Former Smithfield High Teacher of the Year loses state license due to alleged affair with student

Published 6:00 pm Monday, July 10, 2023

A former Smithfield High School Teacher of the Year has lost his teaching license but won’t face criminal charges for an alleged sexual relationship with a former student.

Andrew Henson, who was honored by Isle of Wight County Schools as Smithfield High’s top educator for the 2021-22 school year, resigned on Feb. 18, 2022, eight days after one of his former students told school administrators of the alleged affair.

A record of the Virginia Board of Education’s March 22, 2023, licensure hearing, which a source obtained via Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act and provided to The Smithfield Times, states that the former student, who’s now in college, gave the board screenshots, pictures and messages from her time as an SHS junior during the 2019-20 school year to corroborate the “existence and nature” of the relationship.

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A partially redacted incident report from the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office states the relationship may have begun as early as the student’s freshman and sophomore years at SHS, where Henson taught world history and sociology.

According to the same report, the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation concluded that “no felonious conduct” had occurred. Deputies’ investigation into “potential misdemeanor violations” was “halted at the direction of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office” due to the statute of limitations having expired, the report states.

Virginia limits prosecution of most misdemeanors to within one year of an alleged offense. For misdemeanor sexual abuse or consensual intercourse with someone underage, the statute is one year after the victim turns 18, or five years if the alleged offender is an adult more than three years older than the victim. This particular case “did not otherwise meet any of the other criteria with extended expiration dates,” the Sheriff’s Office report states. The most recent offense, the report states, allegedly occurred during the 2019-20 school year but wasn’t reported until February 2022.

Isle of Wight County Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips told the Times by email on July 4 that she was “not aware” of any ongoing criminal investigation of Henson.

Henson did not respond to the Times’ request for comments. According to his 2021-22 teacher of the year biography, Henson had been teaching for nine years as of 2021, seven with Isle of Wight County Schools. In addition to teaching at Smithfield High, he also coached the school’s debate team.

The Times asked, but did not receive an answer from Isle of Wight County Schools, about whether any parents or former students of Henson were notified in 2022 of the allegations.

The school division does not comment on specific personnel or student matters,” said Isle of Wight County Schools spokeswoman Lynn Briggs.

According to the Board of Education record, Isle of Wight County Schools conducted its own investigation into Henson and provided a summary to the School Board by memorandum on April 21, 2022. Based on that memo, former Superintendent Jim Thornton filed a petition on May 16, 2022, seeking the revocation of Henson’s teaching license.

Under state law, a petition must be sent by certified mail to the teacher, and the School Board must hold a hearing within 90 days of that notice.

Henson, according to the Board of Education record, indicated in correspondence with Isle of Wight County Schools that he “disputed the allegations” of Thornton’s petition but offered to voluntarily cancel his license. State law, however, allows voluntary cancellation only when the license-holder does not contest the allegations of a petition.

According to meeting minutes, the School Board conducted a closed-session hearing on the petition on Aug. 11, 2022, by which time Thornton had retired and the school division was operating under the temporary leadership of acting Superintendent Chris Coleman. Eleven days later, Superintendent Theo Cramer would assume his duties as the division’s current leader. According to the Board of Education record, the Aug. 11 meeting resulted in the School Board accepting Thornton’s petition and forwarding the matter to the state.

Five months later, a state investigative panel consisting of administrators from Norfolk, Charlottesville, Fairfax County and Prince William County public schools voted unanimously on Jan. 27 to recommend the Board of Education revoke Henson’s license. Henson, according to the Board of Education record, was not present at this hearing.

According to Virginia Department of Education records, Isle of Wight County Schools has seen just two of its teachers lose or be denied a Virginia teaching license since 2000.

The second incident, which occurred on April 23, 2019, involved Sebastian Sebastian, a music teacher who’d joined Carrsville Elementary’s staff in September 2018.

According to the Board of Education’s record of Sebastian’s hearing, the Department of Education received notice in October 2018 that Sebastian, formerly of Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, had lost his Georgia teaching license after a law enforcement task force found child pornography on Sebastian’s home computer, though he denied wrongdoing and allegedly told police customers of his private music lessons would sometimes use the computer.