also not saying that I think LCPS should continue withholding the report- but that’s not the issue here)? Doesn’t it seem to anyone else like he’s using his political and budgetary powers as an elected official to force the release of a document that his private business may stand to gain from???? It seems like this is illegal, isn’t it???

  • 2022-02-11 at 11:49 am
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    “Turn on the TV and our school board is on national news because we’ve created all of these faux controversies of mistreated parents and students to rile up our Republican base for purely political purposes,” Kerhsner said. “I have constituents who behave like children on a regular basis as a result having been duped by our insidious efforts. Loudoun schools are in the news for all the wrong reasons, thanks to people like me.”

    ftfy

  • 2022-02-11 at 12:20 pm
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    There is NO Reason for this report on how the School Board handled the Rape Cases not to be released.

    No one needs the graphic details of the assaults.

    What the Citizens need and deserve is a clear understanding of what the School system did and why they did it in handling the Rapes.

  • 2022-02-11 at 3:16 pm
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    Kershner is scrambling to redeem himself with his base after an egregious abuse of ethics and power as he tried to defend his client, betray his client confidentiality, and abuse his power as a supervisor. he wants to hold the children of Loudoun hostage as he works out his own professional situation. Chair Randall should have silenced him, not Mr. Turner. But Loudoun politics are not meant to serve us. Just the politicians.

  • 2022-02-11 at 3:26 pm
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    Democrats: Let’s keep calm and move along. Nothing to see here. Please put your blinders back on and pretend LCPS is a good school district. There are blue pills at the door if anyone needs one.

  • 2022-02-11 at 3:30 pm
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    Kershner defended a rapist, others in the law firm he is from could have taken the case. Buta’s crummy behavior aside Kershner is every bit the scum bag Buta is. Zeigler needs to go.

  • 2022-02-11 at 4:29 pm
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    The truth hurts but the fact is Dr Zeigler has not done a good job on many fronts and he should resign, We need someone who is willing to listen to the parents and willing to compromise – two traits Dr. Zeigler lacks.

  • 2022-02-11 at 6:38 pm
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    The report needs to be released. Taxpayers paid for it. The privacy of the victims needs to be protected. However I would like to see the name and face in the of the convicted assailent in the news. How can we protect our children or the children protect themselves if we don’t know who the criminal is what the criminal looks like? So Smith family you obviously know the name of the person and what he looks like that sexually assaulted your daughter help the rest of us protect our families from this predator.

  • 2022-02-12 at 4:38 pm
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    To highlight increased graduation rates as a moment of glory in a criminal matter takes a lot of gall. The communities throughout the US are quite aware graduation rates have dramatically improved under socialist leaderships because no one fails. There are no incentives to strive to improve because everyone gets a passing grade. Hence, increased graduation rates. A diploma whether the student earned it or not.
    And it makes the public question if college degrees are a dime a dozen. It is not excellence we strive for in our public institutions. The behaviors tolerated in our public schools should be investigated. Referrals written by teachers…are they placed in the student’s files or are they being curtailed?
    If the super’s daughter was raped; believe you me the perpetrator would be jailed. This father who is standing in front of us deserves our support. His tears are our tears. And her pain, is our pain. Thou shalt not kill is one of the ten commandments that encompasses this crime. The perpetrator could have given her a deadly std and emotionally damaged her for life. Safety means little to this county. Feel this father’s pain, feel his child’s pain and let the public decides if it is graduation rates they are worried about at this point or the incompetency of a leader that can not control criminal behaviors. If an kindergarten throws a desk or cusses at his or her teacher they are on the path of ODD. If this is not resolved they can grow into antisocial behaviors. Is this what the community wants or should we demand discipline be brought back to the classroom?

  • 2022-02-15 at 9:43 am
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    Can we please stop confusing obsession by a couple of right-wing media outlets as “national news coverage?”

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