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Fairfax leaders, AG Miyares call for changes after middle school counselor scandal

Both Fairfax County leaders and Virginia’s Attorney General say state lawmakers may need to come up with laws to better identify sex offenders.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Fairfax County leaders and Virginia’s Attorney General are calling for changes after a counselor convicted of sexually soliciting a minor stayed employed at a middle school years after his arrest.

New Fairfax County Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid fired former Glasgow Middle School Counselor Darren Thornton, 50, of Richmond, two weeks ago, after she learned he had been arrested and convicted for committing a sex crime. 

Initially, Chesterfield County Police said Thornton committed the crime in November 2020 and that their officers immediately contacted former Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand to alert them of his arrest. 

However, earlier this week, Chesterfield County Police Chief Col. Jeffrey Katz confirmed the emails his department sent to Brabrand bounced back as “undeliverable”. Katz said it was possible someone at FCPS gave his officers invalid or out-of-date email addresses. 

On Thursday, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey McKay and Fairfax County School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore Heizer emailed a letter to the Fairfax County delegation of the Virginia State Assembly.  

The letter requested assistance in addressing several issues about how Virginia handles information sharing regarding the arrest and conviction of people between jurisdictions within the state and across state lines. 

“There is no higher priority than the safety of our students and we want to make it clear that this situation is unacceptable from any perspective,” the letter reads.

The leaders say while FCPS is already undertaking an independent investigation to review its procedure and make systemic changes, more must be done in Richmond to ensure the safety of children across the Commonwealth. 

“Fairfax County and Fairfax County Public Schools would like to partner with you in the development and implementation of a more centralized and standardized state reporting and notification system,” the letter reads. “Such a solution will require significant deliberation and consideration of many factors affecting law enforcement agencies and school divisions across the Commonwealth.” 

The letter adds Fairfax leaders also reached out to their representatives in Congress to discuss how to possibly review and revise federal laws and practices to monitor sex offenders who are arrested or convicted in other states. 

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares said his office is also investigating to see how the mistake involving Thornton happened in the first place.  

“This is part of our desire, my office, to make sure that there's both a sense of accountability, but also for entities to learn where there's been mistakes,” he said. 

Miyares said that solution may also need to come from lawmakers in Richmond.  

“We're going to be looking at whether there needs to be a legislative fix that we can propose to the General Assembly to make sure this never happens again,” he said. “And, that, I think, should be all of our goals, Chesterfield, and Fairfax, that this never happens again. So, we want to just come in as an outside, third-party to see where we can improve.” 

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