Joynes started teaching in Montgomery classrooms in 1985, spending the past decade at New Hampshire Estates, a school of 510 students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Parents say he was beloved by many students — often viewed as funny and engaging, with a classroom of toys and instruments.
But some teachers and parents say issues arose that left them uncomfortable.
Mary Silverman, a teacher at New Hampshire Estates until last June, said she had reported Joynes for hugging a young girl between his legs as he sat on a stool and for keeping his classroom doors locked when he had three first-grade girls inside for a “lunch bunch.” Both complaints, she said, were made verbally several years ago.
Teacher Ellen Holder, who worked with Joynes for nearly 10 years before moving to another school, said she reported him to the principal last year after a first-grader said the teacher had tickled her. Holder said she also twice went to school officials after finding that Joynes had locked his classroom door with students inside.
Both teachers were among about 75 parents and educators who attended the school meeting last week. Mills told them complaints about Joynes were handled “the way they should be handled.”
Marinda Thomas Evans, who became the New Hampshire Estates principal three years ago, was at the meeting, but Mills did most of the talking. School officials said later that Evans was not available for comment.
“I assure you that when I have the evidence and the pattern, I move it to the next level,” Mills said at the meeting.
But many who spoke up said the central issue was whether the school system had documented and tracked all complaints, so that it could recognize potentially troubling patterns.
“I’ve heard four times, ‘If we had proof, we would’ve done something,’ ”one father said. “But it’s all the little bits. . . . Who sits down and goes through a personnel file?” He added: “These are my kids — my kids.”
Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig said that a school investigation would follow the criminal investigation. Joynes has taught at 11 Montgomery public schools, including Eastern Middle, Francis Scott Key Middle and Cannon Road Elementary. In some instances he split his time between schools.
“We have — and will continue — to take swift action if we become aware of inappropriate conduct by a member of our staff,” Tofig said. “We expect our staff to act in the best interest of students at all times, and the vast majority do. ”
Since Joynes’s arrest, police said they have been sifting through images and digital files seized from his computer. Two police departments are at work on the case — Baltimore County, where Joynes lived, and Montgomery, where he worked.