Fairfax Co. launches investigation after school employee kept job after sex crime conviction

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (DC News Now) – Fairfax County Public Schools announced it was opening an investigation into how a Glasgow Middle School counselor kept his job for months after being convicted of a crime sex in a separate jurisdiction of Virginia.

Darren Thornton, 50, was arrested and charged with soliciting an underage prostitute in Chesterfield County in November 2020, just months after he started working in the school district. After pleading not guilty in court, a jury found him guilty on March 11, 2022. He was sentenced to five years, all suspended.

Even after his sentencing, he remained with the school district until 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 arrest on November 19, 2020 via email on November 20, 2020.”

The new Fairfax County Superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, was later notified of the second set of charges against Thornton in 2022 by telephone, according to police.

On June 9, Thornton was charged with soliciting prostitution, a misdemeanor, in connection with an operation by 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. On 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 that Thornton had been fired.

“He had a full background and reference check before he was hired,” Reid said. “I know we have broken trust with our community and I ask our community to understand that we are doing everything we can to ensure this never happens again in Fairfax County public schools.”

Thornton is due in court on the second set of charges in September.

Now FCPS is investigating what went wrong.

“We have retained the services of a third-party legal investigator who has full visibility into all processes, all aspects of everything that may or may not have contributed to this circumstance,” Reid said.

The inquest will examine how apparently no one sounded the alarm.

It will examine “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 through the release of the full, unredacted report when it is complete.

“This survey is paid for and funded by us, the taxpayers, and we own this report,” said Sue Zoldak of Do Better FCPS.

Reid said the day after she learned of Thornton’s criminal record, she wrote a letter to the Virginia Department of Education asking to revoke her license.

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