Darren Thornton remained a Fairfax school employee for nearly two years following multiple arrests and being registered as a sex offender.
It is disturbing enough to parents the number of times educators have been charged with sex offenses against minors. But making the situation worse is how frequently schools can overlook or miss these issues, oftentimes allowing sex offenders to leave one school district just to be hired by another after being charged with crimes against children. Virginia’s largest school district appears to be guilty of this, having employed Darren Thornton, a registered sex offender, for nearly two years after being convicted of his crimes.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 50-year-old Darren Thornton was a school counselor in Virginia when he was arrested in an undercover chat operation not once, but twice within the past few years. Convicted in November 2020, he was able to get off without spending any time in jail due to good merit. This past June, he was again arrested, which seemingly prompted the school to let him go only after gaining media attention to the matter. Now, many wonder how his previous convictions went unnoticed.
During his time employed in Hanover, Darren Thornton was arrestest in an undercover sting operation. A police officer pretended to be a 17-year-old in an online chat with the educator. Thornton agreed to meet the minor but was met by authorities when he showed up at the rendezvous apartment. Convicted and sentenced to spend five years in prison, he never ended up serving time. Instead, he was let go with the condition that he register as a sex offender with the state.
This past June, Darren Thornton was arrested yet again in a similar undercover operation. Chatting with what he thought was a minor, he was charged with solicitation of prostitution and frequenting a bawdy place. The Richmond Times-Dispatch had recently reached out to a Fairfax schools spokesperson, who confirmed that Thornton was still employed by the district. Soon after their inquiry, the school removed the sex offenders listing on the district staff page.
On August 18th, Superintendent Michelle Reid sent a message to families in the district making them aware of the situation with Darren Thornton. Reid noted that as soon as she and the school board were made aware of the situation, the counselor was let go. Reid added that the circumstances were “unacceptable from any perspective.”
The state of Virginia has laws in place to prevent sex offenders from gaining employment in schools. On top of that, state law requires police to alert schools when an employee is charged with a felony. A spokesperson for the arresting agency asserted that Fairfax schools were alerted of Darren Thornton’s arrest back in 2020 the very next day after his arrest, and again this past June. How this apparent failure to abide by state law set in place to protect students was blatantly unfollowed, remains unclear.
Darren Thornton is set to appear in court for his most recent arrest on September 27th. Given his history with crimes perpetrating minors, he may see the inside of a jail cell this time around. While the district has finally served ties with the counselor, many parents remain upset, with plenty of unanswered questions as to how the school failed to release him from his position for close to two years after the initial arrest.