WASHINGTON, D.C. – Maryland’s second largest school district suspended 848 employees this year amid a crackdown on suspected child abuse, about half of which were teachers.
That’s more a than 1,000 percent increase over 2014-15, when the school district was plagued by child abuse scandals and officials vowed to take action to enforce laws that require educators to report suspected misconduct, The Washington Post reports.
School board chairman Segun Eubanks acknowledged that 848 employee investigations is “a big number,” and he told the news site the district may have “overcorrected.”
“We need to find where the right balance is,” he said.
The Post reports:
Data showed that of the 840 employee-related reports that went to Child Protective Services, 90 percent were screened out, meaning they did not warrant an investigation by that agency.
In cases with a final disposition, 67 employees were terminated, or resigned or retired; 51 suspended; and 78 reprimanded. More than 200 were cleared and about 170 received letters of professional counsel.
Many teachers who were suspended remained on administrative leave for months, some for more than a year.
One anonymous teacher allegedly told the Post she was suspended for not reporting a co-worker who grabbed a student by the shirt. She was also suspended for eight weeks for kissing a first-grader on the forehead after the girl hugged her.
“The climate they’ve created is just horrendous,” the teacher said. “Are you not going to hug a 4-year-old who is crying?”
Another unidentified teacher allegedly said he was suspended for four months for not reporting a physical altercation between staff and a student in the cafeteria on a day he wasn’t even at the school.
“What’s going on is really ridiculous,” he complained. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
District officials spent $10 million through May 12 on salaries for employees on paid administrative leave for school investigations. Last year it was $2.6 million, and only $630,000 the year prior, according to the Post.
But the employee investigations are only one of a growing list of problems for the suburban Washington, D.C. district, which could soon face its own state investigation after several school board members recently exposed widespread grade rigging and fraud in academics, NBC Washington reports.
Several board members asked Gov. Larry Hogan to look into allegations that Prince George’s County school administrators entered fake grades or encouraged teachers to do the same at numerous schools in an effort to artificially boost graduation rates.
Hogan on Sunday sent a letter to the state Board of Education President Andrew Smarick directing him to launch an investigation.
Prince George’s County Executive Kevin Maxwell, meanwhile, continues to deny the charges despite numerous educators speaking out to collaborate the allegations.
“From the beginning, I have maintained that politics lie at the root of these accusations. There has been no systemic effort to promote students in Prince George’s County Public Schools who did not meet state graduation requirements,” he said in a statement to NBC Washington.
“We look forward to collaborating with the Maryland State Department of Education to resolve this matter.”