FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — Fairfax County Public Schools announced it is opening an investigation into how a counselor at Glasgow Middle School kept his job for months after he was convicted for a sex crime in a separate Virginia jurisdiction.
Darren Thornton, 50, was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute who was a minor in Chesterfield County in November 2020, just months after he started his job with the school district. After he pleaded not guilty in court, a jury found him guilty on March 11, 2022. He was sentenced to five years, all of which were suspended.
Even after his conviction, he remained with the school district through the end of the 2021-22 school year.
But Chesterfield County police confirmed to DC News Now that “the superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools was notified of Mr. Thornton’s Nov. 19, 2020, arrest via email on Nov. 20, 2020.”
Fairfax County’s new superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, was then informed of the second set of charges Thornton faced in 2022 via phone call, according to police.
On June 9, Thornton was charged with solicitation of prostitution, a misdemeanor, as part of an operation by the Chesterfield County police.
In an interview with DC News Now, Reid said she was made aware of Thornton’s criminal history on July 28, 2022. That day, she sent a letter to the Glasgow Middle School community informing them. She sent a letter to the entire FCPS community weeks later on August 18, saying Thornton was fired.
“He was fully background checked and reference checked prior to employment,” Reid said. “I know we’ve breached trust with our community and I’m asking our community to understand that we are taking every effort to make sure that this never happens again in Fairfax County Public Schools.”
Thornton is due in court for the second set of charges in September.
Now, FCPS is investigating what went wrong.
“We have retained a third-party legal investigator who has full visibility into all processes, all aspects of anything that may or may not have contributed to this circumstance,” Reid said.
The investigation will look into how seemingly nobody sounded the alarm.
It will look into “who knew what, when, and what did they do once they knew?” according to Reid.
Advocacy group Do Better FCPS, which has been extremely critical of the school division, is calling for transparency via the release of the whole unredacted report when it’s complete.
“That investigation is being paid for and funded by us, the taxpayers, and we own that report,” said Do Better FCPS’ Sue Zoldak.
Reid said that the day after she learned of Thornton’s criminal record, she wrote a letter to the Virginia Department of Education asking to revoke his license.