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Loudoun schools superintendent fired, indicted over sexual assault case

Controversy continues over false reports that student charged was gender fluid



Loudoun County School Board building. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia special grand jury indictment unsealed on Monday alleges that former Loudoun County public schools superintendent Scott Ziegler “unlawfully” made a false statement during a June 2021 school board meeting by saying he was unaware that a sexual assault had taken place in the girl’s bathroom at one of the county’s high schools.

The Washington Post reports that although the indictment does not say so directly, it appears to be referring to a case in which a 15-year-old boy was charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., in May of 2021 while he was wearing a skirt.

School officials, including Ziegler, came under intense criticism after news surfaced that the same boy was charged with sexually assaulting another girl in a vacant classroom in October of 2021 at Broad Run High School, also in Ashburn, to which he was transferred after being charged with the earlier sexual assault.

The indictment was unsealed one week after the Loudoun County Board of Education fired Ziegler after the same grand jury issued an earlier 91-page report highly critical of the way Loudoun school officials handled the investigation into the two sexual assault cases.  

The grand jury report, according to the Post, labels Loudoun school officials as incompetent and calls Ziegler a liar in connection with their handling of the two sexual assault cases.

Ziegler has said that he misunderstood a question a school board member asked him, incorrectly thinking he was asked whether he was aware of specifically transgender or gender fluid students assaulting other students in school bathrooms. He responded with a “no” answer, which the grand jury indictment says was a lie.

But Ziegler has said it was only later that he realized that the school board member asked him if any type of sexual assault had occurred in a school bathroom. Like LGBTQ activists, Ziegler has said he did not consider the boy who committed the sexual assaults to be transgender.

When reports first surfaced in October 2021 that the boy allegedly committed one of the two assaults in the girl’s bathroom while wearing women’s clothes, the revelation triggered a furious backlash against a transgender supportive schools policy adopted by the Loudoun County school system.

The policy, which called for allowing transgender and gender fluid students to use the bathroom and other school facilities that match their gender identity, was based on a similar statewide policy put in place during the administration of former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

The current Republican governor, Glenn Younkin, has attempted to reverse that policy and put in place a new, highly controversial transgender schools policy that, among other things, would require students to use the bathrooms in accordance with their gender assigned at birth.

The Youngkin policy also would require written parental consent for trans or gender fluid students to change their birth names and wear clothes in accordance with their gender identity.  

LGBTQ rights activists in Virginia have argued that the trans supportive policy adopted under the Northam administration was based on legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly banning discrimination based on gender identity and that Youngkin has no legal authority to reverse that policy.

Activists have also said the furor over the transgender supportive school policies was fueled by what they said has been unsubstantiated claims that the 15-year-old boy was transgender or gender fluid. The boy’s mother told the that her son occasionally wore a skirt, but he wore jeans and male clothes most of the time and identifies as heterosexual.

The mother also pointed to law enforcement records showing that her son and the first of the two girls he was charged with assaulting had consensual sex in the bathroom twice before the alleged assault.  

The Post reports that it was Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) who convened the special grand jury to investigate the Loudoun school officials’ handling of the two sexual assault cases.

According to the Post, the indictment unsealed on Monday also charges another Loudoun schools official, Wayde Byard, with felony perjury. But the Post says the charge against Byard and other charges in the indictment against Ziegler appear to be unrelated to the two sexual assault cases.

Another misdemeanor charge against Ziegler accuses him of using his position to retaliate or threaten to retaliate against an employee and “falsely firing the same employee,” the Post report says.

In a statement released to the Post, Ziegler criticized the grand jury’s actions, saying it appeared politically based, and said he would fight the charges against him.

“I am disappointed that an Attorney General-controlled, secret and one-sided process – which never once sought my testimony – has made such false and irresponsible accusations,” the Post quotes Ziegler as saying. “I will vigorously defend myself. I look forward to a time when the truth becomes public.”

Ziegler added in his statement that neither of the two assaults committed by the 15-year-old student “had anything to do with schools providing basic accommodations for transgender students.”



Freddie’s to hold ‘Love Fest’ Drag Story Hour after bomb threat

Arlington gay bar receives outpouring of support from community



From left, Tara Hoot and Freddie Lutz at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy of Lutz)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, the Arlington, Va. LGBTQ establishment, has announced it is hosting a “Love Fest” celebration on Saturday, May 4 that will include a Drag Queen Story Hour brunch in response to a bomb threat that interrupted the first Drag Story Hour event it hosted four weeks earlier.

“Help us stop the hate,” a flier announcing the May 4 Love Fest event says. “Join us for our next story time brunch, dressed in your favorite Rainbow/Hippie outfit,” the flier says. “Carry your homemade signs of support.”

Freddie Lutz, Freddie’s Beach Bar owner, said a portion of the proceeds of the event will be donated to local LGBTQ charities.

Lutz has reported that separate email messages with a bomb threat were sent to the Freddie’s in the Crystal City section of Arlington, the Freddie’s Beach Bar in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and to him personally with a threat targeting his and his husband’s house located near the Freddie’s in Crystal City.

He said the first threat arrived about an hour before the April 6 Drag Story Hour was scheduled to begin, with drag queen Tara Hoot scheduled to read children’s stories to what Lutz said was a large turnout of kids with their parents and family members. After asking all patrons to exit the bar into its rear outdoor seating area and parking lot, Arlington police conducted a thorough search of the premises with a bomb sniffing dog and found no trace of a bomb.

All customers, including parents and their children, were invited back inside and the show took place as planned, with drag performer Hoot describing the event as a display of “fun and love and joy.”

Lutz has said the May 4 Love Fest event, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., is intended to show the community and those responsible for bomb threats at many of the past Drag Story Hour events, that these events enjoy strong community support.

“They’re trying to scare us and intimidate us, and I just don’t think as a community we can allow that to happen,” he told WUSA 9 TV News. “It emboldens me to just carry on,” he said.

He told the Washington Blade he and his staff are honored that they have received an outpouring of support from community organizations, other nearby businesses, and government officials.

The Arlington County Board, which is the governing body of the county, voted unanimously on April 9 to approve a statement supporting Freddie’s Beach Bar and the LGBTQ community in response to the bomb threat incident.

“Arlington County and the County board unequivocally support the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement says. “Arlington County Police Department’s swift response ensured the safety of patrons and staff, and the fortitude of Freddie and drag queen Tara Hoot allowed the show to go on,” the statement continues.

“With protests, threats, and violence targeting the LGBTQ+ community – and drag shows in particular – on the rise across the country, expressions of hatred and bigotry have absolutely no place in our community, and the Arlington County Board condemns these threats of violence and attempted intimidation of our community,” it says.

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Norfolk transgender resource center vandalized

Anti-trans graffiti spraypainted onto Southeastern Transgender Resource Center’s windows



Southeastern Transgender Resource Center (Image courtesy of the Southeastern Transgender Resource Center)

The Norfolk Police Department is investigating the vandalism of a transgender resource center’s building.

Tarena Williams, founder of the Southeastern Transgender Resource Center, told WAVY that someone spraypainted anti-trans graffiti on the windows of her organization’s offices on Sunday or Monday morning. Williams told the Hampton Roads television station that seeing the messages was like “walking into hell.”

“I opened up STRC, even the Lamina House,” she told WAVY. “I opened up that to get away from those types of words. This is a place you can come to get away from that, but to see that sprayed over the window. It’s kind of like you are walking into hell. … To be honest, I was like in shock.”

Authorities are investigating the vandalism.

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Bomb threat interrupts Drag Story Hour event at Arlington gay bar

Event resumed after police, bomb sniffing dog search of Freddie’s Beach Bar



From left, Tara Hoot and Freddie Lutz at Freddie's Beach Bar in Arlington, Va. (Photo courtesy of Freddie Lutz)

A Drag Story Hour event hosted by the Arlington, Va. gay bar and restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar was interrupted by a bomb threat sent by email on Saturday, April 6, requiring parents and their children attending the event to exit the bar into its rear outdoor seating area and parking lot until police and a bomb sniffing dog searched the premises and found no trace of a bomb.

Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar, located in the Crystal City section of South Arlington, said the threatening email from an unidentified sender came during the first time he has hosted a Drag Story Hour event, which includes a drag performer reading children’s stories to children accompanied by their parents.

“We had a lot of neighborhood families with kids and babies and one grandmother in there,” Lutz told the Washington Blade. “It was a great turnout, and we had to push them all out to the back parking lot,” he said. “And they waited, which I thanked them for, until the coast was clear. And then they came back in.”

Lutz said that two protesters opposed to the drag event showed up outside Freddie’s on Saturday, at the time of the Drag Story Hour event. He said drag performer Tara Hoot, who conducted the Drag Story Hour at Freddie’s, told him before the event started that some of her previous Drag Story Hour events have been targeted with bomb threats and protesters.

“So, we were kind of prepared or I guess you could say psychologically prepared for it,” Lutz said. “And sure enough, we got an email threatening the bar and also me personally at my residence, which was a little unsettling,” he said, adding that nothing was found at his nearby South Arlington house.

In response to an inquiry from  the Blade, Arlington police released a brief statement about the incident.

‘At approximately 11:15 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the report of a bomb threat emailed to a business,” the statement says. “Responding officers made contact with the occupants, conducted a sweep of the business and found no evidence of criminal activity located at the restaurant during the sweep,” it says. “The investigation into the threat is ongoing.”

Hoot, who has been conducting Drag Story Hour events in the D.C. area for more than a year, said as many as eight of her past events have been targeted by hostile protesters or bomb threats, although no bombs have ever been found at the locations where the events have taken place.  

Hoot said like protesters targeting her previous events, the two protesters at the Freddie’s event, a man and a woman, cited their religious believes as their reason for opposing the Drag Story Hour event.

“They were spewing religious hate,” Hoot told the Blade. “They were trying to shame parents for bringing their kids.”

Hoot said she includes in the performances songs of interest to children and reads from children’s books such as the Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that talks about bravery and other positive themes. “And then I give them bubbles and rainbow ribbons and we all color together,” she said. “It’s just fun and love and joy.”

Started in San Francisco in 2015 by an organization called Drag Story Hour, the story hour events have taken place across the country in libraires, bookstores, and venues such as restaurants and bars.

“In spaces like this, kids are able to see people who defy rigid gender restrictions and imagine a world where everyone can be their authentic selves,” the organization says on its website. 

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