Going forward, all Fairfax County Public Schools workers will be required to undergo regular background checks and notify the school system of any arrests while they’re employed.
The independent investigation was prompted by the discovery that former Glasgow Middle School counselor Darren Thornton had remained employed for months after he was convicted of soliciting prostitution from a minor in Chesterfield County.
Effective since March 12, the new regulation is part of a “continuing effort to provide safe schools and workplaces for all students and staff,” FCPS said.
All employees, including temporary, hourly and substitute staff, will be reviewed through the National Sex Offender Registry, starting this month. This summer, anyone hired before August 2006 will also need to make an appointment where their fingerprints can be scanned for review by the Virginia State Police and FBI.
Employees hired between Aug. 1, 2006 and July 1, 2022 already have digital fingerprint scans on file, so those will be automatically resubmitted, FCPS says.
All employees are now required to disclose to the FCPS Office of Equity and Employee Relations (EER) any arrests for felonies, misdemeanors or other “acts that impact a person’s ability to work” that occurred after they were hired.
FCPS says its Department of Human Resources will start submitting all employees for criminal record background checks “periodically to monitor for unreported criminal record activity.”
“Additional types of background checks may also be used for periodic monitoring,” FCPS said. “Not every arrest would lead to action; however, a barrier crime, felony or a crime that impacts a person’s ability to work may have cause for dismissal.”
FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid told families on Aug. 18 that Thornton had been fired after officials were notified of his March 11 conviction and sentencing, which called for supervised probation in place of a suspended five-year jail sentence.
Thornton was originally arrested in November 2020, but Chesterfield police later said their emails alerting FCPS to the sex crime charge bounced back. The 50-year-old Mechanicsville resident was arrested for a second time in a separate sting operation on June 9, 2022.
After he was terminated by FCPS, Virginia State Police arrested Thornton for failing to provide complete and accurate information to the state’s sex offender registry.
In addition to indicating that it will require regular background checks, the Fairfax County School Board said following the independent investigation in September that it will make changes to its processes for verifying licensure, documenting employee leave and dismissing workers convicted of certain crimes.
David Walrod, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, expressed support for the new background check policies, stating that the Thornton case showed the limits of relying solely on law enforcement for notification of crimes by employees.
“Ensuring that employees have a clean criminal record at the start their career is important but ensuring that employees maintain clean criminal records is an important part of ensuring the safety of our students and staff,” Walrod said in a statement. “I commend the district for taking this step, and I am glad to see that Dr. Reid has taken decisive steps to ensure this happens.”
Spurred by the Thornton case, the General Assembly passed a law last month requiring all public school divisions in Virginia to designate a contact for law enforcement and courts who will manage reports related to any school employee arrests or convictions for felonies. Sponsored by state Sen. Scott Surovell, the measure will take effect on July 1.
(Updated at 10:55 p.m.) The presence of Fairfax County police and school security has been enhanced at Glasgow Middle School in Lincolnia today (Thursday) in response to rumors that a student might bring a gun.
Fairfax County Public Schools is working with the Fairfax County Police Department to investigate “third and fourth hand anonymous rumors” that a student had threatened to bring a gun to the school today, Glasgow principal Victor Powell said in a message sent to families last night (Wednesday).
“We believe we have identified the students who may be involved, connected with those families, and the investigation will continue,” Powell wrote. “Out of an abundance of caution, we will have additional uniformed school security and police presence/patrols at the school tomorrow.”
FCPS said it had no further comment on the investigation. The FCPD confirmed that it investigated the rumors last night and added more officers at the school today as a precautionary measure, but the threat didn’t appear to be substantiated.
The gun rumors may be linked to a fight that took place “between several students” outside the school’s main office earlier this week, according to Powell.
“One of our assistant principals was struck during the incident but was not seriously hurt,” Powell said.
He didn’t share how many students were involved in the fight but said that all of them are being disciplined in accordance with FCPS’ Student Rights and Responsibilities policies.
Today will be an early release day for students, who also have tomorrow (Friday) off to mark the end of the school year’s third quarter.
Powell expressed hope that the short break will give students a chance “to reset and come back to school following the expectations of behavior that we have for all — respect, kindness and resolving our issues with healthy and safe choices.”
“Please take this time to talk with your students over the long weekend about your expectations as well,” he said. “As a team, I know we can get our Glasgow Panthers back on track.”
The full letter to families is below:
Dear Glasgow Middle School Families,
Good afternoon. Earlier this week, there was a fight between several students outside of our main office. One of our assistant principals was struck during the incident but was not seriously hurt. All of the students involved are receiving disciplinary consequences in alignment with our Student Rights and Responsibilities.
There are now third and fourth hand anonymous rumors spreading around school that a student also threatened to bring a gun to school tomorrow. We are fully investigating these rumors in partnership with our Office of Safety and Security and the Fairfax County Police. We believe we have identified the students who may be involved, connected with those families, and the investigation will continue. Out of an abundance of caution, we will have additional uniformed school security and police presence/patrols at the school tomorrow.
We hope that this short break at the end of the quarter (early release tomorrow and no school on Friday) will give students time to reset and come back to school following the expectations of behavior that we have for all – respect, kindness and resolving our issues with healthy and safe choices. Please take this time to talk with your students over the long weekend about your expectations as well. As a team, I know we can get our Glasgow Panthers back on track.
We recognize that these past two years have been incredibly challenging, and we do have supports in place. Please reach out to your child’s counselor.
Victor L. Powell, Principal
Photo via Google Maps
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]
Traffic Disruption Scheduled in Herndon — “Crews will be working at the intersection of Elden Street and Monroe Street to replace the current traffic signal pole and mast arm. On Friday, March 11th, a brief traffic disruption of approximately 15 minutes will be required as the mast arm is installed. We recommend using Herndon Parkway and the routes shown as an alternative to using Elden Street.” [Town of Herndon]
Inova Hospital Starts Expanded Hours Today — “Effective March 11, we will have expanded hours for visitors. Visitors must be 16 years or older. Everyone must wear a surgical/medical-grade face mask at all times. Mask will be provided if needed.” [Inova/Twitter]
Work on Broad & Washington Project Could Begin Soon — “The Insight Group is getting its massive project at that corner of downtown Falls Church’s central intersection underway at last, with the anchor of the project to be a mega-Whole Foods supermarket, a new home for the Creative Cauldron theater and 339 rental apartments.” [Falls Church News-Press]
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]
Daylight Saving Time Starts This Weekend — Get ready to move your clocks ahead one hour. Daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. Sunday (March 13), running through Nov. 6. We’ll lose an hour of sleep but hopefully be spending more time in the sun. If you hate these changes, you’re with most Americans, and a congressional panel this week looked at why we might want to end this annual custom. [The Washington Post]
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]