Eight Fairfax County school employees were fired, reassigned or allowed to resign their jobs in the last year following allegations of impropriety involving students, including five cases of attempted or actual sexual contact, county school officials said yesterday.
School spokeswoman Dolores Bohen said Del. Alan Mayer (D-Fairfax) "slightly misrepresented a couple of things" last week when he said the school system had eight instances of detected sexual abuse of children for which employees had been fired in the past year.
Mayer is sponsoring a bill that would require fingerprints and criminal records checks of Fairfax County school job applicants. "Pedophiles are not appropriate people to be working in our public schools," he said last week. "If they caught eight in one year and that's just the tip of the iceberg, that's a significant problem."
Citing privacy restrictions on school personnel information, Bohen and school system investigator Alan Barbee would not release detailed information yesterday on the eight impropriety cases Barbee investigated from January 1987 through January of this year. Bohen said the allegations ranged from "inappropriate notes" to sexual abuse.
Three of the accused were teachers, one was an assistant principal, one a substitute teacher and one a bus driver, Barbee said.
There was "some physical contact or attempted" contact in five cases, four of them involving children the employee met on the job, he said.
Seven of the eight employees were fired or allowed to resign, he said.
The eighth, who was accused of an impropriety not involving physical contact, was given another job in the school system, he said.
Barbee said that the school system supports stricter screening of prospective employees, but that it probably would not have prevented the eight situations.
"Should it have been anticipated or was there some prior warning? The answer to that is 'no,' " he said. "None of the situations were those in which people came to us as new employees with any official record of criminal conduct."
One of the incidents Barbee investigated was the widely publicized case of Mark Arbeit, who was suspended from his job as assistant principal at Terraset Elementary School in Reston last April after several students alleged he made obscene phone calls to them. While investigating those charges, school officials learned that Arbeit had been convicted on a morals charge in Prince William County in 1982. Arbeit later resigned and agreed to have his teaching credentials revoked.
Fairfax County School Superintendent Robert R. Spillane promised stricter screening of school employees in 1985 after former school psychologist Arthur Pomerantz was arrested, and later convicted, on charges of child sexual abuse.
Coworkers said they repeatedly had complained about Pomerantz, and Prince William County police said they had presented damaging evidence about him to Fairfax school officials.
Barbee, a retired deputy police chief, was hired the following February to investigate complaints of all kinds against school system employees.
He looked into nine allegations of child sexual abuse in 1986 and said that two teachers were fired as a result.