Loudoun County High School teacher under investigation after string of arrests in district

A Loudoun County High School teacher is under investigation, Leesburg police confirmed on Tuesday.
Police declined to specify the nature of the investigation, saying only that they became aware of an "incident" on Nov. 1.

Several employees in the school district have fallen under scrutiny recently - with three of them facing criminal charges.

Loudoun County Public Schools acknowledges that it's an unusual cluster of incidents, but noted that they may have come to light because of recent advancements in training.

"This came from a school board policy that was revised earlier this year," said Loudoun County Public Schools Public Information Officer Wayde Byard. "What we want to do is for teachers to be cognizant always. If they see something that is inappropriate, if they see a teacher approaching a student in an inappropriate manner or if they see inappropriate behavior, to tell an administrator immediately. That's what happened with the upskirting case here. That was a teacher seeing something that looked out of place in a hall and going to an administrator, and an arrest resulted."

Byard was referring to the case of Samuel Hermens, a former employee who was charged with three felony counts of unlawful filming.

In two other cases, teachers were accused of relationships involving young people.

In the most recent case, no charges have been filed, but Leesburg police said a search warrant had been filed.

Principal Michelle Luttrell sent an email to parents on Nov. 9 saying:

"I'm sending this message in response to a number of inquiries I've received this week. Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) is cooperating with the Leesburg Police Department in an ongoing investigation. As this is an active case, further information cannot be released at this time in order to protect the integrity of the investigation. LCPS anticipates releasing more information about this matter in the future."

Loudoun County Public Schools wrote in a statement:

"Several recent news stories have focused on Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) staff members who have been charged with criminal offenses involving inappropriate conduct with children. We understand that these events raise concerns in our community.

"Superintendent Eric Williams, observed, "Every single day the outstanding educators of Loudoun County Public Schools make a positive difference in the lives of our students. Even as we appreciate our many outstanding educators, we must continue to implement a comprehensive approach to the safety and security of our students, including actions to prevent and address inappropriate behavior by staff members."

"These actions include continuing to conduct background checks for new employees, passing new, more explicit policies related to appropriate student teacher relationships, and conducting a comprehensive division-wide training effort pertaining to reporting behaviors of concern.

"Last winter, the School Board passed a revised version of Policy 7530: Duty to Report Child Abuse or Neglect. The policy is more explicit about sample behaviors, including grooming. If an adult enters into an inappropriate relationship with a student, the adult violates the recognized student-teacher boundary and redefines the boundary inappropriately. This conduct is described as grooming.

"LCPS is committed to educating our employees on the topic of child abuse and neglect and each employee's obligation as a mandatory reporter of allegations or suspicions of child abuse and neglect. We support employees making reports to protect both students and the integrity of the profession. To accompany the policy revision, we have undertaken a massive training effort in the past several months to create a culture in which reporting behaviors of concern is encouraged. Training has been conducted for all school-based administrators and for thousands of employees in all locations and continues.

"Thoroughly vetting applicants for employment also contributes to safe and secure learning environments. We fingerprint applicants and submit the prints through the Virginia State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation to check criminal history. We also comply with state code regarding checking for founded complaints of child abuse or neglect. LCPS proactively joined the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification Clearinghouse, becoming one of the first school divisions in Virginia to attain status as an associate member. NASDTEC is the national collection point for professional educator licensure discipline actions taken by the fifty states, the District of Columbia, U.S. Department of Defense Educational Opportunity schools, and the U.S. Territories.

"Only a tiny fraction of educators will ever engage in a reportable activity during their careers. The overwhelming majority of the thousands of educators in LCPS entered the profession to be helpful to children and work hard to do so. Reporting an adult behavior of concern to school resource officers, Child Protective Services, and school administration is an act of protecting children as well as the integrity of an honorable profession. We do not want recent press coverage to discourage employees from reporting behaviors of concern. We are cooperating fully with outside agencies when behaviors of concern could rise to the level of a crime or founded complaint of child abuse and neglect.

"While it is not our practice to make comments regarding ongoing investigations, as we do not want to compromise their integrity, we do want to assure the community that we are taking a number of proactive steps to create safe and secure learning environments for our students."