Police: Effort to alert school about arrest was unsuccessful

August 23, 2022 GMT

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — Police in Virginia say their efforts to inform a school system about the arrest of a counselor on solicitation charges were thwarted by undeliverable emails.

Fairfax County Public Schools has launched an investigation into how Darren Thornton, 50, was able to keep his job as a counselor at Glasgow Middle School for 20 months after his arrest on charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor in November 2020.

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and others criticized the school system after police in Chesterfield County, where Thornton was arrested, said they informed school administrators in Fairfax County at the time of the arrest in 2020.

Now, though, Chesterfield police say the emails they sent back in 2020 never went through. In a statement posted Tuesday on Facebook, Chesterfield County police Chief Jeffrey Katz said the email addresses his agency used had typos in them.

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“I think it is important not to lose sight of the fact that our staff caught Thornton (twice),” Katz said. “We made good faith efforts (twice) to ensure he was appropriately dealt with by the criminal justice system and his employer.”

Thornton was arrested as part of an online sting when a police officer posing as a 17-year-old connected with Thornton over the internet.

Thornton was convicted earlier this year and received a suspended sentence, but was required to register as a sex offender.

Thornton’s profile on the registry lists him as self-employed. Katz, in his statement, said Thornton lied when he described his employment status that way.

The Department of Corrections says it is investigating Thornton’s post-conviction supervision and other aspects of its dealings with him.

Fairfax County Public Schools say Thornton was placed on leave in June when Chesterfield police called them to alert them to a second arrest in another online sting on charges of solicitation of prostitution and frequenting a bawdy place.

He was formally dismissed from his job earlier this month.

School system superintendent Michelle Reid said Friday in a letter to parents that the school system is looking to implement procedures to prevent similar issues going forward.