RICHMOND, Va. — A Fairfax County Public Schools counselor who remained on the job despite a sex arrest was never placed on supervised probation after his conviction, according to new documents obtained by WUSA9.
Through the Freedom of Information Action (FOIA), the Virginia Department of Corrections released an investigative report into the case against Darren Thornton, who was arrested a second time for soliciting prostitution about three months after a sex crime conviction.
"It was during the ensuing process that it was discovered that Thornton had never been placed on supervision by Chesterfield Probation and Parole as ordered by the Chesterfield Circuit Court following his March 11, 2022 conviction," the synopsis of the report stated.
Chief of Corrections Operations David Robinson requested an investigation on his probation supervision in August after he learned Thornton had been actively working at Glasgow Middle School in Lincolnia, despite his conviction for soliciting prostitution from a minor.
Thornton was first arrested on the charge in November 2020 in Chesterfield County, about three months after FCPS hired him. Court documents said Thornton thought he was meeting an underage girl who turned out to be an undercover officer. He brought beer, condoms and his school ID.
The Chesterfield County Circuit Court sentenced him to five years suspension and placed him on supervised probation.
However, shown in an email from Chesterfield Probation and Parole Chief Simon Miranowicz, there was no record of a supervision referral.
"The Chesterfield County Clerk Office is responsible for submitting all supervision referrals to the District #27 email account," Miranowicz said. "I reviewed our district account to determine and verify if our district received a probation referral from the Chesterfield Clerk's Office and could not locate a referral for this case."
The email also said the office missed opportunities to open the case through the presentence investigation report process. The report also mentioned four areas of improvement, although most of the summary was redacted.
"This is a real comedy of errors but only it's not a comedy, but a tragedy," Del. Kaye Kory, (D) Fairfax County, told WUSA9.
Kory is former FCPS board member who said the lack of oversight was dangerous.
"Unfortunately, the result is that our children's safety was threatened," she said. "This is unacceptable. It damn well better not happen again."
In late September, a VADOC spokesperson said the staff at the Chesterfield Probation and Parole District will be subject to discipline and require additional training as a result of the "process failures" involved in the incident.
A review of the involved processes is being conducted to prevent a similar oversight from happening again, per spokesperson Benjamin Jarvela.
Jarvela also said details of disciplinary actions are confidential.
Scrutiny over how school employee arrests are reported intensified following the discovery that Chesterfield County Police failed to properly notify school officials of his charges. One day after his arrest in November, police tried to inform former superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand, but the emails never went through.
State lawmakers and Fairfax County officials told WUSA9 about their efforts to improve the state notification system including regular background checks.
Dr. Michelle Reid of FCPS began the process to fire Thornton as soon as she found out in late July. She held community meetings with parents of Glasgow Middle School students twice.
In the most recent meeting, Reid said a third-party investigation found "several systemic gaps" in the FCPS hiring process "including on reference checks, verification of the appropriate license, and information sharing between jurisdictions" among other issues the superintendent says FCPS is addressing.
"One of the things that we have to do first is name that we have a concern, acknowledge that, look into it, and then follow recommendations that we know to be best practice moving forward," Dr. Reid told WUSA9. "I don't believe it's going to happen again here in Fairfax County Public Schools. I believe our families can trust us."
Thornton is also facing additional charges for failure to register as a sex offender. Thornton is accused of lying about his employment which he listed as "self-employed" and incomplete paperwork to police on June 21.
DC, Maryland, and Virginia all require offenders to self-register, so people can learn the nature of offenders' crimes, where they live and their identifying features.
Virginia also tries to deter offenders from falsifying information by warning them beforehand falsification is a crime.