Loudoun School Superintendent Scott Ziegler likened a parent protest to the events on Jan. 6 and to his experience seeing people drinking at the beach — once again underscoring the tension between administrators, law enforcement and parents just days ahead of Virginia‘s hotly contested gubernatorial election.
Ziegler’s comments came as part of a court hearing for Jon Tigges, who was arrested for allegedly trespassing at a raucous June 22 school board meeting.
During a September hearing, Ziegler testified that he had experience with crowd control while working as a police chaplain in the City of Virginia Beach. Tigges’ attorney, Chris Kachouroff, had followed up with Ziegler by asking: “You were analogizing the crowd that was there that night to the crowds that come from bars where people had been drinking on the strip in Virginia Beach.”
“Yes,” Ziegler responded at the Sept. 22 hearing in Loudoun’s general district court. He similarly confirmed to Kachouroff that he thought the events reminded him of Jan. 6. Earlier in his testimony, he offered commonwealth attorney Buta Biberaj additional insight into his reasoning.
He noted that “somebody had brought in a voice amplification device at some point, and there was individuals, I guess, trying to organize their own version of public comment.”
Ziegler went on to add that “at that point, it became clear to me that we were not going to be able to restore order in the room, that these individuals were going to continue standing on chairs, that they were going to voice opposition to things that were on the agenda that night, but also that it wasn’t going to be safe in the room for those who disagreed with their opinion. Basically, individuals had taken over the boardroom and it was very reminiscent to me of January 6.”
At one point, Kachouroff asked Ziegler if people were “burning chairs inside the room” – a reference to violent activity that took place in Portland, Oregon. “No, but there were people who were moving chairs aggressively, yeah,” Ziegler responded.
Ziegler’s testimony offers additional, behind-the-scenes details on a meeting that captured national headlines and has continued to influence the state’s gubernatorial contest.
On Thursday, Fox News published documents showing that the June 22 meeting appeared to prompt what the sheriff’s office described as “extraordinary” security requests for another meeting in August.
At the national level, law enforcement and school officials have prompted backlash for their interest in investigating parents opposing school board policies. Most notably, the U.S. Department of Justice opened a nationwide investigation after the National School Board Association (NSBA) sent a letter suggesting parents might be engaging in domestic terrorism. Although the NSBA eventually apologized for its language, the incident resurfaced concerns about free speech and the prospect of left-leaning figures misappropriating the alleged threat of domestic terrorism after Jan. 6.
The association between parents and “right-wing” violence has spread throughout the media in recent weeks. Earlier this week, Biberaj participated in an MSNBC interview in which she said: “[I]f you have ever seen the video, it really has the hint of the insurrection on January 6th as far as the mob mentality, the heated rhetoric. It just was a very unsafe situation that the officers found themselves in and they had to create some opportunity for calmness.”
Ian Prior, who leads Fight for Schools PAC, told Fox News: “The Loudoun County Superintendent and Commonwealth Attorney have all been working overtime to portray the June 22nd school board meeting as some kind of January 6th event. The news of the past several weeks has ended that fake narrative.”
“The school board tried to silence the opposition; they did so over applause for a speaker. And then the Superintendent declared an unlawful assembly when he had no legal authority to do so,” added Prior, who is a Loudoun parent and a previous Trump administration official.
Prior added that “[t]here will never be trust in Loudoun County Schools until Superintendent Ziegler is fired and the board members that were complicit in a cover – that directly led to a second alleged sexual assault – resign.”
While Loudoun has captured national headlines in the past, that particular meeting seemed to encapsulate months of pent up frustration in the county. Coronavirus guidelines had been relaxed at that point and parents were allowed to occupy the meeting area. The board eventually left when parents continued applauding speakers, despite the board chair’s instructions to use jazz hands.
Ziegler subsequently declared an unlawful assembly — something he later acknowledged was “incorrect,” according to the hearing transcript. After that declaration, Ziegler said he consulted with the sheriff’s office, which agreed with clearing the room.
“Major [Easton] McDonald said, ‘Go ahead and make the announcement,’” Ziegler recalled. McDonald similarly confirmed this in his subsequent testimony, noting that he agreed with Ziegler’s request to clear the room after he saw one of his officers “tackled” by another individual.
At least two people – including Tigges – were arrested. The other individual was Scott Smith, whose daughter’s alleged sexual assault has become a flashpoint in the debate over gender-related policies in schools.
Ziegler did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox News published documents on Thursday showing that Sheriff Mike Chapman was frustrated with the way Ziegler handled the June 22 meeting and thought attendees should have been able to voice their opinions.
A letter from August details a phone conversation in which Chapman said the school board “unilaterally decided to limit public comment.” Prior to Ziegler’s declaration and McDonald’s consultation, the school board had voted to end public comment, but McDonald’s testimony indicates he played a role in limiting their parents’ presence in the building.
Chapman also said that he believed people should “have been allowed to speak (reference to the June 22, 2021 School Board meeting).” Those details came in notes LCPS Chief Operating Officer Kevin Lewis’ notes, which Chapman confirmed to Fox News as “accurately” describing his concerns.
The notes added that Chapman thought the “optics are that LCSO [Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office] deprived citizens of their right to speak in public,” and the “[s]chool board is being dismissive of people they don’t agree with.”
Chapman did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Neither did a spokesperson for Loudoun County Public Schools.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)