FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Editor's Note: Former Glasgow Middle School counselor Darren Thornton was arrested on child sex charges in November 2020. By law, the Chesterfield Police Department had to notify the Fairfax County Public School System of the arrest. But it appears the emails sent by the police department bounced back. The messages, obtained by WUSA9 through a Freedom of Information Act or FOIA, were never delivered. See the most updated story version here.
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) fired a school counselor after officials discovered he was working at a middle school despite being previously convicted of 'solicitation of prostitution from a minor,' according to FCPS Superintendent Michelle C. Reid.
However, authorities have revealed the school district was notified of the original arrest more than a year before the conviction.
WUSA9 has confirmed the former counselor is 50-year-old Darren Lamar Thornton.
In a letter to families sent Thursday, Reid says a counselor at Glasgow Middle School in Lincolnia said the former counselor continued to be employed at the school even after he was convicted of the sex crime that happened outside of Fairfax County.
After school officials became aware of the conviction, Reid said the counselor was let go.
"I can confirm that the employee has been terminated and FCPS is petitioning the state to revoke his license," she wrote.
Court records in Chesterfield County, just south of Richmond, Virginia, revealed Thornton offered money to a minor for sex before he was arrested in November 2020.
An FCPS spokesperson said he was already employed by the school district at the time of the arrest although they did not indicate exactly when he was hired.
One day after his arrest, records in Chesterfield County indicated police notified FCPS about the charges, but he remained employed. Dr. Scott Brabrand was the superintendent at the time.
Thornton was convicted of the charge and sentenced to five years probation in March 2022. His attorney listed in court records could not be reached for comment.
About three months later, Chesterfield County Police arrested Thornton for his alleged involvement in an online sex sting operation. Law enforcement in central Virginia said during the operations, detectives believed the suspects, including Thornton, were soliciting sex from adults online. When the suspects came to the location to exchange sexual services for payment, they were greeted by police, according to investigators.
Thornton was issued summonses for solicitation of prostitution and frequenting a bawdy police. Once again, police in Chesterfield County said they notified the school district.
Three weeks following his arrest in June, Thornton registered as a sex offender. He listed his home and work address in Richmond. For work, the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry indicated he was "self-employed."
"It is astounding and once again disappointing that FCPS had demonstrated that the front office, as well as school-level leadership, do not have a solid procedure for vetting staff and faculty," Sue Zoldak of Do Better FCPS told WUSA9. "Time and again the employees at Gatehouse have shown themselves to be incompetent while earning six-figure salaries paid for by hard-working taxpayers. Even more disappointing than the proof that leadership missed emails from Chesterfield police despite support from multiple high-powered law firms is the fact that the administration, under the new watch of Supt. Reid apparently spent the last few days scrubbing website and YouTube of mentions of the individual in question."
Do Better FCPS is demanding the school board voluntarily release all internal communications regarding this matter.
Dr. Reid said the board acted swiftly as soon as they were made aware. She has been tasked to provide an accountability report with a timely corrective action plan so this never happens again.
"In operationalizing this expectation, I have initiated a comprehensive, independent investigation by outside counsel into the circumstances surrounding this situation," Dr. Reid's statement to parents said. "This is being carried out by an independent third party who has complete visibility into all internal processes. While I am not able to speak to the specifics of the investigation at this time, I can confirm that it covers both internal and external processes. Following my receipt of the investigative report, I will share my corrective action steps with the School Board and wider community to ensure full accountability. Please be assured that I will take whatever further corrective actions are required to prevent this from happening again."