Fairfax County Public Schools will require all workers to undergo “regular” background checks after a now-terminated counselor remained employed at Lincolnia’s Glasgow Middle School despite being convicted of a sex crime.
The new policy is one of several changes announced yesterday (Tuesday) by FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid in response to an independent investigation into why the school system continued to employ Darren Thornton after he was convicted on March 11 of soliciting prostitution from a minor in Chesterfield County.
Conducted by outside legal counsel, the investigation found that Chesterfield officials didn’t notify FCPS of Thornton’s arrest on Nov. 19 or about his subsequent conviction, according to a summary of the report.
The Chesterfield Police Department has said that its emails to FCPS bounced back as undeliverable after ending up in a spam folder.
Once informed about the conviction, the Fairfax County School Board “acted without delay,” FCPS says. Reid told the community on Aug. 18 that she and the board had ordered an outside, independent investigation into what happened.
The investigation found systematic human resources issues related to hiring, licensure, leave, dismissal, and resignations, according to FCPS. Among the issues are a pattern of suspending employees without pay after felony convictions, rather than “consistently and promptly dismissing” them.
“These have been exacerbated by factors such as significant leadership churn,” FCPS wrote in the summary. “As we plan to work with identifying and implementing strong systems of accountability, it will be important that we implement these actions with fidelity and have frequent accountability checks.”
Reid said in her message to families that she has “begun to take appropriate disciplinary actions” but didn’t detail which personnel are being disciplined or how.
Reid shared results of the investigation with Glasgow parents at a community meeting yesterday, but said that the full report won’t be made public “because parts of it are protected by attorney-client privilege,” WTOP reported.
In addition to requiring regular background checks of current employees, Reid said FCPS will add more steps to the hiring process, including reference checks with former employers and more timely verifications of their licensure status. It will also seek to dismiss and get licenses revoked for any employees convicted of “barrier crimes.”
The school system is also looking at joining the FBI’s Rap Back program, which notifies employers if a worker’s fingerprints are entered into its database in connection with criminal activity. However, FCPS says it won’t be able to enroll in the program until it’s made available in Virginia.
Reid says FCPS is working with state lawmakers and federal, state and local law enforcement “to ensure timely and robust information sharing and notice regarding employee arrests and convictions.” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer sent a letter to the county’s General Assembly delegation in August proposing a centralized, statewide notification system. Read More
Kevin Iglesias didn’t have much time to make an impact at Glasgow Middle School, but he managed to leave a deeply felt impression nonetheless.
Known for his friendliness and dedication to students, the special education instructional assistant died unexpectedly from a head injury on Aug. 21, leaving his family, friends and the Bailey’s Crossroads-area middle school reeling. He was 28 years old.
“The sudden loss has hit our whole community like a punch to the gut because of who Kevin was, the community he was striving to foster around him, and the very young age he was taken from us,” said Abby Ponce, who had been a close friend of Iglesias since they grew up in West Falls Church together.
Ponce says she and Iglesias had especially fond memories of their experience attending Westlawn Elementary School, and he sought to recreate that environment of “care, love and acceptance” for Glasgow students as a staff member.
Iglesias’s commitment to supporting students and attention to their wellbeing was instantly evident to parent Jenna White when she first met him in 2018.
At the time, Iglesias was working on Glasgow’s security team, and White’s younger son, David, a special education student, was new to the school as an incoming sixth grader.
On that particular day, White stopped by the school to take care of some work she had as an officer in the Glasgow Parent Teacher Association. When Iglesias introduced himself and started talking to David, she asked if he could help show her son around the school so he could get more comfortable with the new setting.
“My son spent the next two hours just kind of hanging out with [Iglesias] and helping him, and that turned out to be a really great experience, getting to know Kevin and learning his way around the building,” White recalled.
Once school started, White says Iglesias continued to check up on David to make sure he was settling in, and she would catch up with him whenever they ran into each other.
Iglesias’s ability to connect with students inspired White to nominate him for the “Outstanding Support Staff” award that the Fairfax County Public Schools Special Education PTA (SEPTA) gave out at the end of that school year.
“It was clear that he was really, really a special person who had great interest in making sure all the students felt safe and felt welcome and were doing well in school,” she told FFXnow. “…I was happy to nominate him for that award to recognize all the effort and skill that he put in as an educator.” Read More
A counselor at Glasgow Middle School in Lincolnia has been fired after Fairfax County Public Schools officials learned he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor, Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a letter to families.
“Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been informed that while Darren Thornton was working at one of our schools he was convicted of solicitation of prostitution from a minor outside of Fairfax County,” the school system wrote. “He was already an FCPS employee at the time of his arrest and subsequent conviction. He has been relieved of all duties, dismissed, and will not be returning.”
A spokesperson told FFXnow that the statement had been shared “with media” who requested one on July 28. FCPS didn’t immediately respond to follow up questions about when exactly Thorton was fired.
It’s also unclear how long he was employed by FCPS, but he was mentioned by Glasgow’s student newspaper in a February 2021 post expressing appreciation for the school’s counselors.
FCPS didn’t confirm where the crime and conviction occurred beyond that it was not in Fairfax County.
There’s no indication at this time that any Fairfax County children or students were involved, according to Reid.
In her letter, Reid says she and the Fairfax County School Board took action to dismiss Thornton as soon as they learned about the situation. FCPS is now petitioning the state to revoke his license, and Reid has commissioned an outside legal counsel to conduct an independent investigation.
The school board has directed Reid to deliver an “accountability report with a timely corrective action plan so that this never again occurs within FCPS,” she said.
“There is no higher priority than the safety of our students and, on behalf of the School Board and myself, I want to make this very clear: this entire situation is unacceptable from any perspective,” Reid said. “We are deeply concerned about how this happened in one of our schools.”
Reid said anyone with concerns or information can contact the FCPS Office of Safety and Security’s safety tip line or the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131.
Masks Still Required on County Buses — “The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), upon the recommendation from the CDC, is extending the security directive for mask use on public transportation and transportation hubs for one month, through April 18, 2022.” [Fairfax Connector]
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Vienna Looks to Cut Real Estate Taxes — “Town Manager Mercury Payton presented the budget proposal Monday. The budget proposes reducing the real estate tax rate by 1 cent from $0.2225 to $0.2125 per $100 of assessed value. Town of Vienna property owners pay this real estate tax on top of Fairfax County’s real estate tax.” [Patch]
Grand Opening Coming for New Reston Fire Station — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department will hold a grand opening for its new Fire Station 25 at 1820 Wiehle Avenue in Reston at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday). [Hunter Mill District News]
“Saturday School” Planned in Lincolnia — “Glasgow Middle School Principal Victor Powell is tapping some of his school’s share of federal pandemic relief funding to host an estimated 260 students and their parents in sessions designed to boost reading, math and social-emotional skills, as well as get students and parents alike inspired to think about college and goal-setting for the future.” [FCPS]
McLean Chocolate Festival Returns — “The 10th Annual McLean Chocolate Festival, sponsored by the Rotary Club of McLean, will be held April 24 at the McLean Community Center…Due to the pandemic, the club did not hold a festival last year. However, in 2020, almost 3,000 people attended, and organizers expect a similar number at this year’s event.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
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It’s Friday — Rain overnight. High of 58 and low of 37. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 6:13 pm. [Weather.gov]