Six Prince George’s school-system employees who worked in the county’s troubled Head Start early education program have been disciplined, following a federal report citing incidents of corporal punishment and humiliation of children, officials said Thursday.
Two weeks after federal officials terminated the school system’s contract to run the $6.4 million Head Start program, schools chief Kevin Maxwell said he had taken disciplinary action against staff directly involved in cases cited by authorities.
The six include certified teachers, classroom aides and an administrative supervisor, officials said. Their names, and the details of their involvement in the incidents, were not released.
“These individuals will no longer be in front of any child in Prince George’s County Public Schools,” Maxwell said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Three of the employees were fired and the other three were recommended for dismissal, according to a person who works for the school system and has knowledge of the situation. The school system would not confirm that information, citing confidentiality requirements for personnel matters.
Head Start began its school year in Prince George’s this week under the management of a Denver-based organization called Community Development Institute Head Start. The group will shepherd the program, which educates about 930 children from low-income families, until a new grant competition takes place.
The findings that led to the disciplinary action announced Thursday have sparked outrage across Prince George’s. In one incident, a 3-year-old in wet pants was forced to mop up his urine in front of his classmates, with his teacher texting a photo of the boy’s effort to his mother.
“LOL,” she wrote, according to the federal report. “He worked that mop tho!”
Authorities from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Children and Families also found that Head Start staff made two children who played during nap time hold heavy objects over their heads for an extended period as punishment.
In a separate incident, a 5-year-old Head Start student left a school unnoticed and walked home alone.
“Our message is clear: We will not tolerate this type of behavior,” Maxwell said. “Our schools will cultivate teaching and learning environments that prioritize students’ well-being — and we will act swiftly to remove individuals who do not uphold these ideals.”
He said the district will continue to implement recommendations from a student-safety task force intended to improve transparency and reporting of alleged abuse. The panel was created in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal involving Deonte Carraway, a school-system volunteer who was arrested in February and accused of making video recordings of children performing sex acts at school and in other locations.
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) said he and school district officials met with federal officials this week to assure them “there would be a sense of urgency in making changes.”
Baker, who is trying to convince the federal government to put control of the county’s Head Start program back into local hands, said the district has to “look at everything.”
“We have to be vigilant, everything from training and retraining,” Baker said, “not just for the next six months or next year but for the life of this program.”