Child Abuse, Neglect Cases Involving MCPS Staff Down in Past Year, Report Says
19 employees fired after internal investigations
The number of suspected child abuse or neglect cases reported by Montgomery County Public Schools employees was down 50, or about 14%, last year, according to a new report released by the school system.
During fiscal year 2019, there were 307 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 19 employees, according to the report, which will be presented to a school board committee this week.
“The safety and security of every student in each school is our first priority and a responsibility that we take very seriously,” MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith wrote in a memo to the Board of Education. “Our goal is to prevent any incident of child abuse and neglect in our district. However, when an incident does occur, MCPS continues to demonstrate its commitment to holding the perpetrator accountable.”
The school system has about 23,000 employees.
In total, 3,133 suspected incidents of child abuse were reported to authorities by the MCPS staff, compared to 3,087 the year prior. The allegations against MCPS employees is a small percentage of that total.
Of the alleged incidents involving an employee reported to Child Protective Services:
• 277 were “screened out,” meaning there was insufficient evidence of abuse or neglect
• 10 were ruled out, meaning officials found no evidence of the alleged abuse
• Eight were “indicated,” meaning there was credible evidence of abuse or neglect that was not refuted
• Seven were unsubstantiated, meaning there was not enough evidence to draw a conclusion either way
• One case was pending as of Sept. 9.
There were also three reports involving MCPS volunteers, of which two were “screened out” and one was “indicated.” Also, one case involving a contractor was screened out.
MCPS conducted follow-up investigations in cases reported to police, Child Protective Services and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. The results of these investigations were:
• 129 employees, one contractor and one volunteer received no disciplinary action
• 110 employees and one volunteer were sent a memo or had a conference for the record
• 45 employees received a disciplinary letter
• 19 employees and one volunteer were fired
• 13 cases were still pending as of Sept. 9.
During the 2018-19 school year, some publicized cases of alleged abuse involving MCPS staff included a bus driver accused of sexually abusing four students, a special education paraeducator charged and convicted of sexually abusing a child and a volunteer charged with production of child pornography, stemming from videotaping children in his home.
In his memo to the school board, Smith wrote that MCPS is “exploring a number of initiatives and enhancements” to increase student safety that would be implemented this school year.
Some initiatives include redesigning the training module about child abuse and neglect used by volunteers and contractors and implementing a districtwide background check procedure for employees hired prior to 2013, including the central office staff.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com