What to Know
- The law requires school districts to notify state within 10 days of suspected misconduct instead of after a criminal conviction.
- The state also approved a budge boost for the Department of Education to hire an additional investigator.
- An I-Team review found at least four teachers accused of sexual improprieties in Fairfax County lost their jobs but kept their licenses.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) signed a new law to protect students from teachers who engage in sexual misconduct.
The law requires all Virginia school districts to report cases of possible misconduct to the Virginia Department of Education within 10 days of learning of the allegations. Sponsors of the legislation said they sought new law because of the findings of a December investigation by the News-4 I-Team, which showed Fairfax County Public Schools waited years before formally requesting license revocation for four teachers who admitted sexual misconduct.
The new law takes effect in July and marks a dramatic change from current Virginia rules. Under the prior law, school districts were only required to notify state licensing officials about teachers who were criminally convicted of misconduct, though such criminal convictions often occur years after the initial offense.
After signing the new law, McAuliffe told the I-Team the failures by Fairfax County Public Schools were not acceptable.
“For whatever reason, they chose not to let us know," McAuliife said. "But the good news is, it won't happen again. We have state investigators. We all want children to be safe. If there are teachers who have committed some type of offense, we all need to know it.”
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 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.
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.
Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax County) sponsored the new law earlier this year. Bulova secured the necessary votes in the Virginia General Assembly Judiciary Committee and in the Assembly itself to ensure passage.
“The root of the problem came down to information not being passed along by local school districts to the board of education of the (Virginia Department of Education),” Bulova said in a speech on floor of the Assembly.
The state also approved a budge boost for the Department of Education to hire an additional investigator.