Fairfax County Public School was never informed about school counselor sex crime charge
(For Immediate Release August 23, 2022)
More information about the case of a former middle school guidance counselor who managed to keep his job despite being detained and later found guilty of having sex with a child was revealed on Monday.
Darren L. Thornton, 50, was twice arrested on suspicion of committing sex offenses, yet he maintained his employment with Fairfax County Public Schools for over two years following each arrest. According to court records, Thornton was charged with soliciting prostitution from a juvenile in Chesterfield County, Virginia police sting, in November 2020. In March 2022, he was found guilty and given a five-year suspended sentence.
According to Virginia state law, when a person who works for a public-school division is arrested for a crime or a Class 1 misdemeanor, law enforcement authorities are obligated to notify the superintendent of the school division where that person is employed "as soon as possible.
In an email to Dr. Scott Brabrand, the former superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, on November 20, 2020, Chesterfield County Police said on Friday that they had intended to inform him of Thornton's arrest the following day. However, the police department now claims to have learned that the email message was never transmitted to FCPS.
We are very troubled about the developments in this case. Virginia SNAP Leader Becky Ianni shared her concerns and said, ‘This was a system-wide failure. It is horrifying to think of how many children were put in harm’s way because of the actions and inactions of all those involved.’
We feel the community should demand answers. Why did the police not investigate his work at the middle school? Is one email sufficient to notify the school about a very serious offense? He had a probation officer, right? If so, why weren't they aware of his workplace? What if this had happened to a kid instead of a policeman posing as a cop? He was fired from his position as a middle school counselor after two arrests and two years.
In our view, the reckless handling of this case deters victims of sexual assault crimes from stepping forward. Victims need to be able to trust law enforcement. We hope anyone who experienced, witnessed, or suspected abuse by Thornton finds the courage to call the police and prosecutors and seek counsel.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)