2021 | Courts

MCPS teacher, congressional candidate pleads guilty to sexually abusing student

Sentencing hearing scheduled for Aug. 19

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Maxwell Bero, a Watkins Mill High School teacher who last year ran against Rep. David Trone for Congress, pleaded guilty this week to sexually abusing a 14-year-old student in 2014 and 2015.

According to court records, Bero, of Clarksburg, sexually abused the student while the two were alone in a classroom when he taught at Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring.

Bero, 31, was arrested in August and charged with six counts of third-degree sex offense and one count of sex abuse of a minor.

During a court hearing on Tuesday, Bero pleaded guilty to the one charge of sex abuse of a minor, according to online records.

He will be sentenced on Aug. 19 after a pre-sentencing investigation and mental health assessment. Bero is out of jail on bond.

In an emailed statement on Saturday afternoon, Bero’s attorney, Rene Sandler, wrote that Bero “accepted responsibility at a plea hearing before the court” and “looks forward to presenting information at a sentencing hearing for the judge’s consideration in this matter.”

An MCPS spokeswoman could not immediately confirm Bero’s employment status with the district. He was originally placed on leave when he was arrested in August. Bero’s name does not return any results on the district’s online staff directory.

Bero unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Trone for Maryland’s Sixth District seat in Congress in the 2020 Democratic primary.

According to charging documents, the victim, who is now 19, was in a class with Bero when she was 14 and starting eighth grade at Lee Middle School, in Silver Spring.

Court documents said Bero taught her history class and during her lunch period, she and other students would get help from Bero with assignments. The victim, police said, talked about family issues with Bero.

Police said Bero communicated about assignments through the messaging app Kik Messenger and he frequently exchanged messages with the victim.

Bero sent a nude photo of himself to the victim while he was at his bachelor party in late 2014 and she sent one back of herself, charging documents said. Police said the two continued to exchange nude photos and messages of “sexual fantasies” for the rest of the school year.

Charging documents said Bero and the student often met alone at the end of the school day in his classroom, under the pretext that she needed help with assignments or needed service-learning hours.

The sexual abuse occurred during these meetings, police said.

Communication between Bero and the victim continued during her freshman year of high school, but stopped in June 2016, according to police.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com