A bill is on its way to becoming Virginia law could have prevented a Dominion High School band director accused of sexual misconduct from getting a subsequent teaching job in Florida.
Both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously passed HB 438 that requires local school boards to adopt policies that prohibit any school employee or contractor from helping another employee get a new job if he or she is believed to have engaged in sexual misconduct of a minor or student.
Del. David Reid (D-32), of Ashburn, said the state law is nearly three years overdue. States were directed to adopt similar legislation as part of Congress’ 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act.
“There is a lot of stuff that gets passed by the federal government and there’s a lot of nuance, and this wasn’t picked up on,” Reid said.
He said U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8-VA) brought it to the attention of Virginia lawmakers that the General Assembly hadn’t yet adopted a law prohibiting schools from helping teachers suspected of sexual misconduct from getting a job elsewhere.
The bill’s language describes exactly a situation that played out in Loudoun County that resulted in the firing of a band director suspected of making sexual advances toward students and the suspension of Dominion High School Principal John Brewer.
Brewer was placed on administrative leave in December 2016, just as 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. The Sheriff’s Office’s investigation was prompted by reports from a 15-year-old student in Jacksonville, FL, that Damron had made sexual advances toward him. Duval County Public Schools in Florida hired Damron in 2016 after he abruptly resigned from Loudoun County Public Schools.
School records showed that Brewer and Music Supervisor Michael Pierson wrote letters of recommendations that Damron submitted to Duval County Public Schools, as part of his application. It was later learned that Damron was also accused of making inappropriate advances toward students while he taught at Dominion. Loudoun County Superintendent Eric Williams reported this to the Virginia Department of Education in January 2017, two years after Damron resigned and a month after he placed Brewer on leave, to ask that his teaching license be canceled.
Damron did not object to the cancelation of his license, but noted, “My signature on this document does not constitute an admission of guilt of any allegations or charges…” The Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into Damron did not result in any criminal charges.
Superintendent Williams recommended that Brewer be fired over the incident. A year ago this month, the School Board technically terminated the principal’s position and, a minute later, voted to rehire him on a probationary period for three years.
Reid said he signed on as one of three sponsors of the House bill because it put Virginia in line with federal law, but also prevented situations like this.
“This was one of those things where this made perfect sense that we need to be doing this,” he said. “I wanted to sign on to make sure things like what happened at Dominion High School does not happen again.”