County officials are applying pressure on Montgomery County Public Schools to release more information regarding the recently finished independent investigation into the promotion of principal Joel Beidleman despite multiple sexual harassment allegations against him.
The report summary written by law firm Jackson Lewis and published by the Board of Education on Sept. 14 “raised some deeply troubling questions that need to be answered regarding this specific case as well as the process on how all allegations of sexual harassment are handled within the system,” County Executive Marc Elrich (D) wrote in a statement Friday.
Investigators found Beidleman’s promotion moved forward because “key decision-makers” knew and failed to inquire about the nature of the pending investigations into his alleged misconduct, the report summary revealed. These “key leaders” also failed to notify the school board or initiate any remedial action after his promotion was approved when they became aware of the specific allegations against him, the summary showed.
Despite its reiterated public commitment to transparency regarding the investigation, the board declined to publish the law firm’s full report, citing confidential personnel information contained within it. In his statement, Elrich said he had not received a copy of the full report and also had not been briefed on the investigation by MCPS or the school board directly.
The investigation and subsequent report stem from at least 18 sexual harassment reports filed by school staff against Beidleman during his 12-year tenure with the district, first made public in an Aug. 11 report by The Washington Post.
Beidleman, who most recently served as principal of William H. Farquhar Middle School, was slated for a promotion to oversee Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville before inquiries from the Post triggered the school district to place him on extended administrative leave.
MoCo360 has made continued unsuccessful attempts to reach Beidleman for comment. He has denied the allegations to The Post.
Elrich called the decision to promote Beidleman without following up on the details of an active investigation against him “highly irresponsible, inappropriate and a risk to school security.” The report also indicated that MCPS does not have a “a mechanism to automatically identify whether a candidate for a promotion or transfer is under investigation,” which Elrich called “equally upsetting.”
In a statement reacting to the report summary, the teachers union questioned how the board could have been oblivious to the allegations against Beidleman when union members had sent emails to the board regarding the harassment claims.
“I await the broader investigation, including addressing the issues submitted by the teacher’s union members and staff to the Board and administration, and I expect a full and complete investigation that addresses all the outstanding questions and issues,” Elrich’s statement reads.
School board president Karla Silvestre (At-large) previously indicated that the board is consulting with the county and state inspectors general to determine whether and to what extent they will consider undertaking their own investigations into the Beidleman allegations.
County Council member Kristin Mink (D-Dist. 5), a member of the Education & Culture Committee, echoed Elrich’s demands for transparency in a Friday statement. She called for the school board to disclose whether and when the full report—redacted to protect personally-identifying information—would be released, and to confirm that the Jackson Lewis investigation was over so the inspectors general could potentially launch their own probe.
She also urged the board to describe the outreach it was undertaking at other schools to investigate similarly low staff leadership scores on the latest Staff Climate Survey. Farquhar Middle scored second lowest of any MCPS middle school in the 2022-2023 Staff Climate Survey, according to The Post’s original report on the Beidleman accusations.
“It remains clear that there is an urgent need for a much broader and deeper independent investigation of these events and related issues,” Mink’s statement reads. “The public deserves a full and transparent accounting of the flaws and failures in our school system, and how those issues will be addressed and remedied.”
The Education & Culture Committee is holding a workgroup meeting at County Council headquarters in Rockville to discuss the Beidleman investigation on Sept. 28. All council committee meetings are open to the public in person and virtually via livestream.
The County Council and executive do not have oversight over the school board or MCPS but are responsible for approving system funding.