Dominion High School Principal John Brewer will have to wait at least another week before he knows whether he can return to his job.
After a four-hour closed session meeting Monday night, members of the Loudoun County School Board returned to a nearly empty board room, with only three members of the press and a sheriff deputy standing by.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said from the dais that no action would be taken. School Board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) said that another closed session would be held Monday, March 20, adding, “That’s about all we can say.”
Debbie Rose (Algonkian), whose district includes Dominion, emerged from the closed session visibly shaken, and Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) laid his head on the dais as Morse announced the results of the session.
School Board members did not comment from the dais on what was discussed during the closed meeting. The agenda item said only that the meeting was called to consult with legal counsel the discipline and performance of a specific employee. School Board members had said in the days leading up to the meeting that Brewer’s employment was the topic at hand.
The closed session comes after three months of uncertainty in the Dominion High School community. Brewer has been on leave since Dec. 2, and Superintendent Eric Williams has since recommended he be fired. Brewer is appealing that decision and the School Board will have the final say.
The principal was suspended after the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation of Brian Damron, who served as Dominion’s band director from July 2012 to January 2015 under the leadership of Brewer.
After Damron resigned from Loudoun County Public Schools in January 2015, records show that Brewer wrote a letter of recommendation for the band director that he submitted to Duval County Public Schools in Florida.
“His professional successes derive directly from his exceptional vision, leadership and skills, and captivating persona,” Brewer wrote of Damron. “I regret only that Mr. Damron’s tenure at Dominion High School, shortened abruptly and unexpectedly by personal circumstances, was too brief for him to implement his full multi-year vision…”
LCPS Music Supervisor Michael Pierson also wrote a letter of recommendation on Damron’s behalf, according to Duval County records, but he has not been suspended.
In August 2015, Damron was hired as a band director at Stanton College Preparatory School, a top-ranked high school in Duval County, FL. There, he was accused of running his hands near the crotch of a 15-year-old student and commenting on his penis size, according to an investigative report from Duval County Public Schools.
Patty, the mother of the student, said Damron “preyed” on her son and made multiple sexual advances toward him. She said that, in the fall of 2016, she contacted Brewer and Loudoun’s Department of Personnel Services and did not receive a call back.
An investigative report from the Duval County school district in Florida found Damron had not committed a crime, but that he showed “extremely poor judgment,” using abusive, sexual and inappropriate language with or in front of students. Twice he was reprimanded in October 2015 for allegedly verbally abusing band students, calling them names, making lewd comments and sexual innuendo. He also was accused of sticking up his middle finger at a student, the report states.
He resigned from the Florida school district in November 2016, following the investigation.
The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office has closed the case against Damron pending new information, finding that no criminal activity took place in Loudoun.
Patty, who wanted her name withheld to protect her son’s identity, believes the band director also acted inappropriately toward students in Loudoun. Damron had told her son so much, showing him a picture of a Dominion student that he claimed to have had a two-year relationship with. Patty has also spoken to a mother of another Dominion student who told her he’d called students names, using offensive language that she considered sexual harassment.
“I feel sick that this is happening to Dr. Brewer,” Patty said today, “but I truly feel that if he were on top of things there, he would have investigated it further when kids came to him.”
Patty also said that, although Damron is not facing criminal charges, the Florida Department of Education is investigating him as it considers whether to rescind his teaching license, information she knows firsthand because the department interviewed her son two weeks ago about his interactions with the former band director.
Monday’s meeting was a stark contrast to board meetings in the past three months. Parents, students, teachers and other school employees have packed every board meeting since Brewer was placed on leave. They shared story after story of their principal, who was named Loudoun’s Principal of the Year in 2010, and pressed for his immediate reinstatement.
Jackie Funk, a parent of three Dominion students, said Brewer’s supporters decided to stay home Monday night to give the School Board space to make a decision. Ahead of the meeting she said, “We appreciate the significant decision that is before the School Board. While the community would have attended tonight’s closed session just to show our unwavering support for Dr. Brewer yet again, we have put our trust in the board. We are confident that once they review everything, they will reach the same conclusion as us.”
Timeline of events:
July 2012 – Brian Damron is hired as Dominion High School’s band director.
November 2014 – Loudoun County Public Schools received a complaint that Damron may have engaged in inappropriate conduct while employed at Dominion High School. Wayde Byard, the schools’ public information officer, said the school division immediately referred the matter to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. “It was determined that the alleged incident took place in another jurisdiction and did not result in charges,” Byard stated. The teacher worked at James Hubert Blake High in Rockville, MD, before coming to Loudoun.
January 2015 –Damron resigns from Loudoun County Public Schools.
August 2015 – Damron is hired to teach in Duval County, FL.
November 2016 – Damron resigns from Duval County School District after the district’s investigation found that he had used “extremely poor judgement” in using abusive, sexual and inappropriate language with, or in front of, students. The district referred the case to the Duval County School Police; the police did not press criminal charges. Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office launched its own investigation to see if any criminal activity took place while he taught at Dominion High School.
Dec. 2, 2016 – Principal John Brewer is placed on administrative leave. Supporters start a petition requesting that he be reinstated. (It now has 3,208 signatures.)
Dec. 8, 2016 – In an interview with Loudoun Now, a Florida mom said Damron, working as a school band director there, inappropriately touched her 15-year-old son. She said she made several calls to Dominion High School Principal John Brewer and the Department of Personnel Services and did not receive a call back. The investigation in Florida found that Damron did not commit a crime. He resigned that position Nov. 1.
Jan. 3, 2017 – A fundraising page at gofundme.com/support-dr-brewer is launched. (It’s since raised $41,444 for Brewer’s legal defense.)
February 2017 – Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office closes the investigation into Damron, pending new information.
Feb. 22-23, 2017 – John Brewer goes before an independent hearing officer.
March 13, 2017 – Loudoun County School Board discusses the case in a closed session meeting.