Fairfax County Public Schools failed to ensure a teacher who pleaded guilty to assaulting a student had his Virginia teaching license revoked, which allowed the man to find another teaching job and later assault another young student.
According to an investigation by the News4 I-Team, former Hayfield Secondary School English teacher Brad Norton escaped having his teaching license revoked in 2004, despite the guilty plea, because Fairfax County Public Schools did not submit the necessary paperwork to the Virginia Department of Education.
The school district’s failure to do so prevented Norton from being red-flagged and disqualified from employment as a public school teacher elsewhere, including in Maryland. For more than a decade, Virginia and Maryland have shared databases and records of teacher license revocations, ensuring teachers who have lost licenses because of sexual misconduct are flagged if they cross state lines to find new jobs.
Norton, who avoided prison time in Virginia, found 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 penises, after asking each boy if they “worked out.” Both incidents occurred in Norton’s classroom, according to the records.
Norton pleaded guilty to the Baltimore County misdemeanor assault in 2013.
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.
State education department letters and emails obtained by the I-Team under the Freedom of Information Act show the Virginia Department of Education sent Fairfax County Public Schools a letter and handwritten note of reminder in March 9, 2005, alerting the school district that it had not sent in the necessary paperwork to revoke Norton’s teaching license. Virginia Department of Education officials told the I-Team it “does not have a record of a response from Fairfax County Public Schools to the department’s March 9, 2005 letter.”
Fairfax County Public Schools declined to answer the I-Team questions about how or why it failed to submit the necessary paperwork for Norton’s license revocation promptly after his guilty plea to assault. The school district instead issued a statement saying, “Due to legal restrictions, FCPS cannot comment on specific personnel matters. However, the teacher license revocation process for voluntary resignations that was followed by FCPS in 2004 is no longer the process used by FCPS and it is not current practice. In order to ensure teachers' licenses are revoked, even when voluntarily surrendered, FCPS initiates and files with Virginia Department of Education all of the necessary paperwork to revoke a teacher's license in an expedited manner.”
The Virginia Board of Education voted to formally revoke Norton’s teaching license in 2013. David Foster, who served as board president in 2013, would not detail the deliberations or discussions held in Norton’s case, because those discussions occurred during a closed-door executive session of the board.
Foster said the findings of the I-Team indicate a mistake was made by someone to allow Norton to escape the revocation of his license. “Something definitely went wrong for this to happen,” he said. “The whole system is designed to prevent this from happening."
Brad Norton declined to comment when reached by the I-Team. The father of the Maryland victim said the assault incident has had an enormous impact on his family.
In a statement to the I-Team, Baltimore County Public Schools said the criminal background check system used in 2007 for prospective employees did not flag or alert Norton’s 2004 criminal case. In the statement, Baltimore County schools said the case is not publicly listed on the Virginia court system website. The school district said the fingerprint-based FBI report it used for new employees would not have included specific details of Norton’s 2004 case when it was conducted in 2007.
Baltimore County Public Schools said it has since upgraded its background check system.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough and Ashley Brown, and shot and edited by Jeff Piper.