School board member Beth Barts (Leesburg) tendered her resignation letter to Superintendent Scott Ziegler, effective Nov. 2, after over a year of turmoil including an attempt to remove her from office and the district facing a sexual assault scandal.
“This was not an easy decision or a decision made in haste. After much thought and careful consideration, it is the right decision for me and my family,” she said in her statement.
Barts told Loudoun Now that there is not one singular factor that prompted her resignation. She is facing a removal effort in court, sparked by her involvement in the Facebook group, Anti-Racist Parents of Loudoun County, where members allegedly compiled names of parents in the county opposed to the district’s equity efforts. During her term, Barts has been a vocal proponent of working toward racial equity in the school district. The group Fight for Schools spearheaded the removal effort and spent the summer collecting signatures in support of her removal. The removal petition was filed on Aug. 25.
Attempts to remove elected officials in Virginia rarely succeed, but removal is possible if a court finds “neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties when that neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance of duties has a material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office,” or after conviction for some crimes.
The case to remove Barts was still in the early stages; last week, Judge Jeanette Irby said she would appoint a special prosecutor to the case. Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj was allegedly involved in the same Facebook group as Barts. For that reason, Irby said, the public would never be able to trust that the case had been handled impartially if Biberaj were to prosecute it.
“I ran for the School Board to improve mental health resources, push for full-time parent liaisons, and free breakfast for all Title IX eligible schools. I’m proud of our forward movement in these areas,” Barts told Loudoun Now. She said she will return to volunteer work in the community upon leaving office.
Barts also said she has responded to 10,518 emails and has attended over one hundred in-person and virtual meetings during her tenure.
Barts won the general election to her seat on Nov. 5, 2019, earing 6,434 (54.8%) votes, besting her opponent Joe Newcomer’s 5,293 (45%) votes.
“I would like to extend a special thank you to the thousands of Leesburg constituents and others, who have provided unyielding support to me during my School Board term,” she said.
To replace Barts, the board must appoint someone to the seat she will leave vacant within 45 days of her leaving office. It is a process the board just went through to fill the seat that Leslee King (Broad Run) left vacant when she passed. Andrew Hoyler was appointed last Tuesday to fill the Broad Run seat, and will serve until a special election in held in November 2022. With Barts’s resignation, a race for the Leesburg seat could also be on the 2022 ballot. The winners of those races will serve until the end of the current term, in 2023.
The news Barts’ resignation comes during a trying week for the school district. The latest scandal surrounding the school district involved the alleged rape of a Stone Bridge High School student on May 28. On Oct. 7, a student at Broad Run High School was allegedly assaulted by the same person, though the school district will not confirm it was the same student involved in both incidents. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office investigating. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Kraig Troxell said that he could not comment on the matter, citing state code that seals cases involving juveniles.
During the Oct. 12 School Board meeting, members of the public berated the board and Superintendent Scott Ziegler, charging that Ziegler put other students at risk by allowing the alleged assailant to transfer to another school in the district. School Board members said that they did not know that the student from the Stone Bridge incident was also involved Broad Run incident.