2020 | Schools

Child abuse, neglect cases involving MCPS staff, contractors, volunteers down in past year

14 employees fired after internal investigations

The number of suspected child abuse or neglect cases involving Montgomery County Public Schools employees, contractors and volunteers was down last year, according to a new report from the school district.

In Fiscal Year 2020, there were 270 cases of alleged abuse or neglect reported to Child Protective Services or local police involving MCPS employees, contractors and volunteers, resulting in the termination of 14 employees, according to the district’s report, which is released annually.

The year prior, there were 307 suspected cases involving MCPS employees, contractors and volunteers, resulting in the firing of 19 employees.

The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30 each year. In Fiscal Year 2020, the academic year was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, closing school buildings in March.

The school system has about 24,000 employees.

Of the 259 alleged incidents involving an employee reported to Child Protective Services in the past year:
• 220 were “screened out,” meaning there was insufficient evidence of abuse or neglect
• 11 were ruled out, meaning officials found no evidence of the alleged abuse
• 11 were unsubstantiated, meaning there was not enough evidence to draw a conclusion either way
• Seven were “indicated,” meaning there was credible evidence of abuse or neglect that was not refuted
• 10 cases are pending.

There were also nine reports involving MCPS contractors, of which five were “screened out,” two were “ruled out” and two investigations are ongoing. There were two reports involving volunteers. Both were “screened out.”

MCPS conducted follow-up investigations in cases reported to police, Child Protective Services and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. Often the district takes further action. The results of the MCPS investigations were:
• 68 employees and four contractors received no disciplinary action
• 106 employees, one volunteer and two contractors were sent a memo or had a conference for the record
• 48 employees were reprimanded or received a disciplinary letter
• No employees, contractors or volunteers were suspended without pay.
• 14 employees, one contractor and one volunteer were fired
• 36 cases are pending.

There were 2,720 total cases of suspected child abuse or neglect reported by MCPS staff members to Child Protective Services or Adult Protective Services in Fiscal Year 2020. That is a decrease from Fiscal year 2019, when 3,133 suspected cases were reported. These include cases that do not include any alleged wrongdoing by MCPS staff members.

There was a significant increase in the number of suspected cases referred after MCPS transitioned to virtual classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Between March 15 and June 30, 200 suspected incidents were reported. There were 1,132 suspected cases reported during the same time period in 2019.

Greg Edmundson, the director of the MCPS Student Welfare and Compliance Unit, said the district was concerned about the sudden drop in reporting, so officials distributed online reporting guidelines to staff and community members.

School board member Rebecca Smondrowski asked MCPS to provide resources on a printed paper at meal distribution sites while children learn from home.

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