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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.]