Williams’ Letter Details Alleged Misconduct of Dominion Teacher

A letter from Loudoun Superintendent Eric Williams to Virginia Department of Education details information about former Dominion High School band teacher’s inappropriate relationship with a male student and indicates that he sexually harassed several other students while he taught in Loudoun County.

Williams wrote the letter to VDOE on Jan. 10, 2017, as a formal petition requesting that Brian Damron’s teaching license be revoked. The action comes two years after Damron resigned from Loudoun County Public Schools. He taught at Dominion from July 2012 to January 2015.

Williams’ letter states that his request to revoke Damron’s license was made after additional information came to light in late 2016; however, LCPS received complaints about Damron while he worked at Dominion. Had the school district requested Damron’s license be revoked when complaints first surfaced more than two years ago, it would have prevented the teacher from finding employment at a Florida school district, where he is accused of making sexual advances toward a student.

Duval County Public Schools officials said they did not know that complaints had been filed against Damron in Virginia when they hired him, according to news reports. Instead, they received glowing recommendations from two Loudoun County administrators, Dominion High School Principal John Brewer and LCPS Music Supervisor Michael Pierson.

Williams’ letter to VDOE states that Damron “engaged in numerous behaviors that were inappropriate and that had a direct and detrimental effect on the health, welfare, discipline, and morale of students.”

It focused on one student in particular, who was 18 years old at the time but was still enrolled as a student. Damron took the student to a conference in Norfolk, where the two shared a hotel room for three nights, according to Williams’ letter. The teacher provided alcohol for the student at least once, and had the young man over to his home multiple occasions. In another instance, the teacher was seen with his hand in the student’s back pocket, the letter states.

It also accuses Damron of cursing at and demeaning students. “He also frequently hugged students, particularly male students, making them feel uncomfortable,” it states. The conduct prompted one student to drop out of the class, although Damron continued to wink at him and ask him to have lunch with him. “On another occasion, the Teacher kissed two male students on their cheeks,” Williams wrote.

[View the full letter here.]

Asked why Damron’s Virginia teaching license was canceled years after he resigned from Loudoun, VDOE Director of Communications Charles B. Pyle, said it’s generally the responsibility of the school district that employs the educator, in this case Loudoun County Public Schools, to petition the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to cancel or revoke his or her license. Only in recent months had VDOE heard of any complaints against Damron.

(Damron’s license was canceled on Jan. 17, 2017, not revoked; the only difference is the teacher did not object to Williams’ petition to revoke it so VDOE designates it as a canceled license, according to Pyle. Damron responded to the petition, “My signature on this document does not constitute an admission of guilt of any allegations or charges… My signature is only an acknowledgment of the cancellation of my Virginia teaching license.”)

The information is the latest to materialize in the increasingly tense, and complex, debate surrounding the suspension of Dominion Principal John Brewer. Brewer, named Loudoun’s Teacher of the Year in 2010, has been on leave since Dec. 2, following news articles and an investigation by the Florida school district that reported misconduct by Damron, who served under Brewer’s leadership.

Records state that the band teacher resigned from Dominion in January 2015 for personal reasons, but LCPS had received complaints about Damron’s conduct. One, in 2014, was referred to Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, but school district spokesman Wayde Byard told Loudoun Now in December that it was determined that the alleged incident took place in another jurisdiction and did not result in criminal charges.

In early January, a few days before Williams requested that Damron’s Virginia teaching license be revoked, the superintendent recommended that Brewer be fired.

Dominion High School Principal John Brewer stands with students on graduation day. [Loudoun Now/File Photo]
At the heart of the issue appears to be the recommendation letter Brewer wrote for Damron, which the band teacher submitted as part of his application to Duval County Public Schools: “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…”

Music Supervisor Michael Pierson also wrote a letter of recommendation on Damron’s behalf, but he is not facing disciplinary action, according to Byard.

Brewer has obtained legal counsel and is appealing Williams’ decision to the School Board, which has the final say. School board members discussed the situation in a four-hour closed session meeting Monday night. They emerged just past 10 p.m. 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 that evening. School Board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) said that another closed session on the matter would be held Monday, March 20, adding, “That’s about all we can say.”

About More than Brewer

Sources involved in the discussion have said that the scope of LCPS’ investigation may go beyond Brewer to include administrators above the principal. Principals in Loudoun’s public schools do not have hiring and firing authority. They often provide feedback to the Department of Personnel Services, but it’s the superintendent who ultimately makes a recommendation, and the School Board takes final action on all personnel decisions.

The board usually unanimously adopts Williams’ employment decisions without public discussion or debate. Damron’s resignation was approved unanimously of board members present at the Jan. 13, 2015, meeting. The item was on the consent agenda, along with 244 other actions concerning personnel, including several retirements, dozens of new hires, and 16 other resignations. Debbie Rose (Algonkian) and Morse were absent for the vote.

Another issue is whether Loudoun administrators should have made Virginia Department of Education aware of complaints against Damron years ago, even though none of them led to criminal charges.

Virginia has a mandatory reporting law, making educators and their districts legally liable to report any abuse, neglect or endangerment of students. The legal requirements overseeing these types of situations will get more stringent come July 1, when a new law (HB2432) takes effect that will require school districts to notify VDOE when they are investigating an educator when the result of that investigation could lead to the teacher losing his or her license, even if that investigation does not lead to a criminal conviction.

The legislation was prompted by an NBC News4 investigation that found that Fairfax County Public Schools waited years before revoking the teaching licenses of four educators who engaged in sexual misconduct. One teacher who pleaded guilty to assaulting a student in Fairfax County maintained his Virginia teaching license, which allowed him to find another teaching job in Maryland and later assault another student.

Pyle said VDOE worked with Del. David L. Bulova (D-37) to craft the bill. “It requires that, whenever a school division initiates a petition against an employee, we get a copy of the petition and the supporting evidence, so we know what’s going on. So that if the communication breaks down at the local level, then we have the information we need to act against the license,” he said.

“This really is a shared responsibility,” he added. “We very much depend on the school divisions to initiate the process on the local level.”

[See related Loudoun Now editorial: Responsibility at the Top.]


Complaints in Loudoun and Florida

In August 2015, seven months after resigning from Loudoun County, 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.

Supporters of Principal John Brewer have packed board meetings since December. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

Patty, the mother of the student, alleged 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 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 on Nov. 1, 2016, following the investigation. About that time, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office launched its own investigation into Damron to determine whether any criminal activity took place in Loudoun. It’s since closed the investigation, pending any new information.

Messages to Damron requesting an interview have not been returned.

Patty, who wanted her name withheld to protect her son’s identity, reiterated that 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 with whom he claimed to have had a two-year relationship. She said she also spoke with 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 this week, “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.

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.

January 2015 – Damron resigns from Loudoun County Public Schools.

August 2015 – Damron is hired to teach in Duval County, FL.

Nov. 1, 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.

November 2016 – 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 3,034 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 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.

Dec. 20, 2016 – Superintendent Eric Williams requests that Damron’s teaching license be revoked. The petition is served to Damron on or about Dec. 27.

Jan. 3, 2017 – A fundraising page at gofundme.com/support-dr-brewer is launched. (It’s since raised $41,644 for Brewer’s legal defense.)

February 2017 – Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office closes the investigation into Damron, pending new information.

Feb. 22-23, 2017 – Brewer goes before an independent hearing officer.

March 13, 2017 – Loudoun County School Board discusses the case in a closed session meeting.

March 20, 2017 – A second closed session meeting is scheduled.

[Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include Brian Damron’s response to the petition that his license be revoked. Loudoun Now received his response through a request under the Freedom of Information Act on March 17, 2017.]

dnadler@loudounnow.com
twitter.com/danielle_nadler

11 thoughts on “Williams’ Letter Details Alleged Misconduct of Dominion Teacher

  • 2017-03-17 at 2:24 pm
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    “There is a lot more than what has been revealed.” I’ll say. This is the tip of the iceberg for what else has been going on at Dominion – and other schools? – that is being kept quiet. Others have started coming forward with different incidents that allege Brewer endangered other children at other times – completely unrelated to the Damron situation. One parent I know told me he called Williams directly to make a report and left a message that was not returned. One lawyer told me, “They are trying to clean up a huge mess at Dominion that just keeps growing with each new revelation.” Perhaps they are overloaded and have created what some might call narrow or odd criteria for deciding what gets investigated?

  • 2017-03-16 at 9:21 pm
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    Well, well it appears as if “The Apple Dumpling Gang” rides again and is led by none other than… wait for it, wait for it….is it Don Knotts? No, may he rest in peace. It is none other than Superintendent Eric Williams! Yes fans, we are seated in the front row watching a desperate, feckless leader thrashing about because of an out-of-state reporter who asked on December 1, 2016 some very specific questions of the superintendent’s actions and the Loudoun County Public Schools Central Office actions, way back in 2014 over a former band teacher at Dominion High School. And what was the superintendent’s immediate course of action but to…..wait for it, wait for it…just throw the principal of this former band teacher under the proverbial “school bus” on December 2, 2016 by placing that principal on Administrative Leave, until he, Superintendent Williams, can saddle up again!

    Fast forward to January 10, 2017 and yep, you guessed it; the leader of “The Apple Dumpling Gang” rides again! Yes, just when you thought your superintendent was finished with displaying his timely leadership skills, he allegedly writes a letter to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to…wait for it, wait for it… revoke this same former band teacher’s license – albeit 2 years after the 2014 LCSO/LCPS investigative report had allegedly recommended the revocation. I suppose one could sit back and argue “better late than never” or as most likely in the case of “The Apple Dumpling Gang’s” leader, “let’s not rush these things, after all we do have to maintain our image and reputation by not sweating the small stuff”.

    But hold on fans, are we so sure that the superintendent wrote a letter to the Virginia Department of Education to “revoke” the former band teacher’s license or to just “cancel” the license? There is a significant difference between revocation and cancellation, especially when it comes to the VDOE reinstatement procedures. All inquiring minds need to do is visit the following site:

    http://www.doe.virginia.gov/teaching/licensure/license_actions.pdf

    and read through the definitions and then skip on down to the bottom of page 4 where one sees the actual status as “cancellation” by the name of the former band teacher of Dominion High School.
    So why just now has the superintendent informed our community of his recommendation to the VDOE that the license of the former band teacher be “revoked” when the license has only been cancelled? Is he now trying to manipulate the “court of public opinion” in his favor or is this serendipity; or perhaps just another case of the “Apple Dumpling Gang” leader now closing the stable door after the horse has bolted?

    This recent action, leads one to believe there is much more to the circumstances surrounding the 2014 investigation by LCSO and LCPS. This investigation had allegedly concluded with the recommendation for the employment termination and revocation of the license of the former band teacher. But why did the superintendent allegedly choose to allow this person to resign instead; and thereby skirting the requirement to contact the VDOE for license revocation?

    Perhaps we are not dealing with “The Apple Dumpling Gang” leader but rather with the shrewd and calculating…wait for it, wait for it… none other than the Frank Underwood character from “House of Cards”. After all, this is a superintendent who did invite a former US President to speak before his Government class at James Madison High School – without prior permission and thereby failing to inform his principal. Those little details such as accountability to the chain of command, respect for authority, integrity in one’s actions seem to all get cast aside when it comes to “the ends justifying the means”. It looks like we are really seeing how Superintendent Eric Williams leads; orchestrating Machiavellian tactics amid blame game behaviors while presiding over the devastating impact his feckless leadership has had on our county, our board members, our community, our educators, our families, and most important of all – our students!

    Make no mistake, there is a reason that cancellation and NOT revocation has been denoted next to the former band teacher’s license. Obtaining the details from the reports of the LCSO and LCPS investigations and the February 22-23, 2017 independent hearing officer’s report contain the truth as to Superintendent Williams’ culpability and that is why we are witnessing such dastardly acts of desperation. All Superintendent Williams has to do is waive his right to privacy and release all of these reports and demonstrate transparency to our community. Unless of course that transparency would result in pressure on the Loudoun County Board of Education Members to act on a rogue superintendent who unilaterally made decisions that have potentially exposed the LCPS to exorbitant legal costs from the sure to follow lawsuits due to his, Williams’, failure to lead when all of this mess first surfaced back in 2014.

    Make no mistake, all of these reports will eventually see the light of day. These reports will follow Superintendent Williams and all of the current Loudoun County Board of Education Members for the rest of their lives, unless this Board, acts decisively and holds the Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent and other Central Office leadership personnel accountable for their collective failure to carryout and execute their duties. Principals do not have the power to launch investigations on teachers – superintendents and central office staff have those responsibilities. If the superintendent and/or central office (i.e. HR) have been remiss in executing their duties based upon the recommendations of those earlier investigations and reports; and the independent hearing officer’s report exonerates Principal Brewer, then it is imperative that the Loudoun County Board of Education demonstrate the courage and leadership that has been lapsing – unless of course they choose to take a page out of the movie script …wait for it, wait for it, oh yeah that’s right…“The Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight”!

    Make no mistake, this community is now looking to the Loudoun County Board of Education Members for integrity, transparency and leadership – and demanding accountability!

  • 2017-03-16 at 2:35 pm
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    Perhaps we need the LCSB to reques that the Circuit Court appoint a special investigator from out of the area. The LCSO has investigated Damron and no charges. The LCSB is elected an so is the Commonwelaths Attorney, So, no independent voice in either.

    Time for the cover ups to stop and the truth to come out.

    • 2017-03-16 at 4:57 pm
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      Now Loudoun Independent, you aren’t saying that good ol’ boy CA James Plowman is not independent, are you? Why Plowman is in federal court now as a defendant for violating the Constitutional rights of his constituents. Plowman also refused to prosecute perjury by LCPS officials that a Virginia State Police agent called a “legitimate” complaint. And while Plowman refused to even tell the LCSB to follow the conflict of interest laws, when a special prosecutor was assigned, Alexandria CA ruled LCSB members had violated the law and would be prosecuted if they did not start complying. Given Plowman raised half of his cash political donations from defense attorneys who he goes up against in court, please tell me you don’t think Plowman is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Why who would possibly believe you?

      Given that both Plowman and LCSB are in federal court for constitutional violations, how might we go about getting an independent review? Hmmm, I have an idea. Why doesn’t the BOS drasticly reduce the funding of LCPS unless and until the LCSB hires an independent investigator to review everything that happened and release the report publicly? But that would be asking the BOS to be the responsible public body in the county. I think they are too busy telling folks to take it up with the school board. I’m not sreu if a serious sexual assault would even entice them to act.

      I think lots of elected officials in Loudoun need to be swapped out come 2019.

  • 2017-03-16 at 11:48 am
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    The one question I have is what actually happened once Dr. Brewer reported this to his bosses? We know LCSO was notified and they conducted their own investigation, in 2014. That investigation was recently re-opened and still no charges have been filed. But what is not clear is was there ever an internal LCPS investigation to these allegations? If there was–in light of these “new charges” disclosed here by Dr. Williams–how was Damron ever allowed to resign? Williams is being deceitful, either he knew of the past allegations, found them to be true, and passed the trash—or—at the time, nobody knew that Mr. Damron was the monster he was, and the administration chalked it up to very poor judgment, and allowed him to resign.

    But here is what I still cannot reconcile. Michael Pierson, the Supervisor of Loudoun County’s Music Department also wrote a glowing recommendation on behalf of Mr. Damron. I am going to assume Mr. Damron’s incident would have been brought to Mr. Pierson’s attention. Wouldn’t one would think Mr. Pierson played a role in the investigation of one of his subordinates at some level?

    At some point in time he must have been asked, what’s going on? Do you know him? Clearly he did—he wrote a letter of recommendation more glowing than Dr. Brewer and yet has never been placed on leave, nor mentioned with any culpability in this matter. So we can deduce several nefarious conclusions and none really explain the conduct of senior LCPS officials who at this point seem hellbent on terminating Dr. Brewer.

    What seems to be forgotten by the public, is that Dr. Brewer doesn’t make hiring and firing decisions. And he didn’t permit Mr. Damron to resign. Dr. Williams did. And it now appears the LCSB also approved it. But did they have the same facts that Dr. Williams had? Who is really hiding things and trying to cover their backsides?

    I ask again, was there an internal investigation? If so, what did it find? Was the school board aware of it? Was anyone outside of the LCPS HR investigative team and leadership aware of it? And if anything egregious was found at the time –end of 2014 and early 2015, why was he allowed to resign? Do we know if Mr. Pierson was involved if there was an investigation? Why isn’t he being questioned? Is it because Brewer is a convenient scapegoat? The grand standing gesture of Dr. Williams revoking Damron’s license in December of 2016 is clearly a desperate act to protect LCPS to any pending legal ramifications from the incident in Florida. The timing sure seems suspicious. And I can guarantee if these questions were asked under oath, the administration would either perjure themselves, or finally tell the truth.

    What still makes no sense is the application of the penalty. Nothing for Mr. Pierson, termination for Dr. Brewer. Does anyone else see a problem here?

    This is the track Loudoun Now and others needs to investigate. Because the facts are not aligning with the accusations. And the accusations are not listed according to their chronological sequence.

    Monday morning quarterbacking says nobody should have ever written this teacher a letter of recommendation. But it seems that what Dr. Brewer knew at the time and what Dr. Williams knew, could be an entirely different set of facts. Imagine if Dr. Brewer was never told about the results of an internal investigation? Imagine if Dr. Williams ignored the results, and kept them hidden from the board, and everyone else?

    I for one believe the man whom hundreds of people have come to defend and several thousand have written to support. I cannot say the same for the reputation of a Superintendent who covers his edicts in a shroud of secrecy, demands silence and has built a culture of fear and distrust across our school system, and provides zero transparency to what he really does.

    Dr. Williams is the problem, his top advisors should be encouraged to step out and tell the truth, and our School Board members need to press him, not coddle him. Because this problem only gets worse.

    • 2017-03-16 at 1:53 pm
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      Why do you think the school board was clueless in such actions? They often know the details and use the senior admins as a pinata a la Roger Goodell is used by the NFL owners to take the heat.

      Answers are needed from senior LCPS admins. These admins must have the permission of the school board to give the answers publicly. Ultimately the school board is accountable both for the actions and for conducting investigations and reassuring the public. The school board just hopes this will go away. Will the public demand answers from those at the very top?

  • 2017-03-15 at 9:53 pm
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    it is clear that LCPS is way more than broke. Eric Williams asking for a revocation long after the fact is akin to closing the barn door after the animals have streamed out under his watch.

    No criminal charges against Damron. No bringing of facts to the State level to limit his interaction with future students/children. If the “adults” housed at the Hatrick Memorial Building don’t lead by example, then don’t come down on the principal of the HS for writing a letter.

    Failure abounds and Eric Williams should be looking in the mirror for the first resignation. Then again. the School Board should take appropriate action NOW.

    • 2017-03-16 at 9:24 am
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      LI. While I appreciate your sentiment on Williams and the Brewer situation I need to point out the silliness of your Hatrick comment. First, he did great things for LCPS. So I Think that building, or another should be named in his honor. The “Hatrick Memorial Building” is a necessity and far from luxurious. Did you ever step foot in the LCPS administration building before this one was built? Do you honestly believe that the ever enlarging LCPS could still operate out of that building? Seriously….

      • 2017-03-16 at 1:55 pm
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        Whatever one thinks about Williams, Hatrick was infinitely worse. He is known to have told his staff to ignore complaints from parents because eventually they will go away. He is also known to have backed a principal when teachers spoke out against pressure for grade inflation and cheating on Spec Ed standardized tests. He told those teachers that he had confidence in the principal and for the teachers to stop spreading rumors.

        Is that the superintendent you want for a transparent and ethical school system?

  • 2017-03-15 at 4:36 pm
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    This was clearly “pass the trash”.

    Kissing the cheek of teenage students and continued unwanted advances are sexual harassment in any scenario. LCPS clearly knew about some of this back in the fall of 2014. But in an effort to keep their “reputation”, they allowed the teacher to resign. It appears the school board didn’t even know about the complaints and the compromise resignation.

    A major issue when determining if someone is ready for leadership positions is whether they will pass serious issues up the chain. They must recognize serious issues so joint decisions can be made. If a principal keeps issues at his level which could threaten the safety or reputation of a school, it’s hard to keep the principal in that position. In the same light, if senior admins at LCPS don’t tell the board what’s going on, how can the board have confidence in those senior admins?!

    Now, it’s CYA mode. Asking for the licenses to be revoked over 2 years after the incident is laughable. Had it not been for Florida, Damron would still be licensed here. And he might have caused more damage in Florida if a mother had not raised Cain and the school taken her seriously. LCPS covers up everything. I would note that at this same time back in 2014, LCPS began removing all signs of their PISA test debacle (students thought LCPS teachers didn’t care about their well-being) from their briefs and website. There is not serious effort to address problems. Why is anyone surprised we continue to have them.

    There is a lot more under these covers than what has been revealed. What might be going on at your kids’ school that LCPS isn’t telling you? The only body that has credibility is the BOS. The BOS tries to shirk responsibility for anything school related and one can empathize. But at some point, the BOS must use the power of the purse to force audits and investigations of LCPS and possibly clean house. You can’t fund corrupt/incompetent organizations and be totally guilt free.

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