This article was updated at 2:07 p.m. to include comments from County Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large).
After at least 18 allegations of sexual harassment against principal Joel Beidleman came to light via a Washington Post investigation Friday, several elected officials are calling for transparency and accountability from Montgomery County Public Schools.
In a Saturday press release, the school board announced that it will direct an independent investigation into the allegations against Beidleman.
“The Board of Education is appalled by the allegations published in the Washington Post about sexual harassment,” the statement reads. “We are taking immediate action, directing an independent investigation into these allegations and the implementation of Board policy.
“We, the Board, are resolute in our commitment to a safe and equitable workplace where sexual harassment and bullying is not tolerated. We will work with the findings of the independent investigation to move forward, strengthening our process and procedures so that our culture reflects our values.”
On Aug. 4, Beidleman was placed on extended administrative leave after Post reporters uncovered at least 18 reports of workplace abuse or harassment had been made against him by MCPS teachers over his 12-year tenure with the district—which included positions of leadership at Farquhar, Roberto Clemente and Lakelands Park middle schools. Before being placed on leave, Beidleman was slated for a promotion to serve as principal of Paint Branch High School.
MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram said Friday that the district has identified an “external and independent investigation team with expertise in education and employment law” to investigate the allegations reported to The Post.
The school board’s investigation and the MCPS investigation are one and the same, according to Cram. “There is only the one investigation,” he wrote to MoCo360 in an email Monday. “The board affirmed this as part of its oversight role.”
Since the allegations came to light, several elected officials have publicly scrutinized the school district for allowing Beidleman’s alleged behavior to fester for years before seemingly rewarding it with a promotion. In a Sunday interview with MyMCM, County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said Beidleman’s promotion “begs a lot of questions” about the school system’s processes.
“[MCPS] said they were going to do an investigation—which is great—except they made a promotion decision despite [Beidleman] having six complaints this year. So, were there investigations or weren’t there investigations? Were they adequate?” he said.
Elrich added, “If it looks like what it does look like, there’s some people who need to be held accountable. Because how you went through a promotion process and didn’t discuss this is kind of amazing.”
Several councilmembers have echoed Elrich’s concerns in their own statements, demanding a thorough investigation into both Beidleman and the school system at large.
County Councilmember Will Jawando (D-At-large), chair of the council’s Education and Culture Committee, said in a statement Friday that he was “deeply disturbed” by The Post’s report.
“The allegations are serious and concerning, and must be thoroughly, impartially and comprehensively investigated,” he wrote. “MCPS should be clear with the County Council and the public about how this matter will be investigated and ensure that community members are aware of how they can report experiences that may be relevant to the investigation.”
Via social media, fellow Councilmember and Education Committee member Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large) echoed Jawando’s concerns, writing that he is “also deeply troubled by this story on many levels.”
Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) also said via social media that he was “deeply disturbed” by the Post report, adding that “the public needs to know who was aware of this information and why it was not promptly investigated.”
Councilmember Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5) took to social media to issue her own statement on the allegations, calling them “completely unacceptable and frankly horrifying.”
“MCPS must be clear, transparent, and specific about how they will change their procedures for addressing reports of harassment, bullying, and other inappropriate conduct to ensure that the failures enumerated here are not ongoing elsewhere and cannot happen again,” Mink wrote.
Councilmember Dawn Luedtke (D-Dist. 7)—whose district includes Farquar Middle—told MoCo360 she’s deeply interested in how the investigation will address the perceived lack of consequences for Beidleman’s alleged behavior over the dozen years he served the public school system.
“Our MCPS employees need to know they have an outlet for addressing workplace climate and culture concerns that supports these professionals and ensures that those who raise concerns will not face retaliation,” she said.