MCPS Contractor That Employed Accused Rapist Didn’t Violate School System Policy

MCPS Contractor That Employed Accused Rapist Didn’t Violate School System Policy

Worker did not have unsupervised contact with students, MCPS says

| Published:
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Photo via MCPS

The Montgomery school system does not plan to terminate its contract with a Maryland company that allowed a convicted felon to work on school property, according to a spokeswoman.

In late May, 59-year-old James Booker, of Upper Marlboro, was arrested after allegedly offering a 12-year-old girl a ride home during a storm and raping her in his vehicle.

About a week later, the school system sent a letter to families of Thomas Edison High School of Technology and Wheaton High School announcing Booker was working on a construction project at the two schools, but “was not cleared to be in any MCPS school nor to have direct contact with students,” according to the school system letter.

Booker has prior robbery and drug distribution convictions on his record, according to the school system, and based on those convictions, state law would prohibit him from working unsupervised on school grounds.

School system spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said Booker did not have any direct, unsupervised contact with students while working on the project and school system officials said the child who was sexually assaulted is not a student at Edison or Wheaton high schools.

People with felony convictions can still work on school property if supervised at all times, according to a school system document outlining responsibilities of school system contractors and state law.

Because Booker worked on a supervised site, Onijala said the contractor – Towson-based Oak Contracting – followed school system policy, and “there will be no impact on ongoing work with Oak Contracting.”

The school system document says the construction company employing Booker was responsible for ensuring he was eligible to work on school grounds.

The company conducted a background check and flagged Booker’s prior convictions for the school system, which granted clearance for him to work on the Edison and Wheaton project, if supervised, according to Onijala.

The school system will review its current policies as a result of the incident, Onijala said.

“I think, as with any incident, it is important for us to review current procedures and processes in place to ensure student safety, which is what we are doing in this case and have done for other cases,” Onijala said. “I think the key here is that Mr. Booker was in a supervised site removed from the school buildings and had no direct access to students.”

Representatives of Towson-based Oak Contracting declined comment.

Booker was part of a crew wrapping up a project to build a new, $113 million facility to replace the former Edison building that began more than seven years ago.

Construction wrapped up in October and crews are finishing renovations and revitalization of athletic fields used by the two neighboring schools.

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

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