Fairfax County Public Schools allowed a series of teachers accused of sexual misconduct with students to keep their teaching licenses for years after the offenses, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team.
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 and sexually assault another student.
The I-Team review found at least four teachers accused of sexual improprieties in Fairfax County Public Schools between 2004 and 2006 who lost their jobsbut 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.
Norton landed a new teaching job in Baltimore County in 2007 and was arrested in October 2012, accused of sexually assaulting a student at Randallstown High School. Police reports and internal school district memos and letters obtained by the I-Team showed similarities between the two cases. In both, Norton was accused of touching the boys on their stomachs and pants, after asking each boy if they “worked out.”
Not until weeks after Norton’s 2012 arrest in Baltimore County did Fairfax County Public Schools finally send the requisite paperwork to the Virginia Department of Education to revoke Norton’s teaching license.
“If there is a basis for action against a (teacher’s) license and no action is taken, it’s troubling, because in that case, the person could work elsewhere (with children),” Virginia Department of Education administrator Nancy Walsh said.
In October, shortly after the I-Team revealed Norton’s case, Fairfax County Public Schools issued public statements that it was unaware of other similar cases. Former superintendent Karen Garza said she was “very confident” no other teachers had slipped through the cracks.
The school district’s statement conflicts with public records obtained the I-Team. Those records show school district officials were notified about the languishing case of the fourth teacher, just weeks before Garza said she was confident no other cases exist.
Fairfax County Public Schools human resources administrator Chace Ramey contends Garza’s statement was “accurate” because the district was aware of the cases found by the I-Team at the time. He declined to specify why, if it was aware, the district didn’t raise those cases when asked previously.
Ramey said the school district has internal investigators who review cases of teacher discipline.
“Student safety is our chief concern as a school division," he said. "We do our best to provide a safe, secure environment for all of our students."
“We do not believe there are any more of those cases in Fairfax County Public Schools,” Ramey added.
The father of one of the victims of the four newly revealed teacher misconduct cases said the delays are an indication Fairfax County Public Schools tried to hide the cases and avoid bad publicity. The victim’s father, whom we are not identifying by name to protect the anonymity of his daughter, was named in court files reviewed by the I-Team.
“There’s an institutional pattern to sweep it under the rug,” he told the I-Team. “The school district wants to protect its image and stay out of the news.”
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough and Ashley Brown, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.