More than 500 school employees in Prince George’s County have been placed on administrative leave at some point during this school year in response to alleged child abuse or neglect — a sharp spike over previous years amid a push to report suspicious conduct.
The jump in investigations follows a string of child abuse scandals that have rocked the Maryland school system. Cases of administrative leave have risen more than 600 percent since 2014-15, the school year before the scandals came to light, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.
Some see the rise in reports as evidence of a cultural shift in a school system where many were not accustomed to reporting potential problems. But others view the phenomenon as an overcorrection that has left many educators demoralized and taken a toll in classrooms. Parents wait for weeks or months to hear whether their children’s teachers will return.
Sixty-nine county school employees were placed on leave in 2014-15. The total rose to 194 last year as child abuse issues drew increased attention and soared to more than 500 by April of this school year. Most of those off the job are teachers.
“It’s been absolutely detrimental to student learning,” said David Murray, a school board member who co-authored a petition calling for a review and revamping of policies. “Imagine not having your math teacher or science teacher for two to three months. That’s happened frequently.”
Employee conduct has been a flash point since February 2016, when Deonte Carraway, then an elementary school volunteer, was accused of video-recording students as he directed them to perform sex acts. Carraway, formerly a paid classroom aide, has pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges and awaits trial on state charges.
Prince George’s was also roiled by abuses in its Head Start early education program, which led to the loss of a $6.4 million federal grant, then again following charges against a bus aide alleged to have abused two children with special needs.