The state inspector general for education and the Montgomery County inspector general won’t address the sexual harassment allegations made against a Montgomery County Public School principal until after an investigation conducted by a law firm hired by MCPS and the school board, the board announced Tuesday in a letter to the County Council’s Education & Culture Committee.
That inquiry by the Baltimore office of the firm of Jackson Lewis is set to wrap up by Sept. 8, according to school board president Karla Silvestre (At-large).
MCPS and the school board have come have come under fire for tapping Jackson Lewis for an independent investigation of allegations against principal Joel Beidleman given the firm’s existing relationship with government officials, including MCPS, and what critics have deemed its “anti-worker” approach.
MCPS and the school board have previously said they had referred the matter to the county inspector general. Tuesday’s announcement is the first public confirmation of the involvement of the state inspector general for education.
It also marks the latest update in a recent public back-and-forth discussions between the Montgomery County Board of Education and members of the County Council over the independence of investigations into Beidleman and the district’s handling of the matter.
“Recently, the Board asked the Montgomery County Inspector General and the Maryland Inspector General for Education to investigate the reported allegations,” the letter states. “The Inspectors General reiterated what they have previously stated, that subsequent to the conclusion of the fact-finding investigation surrounding the promotion of Joel Beidleman, they will evaluate the appropriate next steps for their offices.”
Both the county and state inspectors general have previously not responded to MoCo360’s continued requests for comment on any potential investigation into the Beidleman allegations or made any public announcement on the matter. They did not respond Tuesday to further requests for comment.
The letter was published to social media Tuesday afternoon and is signed by Silvestre. In it, she reiterates the board’s commitment to a “transparent, thorough, fair and expeditious” process regarding the Beidleman investigation and said the board will continue its ongoing communications with the inspectors general. The initial fact-finding results of the Jackson Lewis investigation will be shared publicly between Sept. 8 and 15, according to the letter.
In a statement reacting to the letter, County Councilmember and E&C Committee Chair Will Jawando (D-At-large) applauded the board’s willingness to work with higher authorities, writing:
“The committee supports the Board’s efforts to engage the inspectors general and echoes their request to investigate the reported allegations following Jackson Lewis’ initial investigation.”
A Washington Post investigation recently revealed at least 18 reports of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation had been made by MCPS educators against Beidleman over the course of seven years—including six reports in 2023.
Despite the red flags, Beidleman was slated for a promotion to serve as principal of Burtonsville’s Paint Branch High School this school year before queries from The Post prompted his being placed on administrative leave. MoCo360 has made unsuccessful attempts to contact Beidleman, who has consistently denied the allegations made against him.
County Councilmember Dawn Luedtke (D-Dist. 7) and Council President Evan Glass (D-At-large) sent their own letter to the inspectors general on Aug. 22 asking for a “neutral, truly independent” investigation into the Beidleman allegations.
The council’s three Education & Culture Committee members—Jawando, Gabe Albornoz (D-At-large) and Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5)— reached out individually with a similar request, according to a letter the committee sent the school board the following day.
Mink said in a social media post that a public workgroup meeting to discuss the Beidleman investigation is scheduled for Sept. 28. Students returned to school for the first day of the 2023-34 school year on Monday. MCPS educator Pam Krawczel, a 20-year MCPS educator, was named Paint Branch’s acting principal in Beidleman’s absence on Aug. 16.
The County Council does not have direct oversight over the school board—another elected body—but does review and approve the school system’s budget and provides funding via county property taxes. In May, the council approved $3.165 billion in funding for MCPS next fiscal year—nearly half of the county’s entire budget, partially funded by a controversial 4.7% property tax hike.