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Calls mount for Bridget Ziegler to resign from Sarasota School Board amid a sex scandal

Bridget Ziegler at the dais at the meeting, with flowers on either side
Bridget Ziegler served as chair of the school board for much of 2023, but was replaced as chair by Karen Rose in late November

The five-member Sarasota School Board is dominated by four conservatives. The two members who won election on the same slate as Ziegler, Tim Enos and Robyn Marinelli, have not commented.

The Sarasota School Board will vote Tuesday to ask member Bridget Ziegler to resign, after two colleagues said she has become a "distraction" due to her involvement in a sexual relationship with her husband and another woman.

Chair Karen Rose and school board member Tom Edwards, who are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, have both called on Ziegler to step aside.

Ziegler — co-founder of the far-right group Moms For Liberty — has not responded to requests for comment.

RELATED: Police have recovered video of Florida GOP chair and alleged victim in rape investigation

Ziegler's husband, Christian, is the chair of the Florida Republican Party. A woman who took part in at least one sexual encounter with the couple in the past has accused Christian Ziegler of raping her in October, after a proposed threesome fell through.

No charges have been filed against Ziegler, and he has said the sex was consensual. Police say they are actively investigating. The details of the case were revealed by the Florida Center for Government Accountability last month.

"Our community has been rocked by the disturbing revelations surrounding my fellow School Board member Bridget Ziegler and the criminal allegations against her husband, Christian Ziegler," Rose said in a statement this week.

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the conduct," Rose added.

Man with white hair and goatee wearing blue blazer gestures while seated.
Sarasota County Schools
Sarasota County School Board member Tom Edwards walked out of a recent meeting after a public commenter engaged in anti-gay rhetoric.

"So for the good of our students, teachers, staff and community, I will be calling on Mrs. Ziegler to step down from her position on the school board."

Rose said she cares about Ziegler personally but "given the intense media scrutiny locally and nationally, her continued presence on the board would cause irreparably harmful distractions to our critical mission."

Her call for Ziegler's resignation came after the sole moderate on the board, Edwards, himself an openly gay man, urged Ziegler to step aside.

"As a public figure who was hypocritical in such a salacious way, that is the distraction that has to go away," Edwards said.

"I want it to be very clear. I am not judging what people do in the privacy of their own homes. But the distraction she brings to the school board, prior to this and now this, is not sustainable. It has to go away," he added.

At the first meeting of the newly elected board on November 22, 2022, Robyn Marinelli in a red dress sits to left, Brennan Asplen sips water in the center, as Bridget Ziegler sits to the right on the stage at Venice Performing Arts Center
Sarasota County Schools
At the first meeting of the newly elected board on November 22, 2022, they voted 4-1 to hold a special meeting to discuss then superintendent Brennan Asplen's termination, but gave no reasons for the move.

Ziegler campaigned for re-election to the school board on a platform of conservative family values and fiscal responsibility.

Ziegler has been a proponent of parental rights in education, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last year, limiting instruction about gender identity and sexuality in schools.

Critics call it the "Don't Say Gay" law and say it has had a chilling effect on LGBTQ students, teachers and families.

Rose and Ziegler were one-time allies on the board. In November 2022, they moved to terminate the sitting superintendent.

School board member Karen Rose at podium in black jacket
SCREENSHOT: Sarasota County Schools
The idea to redraw the maps was first put forward by Karen Rose, who is running for her seat in 2024.

While he eventually negotiated his exit at an estimated cost to the district of $170,000, Asplen — himself a Republican and self-described conservative — described the turmoil as "politics and nonsense," initiated by a school board that had shifted to the right.

Bridget Ziegler also sits on the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, established by DeSantis to govern the area surrounding Walt Disney World. She reportedly appeared at that meeting this week via Zoom with her camera off.

Ziegler has reportedly resigned from another high-profile position she held at the Leadership Institute.

According to the agenda item listed for the Tuesday meeting, the Sarasota School Board is unable to force her to leave her seat, but can "informally recommend" that she voluntarily resign.

With DeSantis's endorsement, the 41-year-old mother of three was elected to a four-year term on the school board that began in November 2022.

If she were to resign, Florida's governor would appoint someone to fill the seat. DeSantis has said Christian Ziegler should step aside as head of the Florida GOP, but has not commented on Bridget Ziegler.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.