Kemp Mill Elementary School employees sue principal for harassment

Six former and current employees at Kemp Mill Elementary School have filed a lawsuit against the principal and the Montgomery County Board of Education, citing “unabated and outrageous bullying” and negligence by the board for doing nothing to stop it.

The principal, Floyd Starnes, began working at the Silver Spring school in July 2007. Since then, the teachers and staff say morale has plummeted.

According to the complaint, filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court Tuesday, the principal subjected the teachers to unwanted touching, verbal abuse, harassment, and retaliation. The complaint also alleges that Starnes failed to report suspected child abuse or crack down on student bullying.

In a system-wide school climate survey issued every year, the portion of teachers who said they would recommend Kemp Mill as a good place to work dropped from 100 percent to only 10 percent, from the year before Starnes’ arrival to the 2010-2011 school year, according to the lawsuit.

Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig confirmed that the complaints about the principal have been brought up before. “But they were investigated and found to have little or no merit,” he said.

Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County Education Association, said that union representatives made extra visits to the school in recent years “to work to make sure there’s a positive work environment.”

A press statement released by the teachers’ attorney Robert J. Weltcheck, said that the plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages, “but would much prefer for the Board of Education to ‘step up to the plate’ and terminate Principal Starnes.”

Michael Alison Chandler writes about schools and families in the Washington region.

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