Crisis in LCPS


The recent indictments of Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) superintendent Dr. Scott Ziegler and spokesman Wayde Byard have left some in the Potomac Falls community shocked as the county reels from a statewide investigation led by Attorney General Jason Miyares.

If you ask a Loudoun County resident about Wayde Byard, chances are the first two words that come to mind are: snow days. The LCPS spokesman is so widely recognized in the county that multiple social media accounts posing as him dominate the Loudoun County social atmosphere during winter, when students eagerly wait to hear his voice on the mailbox at the early crack of dawn. Wayde Byard is a household name in Loudoun County, perhaps even more so when LCPS placed him on paid administrative leave on Monday, Dec. 12. 

Governor Glenn Youngkin, as well as Attorney General Jason Miyares, during their campaigns in 2021 criticized LCPS for not handling a sexual assault case that occurred in early 2021 effectively. Miyares’ first day of office consisted of him calling a grand jury, while Gov. Youngkin issued an executive order to request an investigation conducted by the attorney general.

According to Drew Wilder and Gina Cook from an article published by NBC Washington, the perpetrator committed two sexual assaults at two different Loudoun County high schools in the course of six months. The first incident was at Stone Bridge (SBHS)  and the second occurred at Broad Run (BRHS), where the student transferred after the first incident. The case garnered national recognition because the perpetrator is a biological male who allegedly allegedly wore a skirt in one of the attacks, during a time in which LCPS was revising its guidelines regarding transgender students in the school system.  Both Miyares and Youngkin argued that LCPS pushed the issue under the rug. 

Despite LCPS hitting back against the grand jury in September, saying Miyares’ investigation was unconstitutional, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the grand jury probe into LCPS. The report was released early December and found LCPS was liable for ignoring the sexual assaults. According to the report, the special grand jury reported that the LCPS administrators at the central office “looked out for their own interests”  LCPS administrators looked out for their own interests rather than the interests of the school district during the handling of the case. 

Days after the grand jury’s report on Dec. 5, LCPS school board members voted to fire Ziegler after the report revealed he had lied about the SBHS assault at a school board meeting in June 2021. At this meeting, the school board debated policies surrounding the treatment of transgender students at schools when a school board member asked Ziegler if LCPS had previous problems with sexual assaults occurring in bathrooms.

Ziegler’s response was: “To my knowledge, we don’t have any record of assaults in our restrooms.” Despite his answer, the report found there were emails contradicting what Ziegler told school board members. Prior to the meeting, Ziegler received emails regarding the SBHS assault, e.g. text messages sent from the perpetrator to the victim, and even sent an email to warn board members of the incident.

Teachers at SBHS and BRHS warned LCPS administrators of the perpetrator’s behavior in school before the assaults took place. Even the perpetrator’s grandmother warned school staff about him, calling him a “sociopath”. Two weeks prior to the Stone Bridge assault, a teaching assistant wrote an email to an administrator about concerns over the boy having issues with listening and keeping his hands to himself.

The SBHS and BRHS assaults were not the only ones that Ziegler was aware of. The report detailed an alleged assault on a special education teacher who reported being sexually assaulted by a student but the incident was never investigated. According to a case filed by an ex-LCPS employee, the filing revealed she accused a fifth grade student at her workplace of groping her and asserted that school administrators repeatedly ignored her concerns. The woman also accused LCPS of unlawfully firing her and is suing for $1 million, although LCPS has hit back at the accusation by saying the woman leaked confidential information about the student in emails.

According to Evan Goodenow from the Loudoun Times, the grand jury indicted Ziegler with misdemeanor counts of false publication, prohibited conduct and penalizing an employee for a court appearance. LCPS appointed Dr. Daniel Smith, LCPS Chief of Staff and former principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School, to take over as interim superintendent.

The jury also indicted Byard on one felony count of perjury: lying while under oath. Although he is placed on paid administrative leave, Byard plans to plead not guilty to the charge. According to Byard after his court appearance, he has no idea what he was indicted for. “I can’t address any of the specific charges because neither my attorney or myself have been given any indication of what I’ve been alleged [to have done],” said Byard.

The grand jury said it believes the second sexual assault at Broad Run could have been prevented. “A remarkable lack of curiosity and adherence to operating in silos by LCPS administrators are ultimately to blame for the October 6 incident,” the report stated. The report also revealed the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was slow to charge the perpetrator over the SBHS assault and rarely kept communication channels with LCPS flowing.

Despite the charges against Ziegler and Byard, the report concluded the school board members were deliberately deprived of information when it came to the incidents until the Broad Run assault in October 2021.

The report’s findings had many groups speaking out, especially political organizations. Liberal Loudoun4All who are supportive of LCPS policies promoting teachings on race and sex released a statement. Despite being grateful that real problems at LCPS are being revealed, the group is nevertheless disappointed at the way information is continuing to be intentionally twisted to confuse the roles of the school board and administration in order to place blame on the school board for political purposes. “This misinformation makes it far harder for the public to understand the real issues, and therefore makes it harder for those issues to be addressed,” according to the statement.

Conservative group Fight for Schools celebrated the report’s findings, with executive director Ian Prior commending conservative parents for their fight. “Those parents repeatedly took slings and arrows from the media, local elected officials and others in their own community… Despite that, they never backed down,” said Prior.

The grand jury unveiled recommendations for LCPS at the end of the report, highly encouraging them to follow suit. Despite the report’s release, the crisis at LCPS is far from over, with the school board intending to discuss the grand jury’s recommendations at the next school board meeting.