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Loudoun Times Mirror Editorial: There is a secret at Dominion High School.

December 15, 2016

Eugene Delgaudio, former Supervisor says:

"Its been a while since I have completely copied and passed on an entire editorial from any newspaper in Loudoun or the USA actually, but this is not a "bias" issue but a survival issue for our families and our county. How a crime can be carried out against students in our community without the proper safeguards is the theme of the editorial, which must be answered by all elected officials or a process must begin to ensure it does not happen again."

EDITORIAL: Loudoun school system's protectionism must end; Wayde Byard should step down

Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 by Times-Mirror Editorial Board

There is a secret at Dominion High School.

A popular band director left the high school after the school system reported the secret to police. Two administrators, including Dominion Principal John Brewer, then wrote letters of recommendation to help the band director get a job at another school.

As with most secrets, things went terribly wrong. The band director stepped down from his position at a Florida school after an investigation by school police substantiated claims that he made sexual advances toward a student. The report lead to allegations of sexual misconduct with students when he was at Dominion.

Last week, Brewer, a former principal of the year in the school district, abruptly went on leave. The school district won't address the reason, but parents, students, teachers and citizens throughout the county want to know why.

"Our community was and still is shocked about the abrupt manner in which we were informed of Dr. Brewer's leave from our school," said Anna Curran, one of many Dominion parents who came to a Dec. 13 School Board meeting to support their principal."We ask the LCPS administration to quell the rumors & We ask you to address the students, community and staff as quickly as possible. Transparency is paramount."

Transparency is paramount. Troubling questions are being asked around Loudoun County:

Why did Principal Brewer take a leave?

How could the school system keep a secret that was so harmful, so hurtful, so damaging to the school?

How could an institution entrusted with the education of our children harbor such a secret?

How could it pass it along to another school and on to other students?

How many allegations of sexual misconduct are there in the school district?

What did school administrators know and when did they know it?

How could this happen here?

Byard, the school district's public information officer, cites personnel and privacy protections as reasons for the administration's silence -- issues that government entities throughout the U.S. have been able to reconcile as they address similar situations.

We don't know all the circumstances regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct against the former band director at Dominion. Without comment or explanation from Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Eric Williams or from Byard, we are left to piece together a troubling story.

Our investigation has been informed by interviewing sources and verifying facts. It has involved Freedom of Information Act filings. It has required cooperation with school authorities and newspaper reporters in Florida, people who take a more honest approach to exposing secrets than the administrators of our school district.

The Dominion story currently leads to the unsavory business of identifying a scapegoat.

Principal Brewer is the presumed target. Formal complaints alleging sexual harassment against teachers should be filed with a school's principal, according to Loudoun County Public Schools' policy.

But the problems in our school district run deeper. They suggest a policy of institutional protectionism that reminds us of the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University in 2011. The president of Penn State and legendary football coach Joe Paterno were forced to resign for looking the other way when an assistant coach was accused of molesting boys in university locker rooms. An investigation imposed heavy sanctions on Penn State for its lack of institutional oversight. Penn State loyalists rallied around Paterno.

We appreciate the challenges of running a $1 billion district with 89 schools, 79,000 students and nearly 11,000 teachers. But we are also mindful of problems known to educators, students and parents -- problems that warrant the honest and open examination of a public institution.

Sexual misconduct by teachers against students in our schools simply can't be tolerated. Or swept away with silence.

Accordingly, we call for an independent investigation into the administration of Loudoun County Public Schools to determine whether administrators had knowledge of the allegations at Dominion High School, as well as other incidents in the past. Such an investigation should go beyond the one being conducted by the county's Sheriff's Office into reported incidents at Dominion involving the band director.

We don't know where the Dominion story leads.

But we do know that we've been here before. Mr. Byard has, over years, deflected responsibility by the school district on a range of issues. He consistently refuses to address or to comment on most any situation that casts the school district in a bad light. He skewers reporters who report on problems. He attacks the credibility of parents and students who express grievances with the district.

As we said, we've been here before with Byard.

In 2010, the Times-Mirror sought a more honest and open relationship with the school district. "To put it bluntly, we're fed up with the treatment that we and our readers are getting from the school administration, led by its increasingly recalcitrant and pugnacious gatekeeper, Wayde Byard," wrote the then-editor of the Times-Mirror.

The newspaper's editorial called Byard a school bully of a different kind, "the troubadour for a school system that has increasingly become & a close-minded oligarchy of petty intimidation, nettlesome orthodoxy and a grating noblesse oblige."

We reminded Byard of those words recently. Now they come back to us again.

Among the many comments on our stories about the alleged incidents at Dominion High was this one from a reader: "There should be a lot of people at LCPS that lose their jobs for this. We must end the protectionism that envelops the school district and start taking real action against these enablers. Drain THIS swamp!"

We are inclined to agree. Byard should step down. His singular protectionism of the school district, cultivated over 16 years with the district, undermines his responsibility to the truth. The school district would be served by a more enlightened approach to public information in tricky times.

Responsibility leads to the top. Superintendent Williams has led the school district for two years with deafening silence. He should be held accountable for any policies or practices that serve to hide problems in our schools. He should champion openness in the public institution of education, even if that means disclosing problems.

Secrets feed on silence. The sexual misconduct allegations at Dominion High School can only be remedied by full disclosure.

End of Loudoun Times Editorial.

COMMENT FROM DAVID DICKINSON, NOTED CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR IN LOUDOUN

...........I was going to say this is one of the best editorials ever, even before I read I got quoted. Really, it is. There is a natural protectionism for any organization but one that ends up passing a pedophile on to molest even more children really needs a serious investigation and some soul searching...."

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