A Prince George’s County school-bus aide has been charged with multiple counts of child abuse and sexual abuse in connection with incidents involving two young students with special needs.
Michael Paul Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights, is accused of inappropriately touching a 4- and 5-year-old while working on a bus that serves special-needs children, according to charging documents filed in Prince George's County District Court.
Patopie was arrested Tuesday morning, according to county police.
The woman who drove the bus reported two incidents to authorities that occurred on Nov. 19 and May 31, saying she occasionally saw Patopie kiss the 5-year-old child, documents state. The student’s mother said her child reported inappropriate touching, police allege in court papers.
The 4-year-old’s great-aunt said she noticed that the child’s pants were “open multiple times when getting off the bus,” charging documents state.
Video footage from the bus captured on Nov. 19 shows Patopie sitting next to the 4-year-old, according to court documents. Although his hand is out of view, the video shows Patopie touching the child, the records state. After the child is dropped off, Patopie touches the 5-year-old in a similar manner, puts the child on his lap and kisses the child’s forehead, police allege.
Kevin M. Maxwell, chief executive for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said in a statement Tuesday that he is seeking to fire Patopie immediately, given his arrest.
“I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students,” Maxwell said in the statement. “We will cooperate fully with our law enforcement partners to ensure that he is held accountable. Our focus remains on providing all children with a quality education in a safe learning environment.”
The bus aide and a supervisor were placed on administrative leave during the first week of school in August after Maxwell learned of the allegations, school officials have earlier said.
John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, said the case is under investigation and prosecutors would file more charges if there is evidence of additional victims.
“Certainly anytime that children are victims, it tears at our hearts,” Erzen said.
The father of a 4-year-old who thinks his child was molested but was not one of the victims who Patopie was charged with abusing told The Washington Post this month that it was “unacceptable” that school officials did not inform the family of the November incident until August. On Tuesday, he said he was glad to hear of the charges but continued to question the process.
“I just thank God they finally locked him up,” he said.
Patopie is being held on a $300,000 bond and is scheduled for a bail review Wednesday, prosecutors said. When reached by phone, Patopie’s mother declined to comment, and online court records do not list an attorney for him.
The charges against the bus aide follow a string of child-abuse allegations in Prince George’s public schools.
In February, elementary school volunteer Deonte Carraway was indicted on 270 counts of child pornography and related charges after allegedly recording children as young as 9 performing sex acts both on and off campus. Cases against him are pending.
More recently, federal authorities revoked a $6.4 million grant from the county after finding corporal punishment and humiliation of children in the district’s Head Start preschool program.
Last week, police said they were investigating a separate allegation of physical abuse on a school bus of an adult student who attends a special-needs school in Mitchellville. The incident occurred the morning of Sept. 1, outside the C. Elizabeth Rieg Regional School.