Fairfax County Public Schools said it has changed its policies for handling teachers who admit to sexual misconduct with students.
The district’s new superintendent of schools said Fairfax County will more promptly notify state officials about teachers who admit sex offenses to ensure those teachers are unable to find teaching positions in other school districts.
The school district’s pledge comes almost a year after a News-4 I-Team investigation revealed Fairfax County allowed a series of teachers accused of sexual misconduct with students to keep their teaching licenses for years after the offenses.
The school district failed to promptly submit the necessary paperwork to Virginia state officials to formally revoke the licenses of those teachers, allowing at least one of them to find a new teaching job in Maryland and sexually assault another student.
“What we were doing around teacher licensure was not working," Fairfax County Superintendent of Schools Scott Brabrand said.
Brabrand said any teacher who cancels his or her license in Fairfax County because of allegations of misconduct will now be red-flagged by school administrators if other school districts call for a job reference.
Brabrand’s statements are a change from those made publicly by his predecessors, including interim superintendent of schools Steve Lockard and former superintendent Karen Garza. Neither Lockard nor Garza publicly acknowledged mistakes were made by the school district.
An I-Team review in 2016 found at least four teachers accused of sexual improprieties in Fairfax County Public Schools between 2004 and 2006 who lost their jobs but escaped with their teaching licenses intact.
The school district failed to initiate the formal license revocation process in three of those cases until 2012, including the lurid misconduct case of former Hayfield secondary teacher Brad Norton.
In a fourth case, one teacher’s license revocation paperwork was never completed by Fairfax County Public Schools. Instead, the cancellation process was initiated by an inspector with the Virginia Department of Education in September 2016, after the inspector spotted the languishing case while researching records for the I-Team surrounding the Norton case
Norton, who pleaded guilty to assaulting a male student at Hayfield in 2004, avoided prison time. The I-Team found Fairfax County Public Schools failed to properly submit paperwork to state regulators to revoke Norton’s teaching license. Norton declined to comment when reached by the I-Team.
The I-Team’s investigation led to the passage of new law in Virginia, requiring all school districts in the commonwealth to more promptly report suspected teacher misconduct to state licensing officials.
"I think your work really shined a lot on something that needed to be looked at,” Brabrand said.