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EDITORIAL: Brewer’s reinstatement comes with an inconvenient truth

Everyone can find their own truth in the School Board’s decision to offer John Brewer reinstatement as principal at Dominion High School.

Supporters will applaud the reinstatement of their principal, even as he was placed on probation and required to undergo training for handling issues ranging from inappropriate relationships between students and staff to matters relating to religion in public schools.

Detractors will continue to express their outrage over a culture at the school that tolerated inappropriate conduct and language with students by a former band director, conduct that was forgiven by a principal who recommended the band director for a teaching job in another school district where misconduct with students was repeated.

Loudoun County Public School gets what is required, too -- which is off the hook.

We are, however, left to consider how Superintendent Eric Williams deals with the decision of the School Board to reject his recommendation to dismiss Principal Brewer. The implications of the School Board’s rejection of the superintendent’s recommendation raises concerns about the handling of complicated relationships and roles in our schools, as well as the capabilities of principals and administrators to deal with them.

For three months, debate revolved around a principal. It should have focused around the welfare of all students. Perhaps the School Board’s decision to reinstate-and-retrain Principal Brewer will return the conversation to where it belongs. The terms of Brewer’s probation seem intended to do just that.

“What if it was your child?” some parents asked, mostly anonymously, fearing repercussions against children who are students. The question was overwhelmed by demonstrative support for the charismatic principal and the unifying agenda he cultivated in the Dominion community over 13 years at the high school.

Certainty becomes irrational when a problem is denied because it is not a problem for someone personally. The Dominion community may get its beloved principal back, but is still left to consider an inconvenient truth: Something was wrong at Dominion, and it was knowingly passed on to another school.

“What if it was your child?” remains a troubling question, one that looms in the county’s public school district, as it does in school districts elsewhere.

The practice of “passing the trash” -- recommending a teacher who has engaged in inappropriate behavior with students -- is nothing less than a dishonest, immoral and unethical practice that should not be tolerated. The problem is particularly acute in Virginia, which received a grade of “D” in USA Today’s national scorecard of states dealing with the issue.

There is something for everyone in the School Board’s even-handed decision to offer Brewer reinstatement by placing him on probation and ordering him to undergo training in the sensitive issues that confront schools in today’s society.

While the decision does not resolve an inconvenient truth, our hope is that it serves as a lesson for all who participate in our system of public education. In that, there is a measure of redemption.

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