The email arrived shortly after nine Wednesday night. The request was both surreal and expressly understandable.
“I was wondering if you guys had a total number of teachers that were arrested this school year?” the parent asked. “I see the headlines all the time and have grown increasingly concerned … I tried doing the research around your website for headlines, but it became complicated due to so many.”
While we'll see what we can do to streamline our online search tool, we don't believe that was the reader's most pressing concern.
It's a conversation that comes up in the newsroom a few times a month. “How many teacher arrests have there been now?”
“Was that one this year or last year?”
“Oh yeah, I almost forgot about about that one.”
Suppose it's time for an arrested teacher tote board.
Last week saw another Loudoun County Public Schools employee in cuffs. Sixty-four-year-old Robert Skiffington, a second-grade teacher at Sugarland Elementary School in Sterling, was charged with simple assault and battery after allegedly kissing a juvenile student numerous times on the mouth and cheek. Skiffington is the fifth LCPS employee arrested in 2019. For the 2018-2019 school year altogether, there was roughly one employee arrest a month.
Indeed, Skiffington has only been charged and not convicted, and we believe fiercely in the presumption of innocence as an essential tenet of our justice system.
But we also believe – again, fiercely – that something is systemically awry with Loudoun County Public Schools' administration. How could we not? You should see our inboxes.
For years the complaints and fears from parents and teachers have been escalating. From Superintendent Eric Williams being holed up in the “Death Star” -- as the LCPS administration building in Ashburn has been dubbed by a group of teachers -- to high school principals' obliviousness about the goings-on in their halls and their locker rooms, parents' concerns are incontrovertible.
Here's more from the Wednesday email to one of our journalists.
“I was born and raised in Loudoun and went to school here my whole life,” the parent notes. “ … I know that I am not the only parent that is – I have spoken to several friends who have kids at multiple schools around the county, and this is becoming a real problem for us.”
We sympathize with the writer's sentiment. To the parent – and to anyone who believes, as we do, that changes must be made at LCPS – we urge you to make your voices heard. Contact your School Board representative. Speak at the public meetings – daunting as that may be. The powerful collective voice of parents will propel change.