LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. – A criminal trial for former Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Ziegler will head into its fourth day Thursday as he faces charges that he retaliated against a teacher for blowing the whistle on sexual abuse, and for cooperating with a special grand jury empaneled to investigate the school system following its coverup of a bathroom rape.
Former teacher Erin Brooks testified that a 10-year-old autistic student would grab her genitals dozens of times a day while making sexual motions with his tongue, and that when she said her workplace was becoming unsafe, administrators gave her a piece of cardboard to hold in front of her groin and offered to buy her an apron to, as Brooks said, “slow down the penetration.”
Ziegler’s attorney Erin Harrigan and Diane Mackey, the principal of Rosa Lee Carter Elementary, both appeared to blame Brooks and her teaching aide Laurie Vandermeulen for the abuse the educators described in testimony. As far as they knew, they argued in court, the student didn’t do the same to his new teacher, and the teachers failed to implement their suggestions such as the apron.
The trial, in which the school district’s disgraced former top official faces three misdemeanor charges, could be the best chance at criminal culpability for Loudoun officials after its spokesman was acquitted of felony perjury charges. Outrage over the school system’s coverup of a rape by a skirt-wearing boy, coupled with the fact that the county’s prosecutor is a leftist activist who tried to jail the rape victim’s father, led Gov. Glenn Youngkin to empower a special grand jury to investigate the school system.
The charges Ziegler is facing this week stem from allegations that the administrator punished a teacher for cooperating with that grand jury, and for talking about another incident of sexual abuse which she feared LCPS wanted to cover up.
Brooks said she was a dedicated special education teacher who withstood hitting, spitting, and biting without complaint, but that this was something much worse, and she was concerned for the student as well as herself, but that the school district’s response was “feeble.”
“In my expert opinion, these behaviors were a sign that something is going on, that they’re witnessing or experiencing it. I asked Mrs. Mackey to call [Child Protective Services], but she refused,” Brooks said.
Ziegler’s attorney repeatedly suggested that Brooks was responsible for her own sexual assault because she refused to give the autistic student an iPad, leading to his frustration. The jury heard little evidence from witnesses that this occurred, and none to explain why Brooks — a second-generation special ed teacher — would have a motive to do that.
Brooks and Vandermeulen documented how many times a day they were assaulted at work. They shared the chart by email with Principal Mackey, but she never even opened it. Vandermuelen eventually began forwarding some emails on the topic to her personal Gmail, fearing that they were headed towards another LCPS sex-abuse coverup.
Vandermeulen broke down in tears on the witness stand recounting how she suffered the same abuse — first at the hands of a special needs student, and then at the hands of the school administration when she advocated for it to stop.
She worked to get the attention of the school board but didn’t know how, so a friend introduced her to Ian Prior, a frequent speaker before the school board. Vandermeulen gave Prior only a bare accounting of the difficulty she was facing — a teacher facing sexual abuse who filed a Title IX complaint in March 2022 — and he relayed the same at a school board meeting.
After learning that Vandermeulen had the conversation, Brooks googled Prior’s contact information and messaged him warning him not to disclose any personal information about the child — which it turned out was unnecessary because he didn’t know any.
After the school board meeting — which Mackey watched — the student was immediately removed from Brooks’ and Vendermeulen’s classroom, and Brooks was summoned to the office, believing something was finally being done to help her. Instead, she learned she was being investigated by the school system, and began facing retaliation, she said.
Mackey read her performance evaluation of Brooks in court, which repeatedly seemed to blame her for her own sexual assault, and said her failure to control her classroom led to a student being moved to a different class, which the evaluation said was the major black mark against her.
“Mrs. Brooks displayed rigidity in responding to the needs of a student, resulting in the student being removed from the classroom,” it said.
Prosecutors asked Mackey to show the jury what she wanted Brooks to use the piece of cardboard for, and Mackey stood up and held it in front of her groin. “I would have expected her to be professional enough to work with this student,” she said.
The prosecutor asked “what would be the appropriate professional response to having her genitals touched,” to which Mackey responded, “I don’t know.”
Evidence at trial showed that Brooks was Special Education Teacher of the Year in 2021, and got glowing reviews in early 2022 — only to have Ziegler recommend that the school board fire her, the only teacher he did that to.
The school district began claiming that Brooks violated the student’s privacy after an education activist made a vague mention of the educators’ workplace safety issue at a school board meeting — there was no mention of the student’s name or age, or even the name of the school.
In court, Ziegler’s lawyer claimed he asked the board to fire Brooks because LCPS thought it might get sued by the parents of the assailant, despite evidence suggesting that the parents were barely responsive and that the student might even be suffering abuse at home.
Principal Mackey testified that she recommended that Brooks be fired without pressure from Ziegler — but also admitted that her testimony to the grand jury a year ago, in which she denied ever discussing it with him, was false. She remembered on the first day of the trial that she did have a phone call with him about it, she said.
Human resources had not recommended that Brooks be fired, but Ziegler aggressively pushed for her firing anyway in retaliation for filing a Title IX complaint and testifying to the grand jury, the prosecution said.
School board member John Beatty testified that Ziegler told the board that Brooks improperly disclosed private information about a child to a conservative activist (which, testimony at trial showed, was untrue) and to the special grand jury initiated by Gov. Youngkin in response to the “gender-fluid” rape coverup (to which she was subpoenaed and legally required to disclose all details). Beatty testified that Ziegler seemed happy to fire Brooks, and that he acted suspiciously when questioned about it.
Principal Mackey acknowledged that when Brooks asked for the day off to testify, she demanded to see the subpoena. Just prior to Ziegler’s indictment, the grand jury issued a report saying that a member of Ziegler’s cabinet had told school employees and board members not to speak openly with the grand jury, and that it would have indicted Mackey for witness tampering if Virginia had such a law. Mackey said she communicated closely with the cabinet member who issued the warning.
The special grand jury was convened by Gov. Youngkin to investigate LCPS, spurred by The Daily Wire’s October 2021 report. Loudoun’s local prosecutor is a far-Left activist who tried to jail the father of the rape victim. Ziegler is facing three misdemeanors — two involving Brooks, and one which will be tried separately in February for falsely stating that there had been no sexual assaults in the school bathrooms when he knew a “gender-fluid” student had done so just weeks prior.
Related: Loudoun Said Trump’s Policies Forced Them To Cover Up Rape. Its Own Lawyers Found The Opposite In Secret Report.
Author: Luke Rosiak