FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — A principal at a Fairfax County elementary school is on leave after he was accused of driving into a home while intoxicated and then leaving the scene.
Navy Elementary School Principal Jonathon Coch is being held in Loudoun County on two charges — a felony count of failing to stop after an accident, and a misdemeanor DWI charge. He also faced a civil violation for refusing a blood/breath test.
While his future is uncertain, what became evident is that the incident could have been a lot worse.
A slight incline on the bottom of a hill near a Loudoun County home may have stopped worse damage to the home involved in the suspected DWI crash.
The homeowner, who declined to go on camera, spoke to DC News Now saying “the accident was very unfortunate.”
The crash happened around 2:30 p.m. on Friday, September 2 near the corner of Winning Glory Dr. and Seven Hills Dr. Although it was a weekday, Fairfax County Public Schools were off for Labor Day.
No one was hurt in the accident, and a neighbor told the homeowner a license plate left behind from the crash helped police find Coch shortly thereafter.
“I was shocked and stunned and instantly was hit with a pit in my stomach,” Kia Taylor Barker, a mom who has sent all three of her children to Navy Elementary School, told DC News Now. “Good people make mistakes, and good people make bad decisions.”
While she waits for the legal process to play out, and ultimately the school’s decision, she is rallying support from fellow parents for Coch.
“We’d love to have him back as a principal at Navy,” she said. “But if that doesn’t happen, we want to know that he’s going to be okay and we care about him as a person the same way that he cares about us and the community and the children.”
Recently, FCPS has been criticized for its handling of a completely separate incident at Glasgow Middle School, where a counselor accused of soliciting a minor kept his job even after a conviction.
The communication breakdown in that instance didn’t appear to happen at Navy Elementary School. The charges against Coch were filed on Friday, and by the first day back from Labor Day Weekend, parents received an email from the school division citing Coch’s leave.
Taylor-Barker attended a PTO meeting on Wednesday night, and she described it as “somber.” She said the message from leadership was: this incident will play itself out because right now, we don’t have the answers.
Coch is due in court on October 12. He’s being represented by David Lloyd, of Nova Defenders.
FCPS has said Ray Lonnett, Executive Principal Region 1, will “step into the leadership role” at Navy Elementary.