FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) — An independent investigation conducted after a counselor at Glasgow Middle School kept his job even after an arrest and conviction for soliciting a minor for prostitution found “some systemic gaps” within Fairfax County’s school system.
At a meeting with families on Tuesday night at the school, Superintendent Michelle Reid shared some of the findings and vowed to follow the recommendations.
She began by defending the district’s actions in part, saying the report confirmed that the district never received word of Darren Thornton’s arrest or conviction. In fact, they only learned of his troubled record after his second arrest.
DC News Now reported that was due to an email mishap by the arresting agency, the Chesterfield Police Department, which mistyped the email when it intended to send a notice to Fairfax County’s previous superintendent.
Reid said the full report will remain private, citing attorney-client privilege, but she said it was straightforward — there were five areas of findings and recommendations.
“It’s my commitment to make sure all of these recommendations are actualized,” Reid said.
The summary of findings, and what FCPS said it will do to address them, can be found here.
The findings cover the areas of notice of arrests and conviction, hiring, licensure, leave, and dismissal and resignation. As for hiring practices, the report said FCPS’s process “has several systemic gaps including on reference checks, verification of the appropriate license, and information sharing between jurisdictions.”
As a response, FCPS said it will improve its reference check process. One way it will do so is by contacting the central office of the candidate’s previous employer. It is also exploring entering an FBI program.
The report also cited “systemic issues with consistently and promptly dismissing employees following felony convictions.”
“We are going to promptly initiate dismissal and license renovation petitions for all employees convicted of barrier crimes,” Reid told families, reading from the summary. “We will not accept resignations from employees who are convicted of such barrier crimes.”
After reading excerpts from the report, Reid addressed families and took questions.
“This situation has broken trust, right? So we’re going to work very hard to regain and rebuild that trust,” she said.
Kathleen Brown, who has a child in the school system, said Reid is on the right track and praised the division as a whole, but admitted she left Tuesday night’s meeting with some concerns.
“To blindly say, ‘No, this is not happening, it’s not going to happen again here.’ Very naive.”
Brown wants the full report to be released. She also said she’s wary of private one-on-one sessions between students and counselors happening behind closed doors.
“Just like when I’m in a doctor’s office for a particularly private exam, they have another person come into the room to make sure my needs are met,” Brown said.
During the Q-and-A portion of the meeting, Brown asked Reid about that, suggesting cameras or additional staff members in the room. Reid said she was uncomfortable with cameras, but would discuss additional staff members with her team.