An English teacher at Calvert High School in Prince Frederick was charged with sexual abuse of a minor after allegations that he had an encounter with a 16-year-old female student, Calvert County law enforcement authorities and school officials said.
Thomas J. Markham, 57, of St. Leonard taught English and drama and was supervisor of the school yearbook, officials said. On Nov. 7, the student, a sophomore, and her parents went to the Calvert County Sheriff's Office to tell authorities that Markham and the student were "allegedly kissing, hugging and fondling" in the school after classes had ended, said Lt. Thomas A. Buckler Jr. of the Calvert criminal investigations team.
Markham was charged with the felony, which would carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison if he were convicted, on Nov. 10. That day he received a letter from the school system telling him to stop coming to work, said Kevin Michael, the school system's director of personnel and employee relations.
"[Markham is] not working for us now, and he won't be until this is resolved and if he's fully exonerated," said Calvert School Superintendent J. Kenneth Horsmon.
Markham's attorney, Robert Harvey, said: "We deny the allegations.
"Mr. Markham has had many, many people, hundreds of people, come forward on his behalf, who know him well and believe he is not capable of doing what he's been accused of doing. And we're asking that the people who do not know him reserve judgment" until the case is concluded.
The police investigation revealed e-mail correspondence between Markham and the student, Buckler said, but he declined to describe the content of the e-mails. Horsmon said that the allegations involved one student but that the encounters took place "over time."
Markham was hired as a full-time teacher by the Calvert County public schools in fall 2000, Michael said. This year, Markham's conditional teaching certificate from the Maryland State Department of Education expired, and he took a leave of absence to complete additional course work so he could be reinstated, Michael said. During his leave, he was technically a substitute, but he taught classes daily, Michael said.
After he was charged, Markham was told his teaching services had been discontinued, along with work he was doing in the after-school drama program, Michael said.
The charges were first reported by the Calvert Independent.
Members of the Calvert High School Parent Teacher Student Association said they were concerned with protecting the privacy of students and not damaging the reputation of a teacher.
"I don't have an opinion on this," said Kim Harrison, president of the PTSA. She said she had not heard from parents concerned about the issue.
The charging documents in the case were not available because they have been sealed and were kept with Judge Stephen L. Clagett in District Court. Such cases involving juveniles are not always sealed, said prosecutor Laura Martin in the Calvert County state's attorney's office, and neither the prosecution nor the defense requested that they be kept secret.
"That's news to me," Harvey said. "We haven't filed or made any motion to seal the file. I don't know how that was done."
A preliminary hearing on the charges is scheduled for Dec. 12.