The Fairfax County school system on Tuesday announced the findings of its internal investigation into the hiring of a convicted sex offender as a middle school counselor, saying the probe revealed widespread "systemic" problems within the district in the vetting of potential new staff members.
The announcement came the same day Darren Thornton, 50, appeared in Chesterfield County court on Tuesday on the newest charge of soliciting prostitution first lodged against him three months ago.
Thornton kept his job as a counselor at Glasgow Middle School in Lincolnia despite an arrest in November 2020 for soliciting a minor for prostitution. He started the gig in August 2020.
He was convicted of that offense in March of this year, he but didn’t lose his job until August after the second arrest, WTVR reported, prompting the school district to conduct an internal investigation.
At a community meeting at Glasgow Middle School, Fairfax County Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid told attendees that the probe uncovered "systemic gaps" in the school system’s staffing practices, promising changes regarding hiring/reference checks, monitoring employee performance/making sure staff is properly licensed, ensuring time off is documented, and quickly dismissing employees convicted of felonies, instead of suspending them without pay, FOX 5 DC reported.
"You have my commitment that we will be taking action to correct the systemic issues noted in the summary, and I have begun to take appropriate disciplinary actions as a result of this investigation," Reid said while stressing that the complete investigative report would not be released because it falls under attorney-client privilege.
"I really think we need to see the entire report. If FCPS would wish to excise or block out certain portions of that report, I agree that that’s legitimate," one parent, Kathleen Brown, said at the meeting. "But I think we as parents in the school system that’s one of the largest in the country, we need to understand what happened here and why it happened."
After Thornton’s first arrest, the Chesterfield Police Department said investigators became aware he was a school counselor and phoned the school district asking for the superintendent’s email. But the police chief claimed his investigators were given the wrong email addresses. Reid on Tuesday said she has since made sure every law enforcement agency in the state has the right contact information.
"Because as we know from the Chesterfield Police Department, they had the wrong email address, so that simple communication piece we hope would make a big, a significant difference moving forward," Reid said.