Another chapter unfolded in the saga of Montgomery County Public School’s handling of now more than 25 reports of sexual misconduct by principal Joel Beidleman. On Oct. 12 the Board of Education released a heavily redacted version of an investigative report by Jackson Lewis law firm into allegations against Beidleman.
Read the full redacted report here.
Beidleman has denied the allegations against him to The Washington Post, which published an investigation into the allegations against him in August. MoCo360 has repeatedly contacted Beidleman for comment.
In the wake of the release of the redacted report, MCPS has seen several personnel changes, as well as MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight sharing the beginning stages of MCPS’ corrective action plan. The action plan update and staffing updates were announced in an Oct. 13 email from McKnight to staff.
According to MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram, the corrective action plan is in the beginning stages of implementation. He said, “Some of the work we can do will be done immediately, and there are things that will take some time such as policies that need updating or creation.”
He added that some parts of the action plan are dependent on findings from the Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General’s investigation into MCPS. A full plan is still to come, he said.
The personnel changes come after The Post reported that Khalid Walker, the former coordinator of the Department of Compliance and Investigation (DCI) was moved to be assistant general counsel with a salary increase.
Three hours after The Post confirmed this with Cram, Walker was moved to a “special assignment position” in the Office of Human Resources and Development without the previous salary increase.
The Baltimore-based Jackson Lewis law firm was tapped by the school district to investigate Beidleman after The Post investigation revealed that there were at least 18 sexual harassment reports filed by MCPS staff against the principal during his 12-year tenure.
Beidleman, who most recently served as principal of Olney’s William H. Farquhar Middle School, was promoted over the summer to principal of Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville despite a pending MCPS’ investigation into complaints against him. He was placed on administrative leave when The Post began inquiries.
As we dive into the redacted report, and The Post’s and MoCo360’s coverage of the scandal, this is what we know about the investigation so far:
- Previously The Post’s investigation into Beidleman found that there were 18 reports of misconduct allegations against Beidleman. That number has increased to 25 reports submitted to MCPS since 2016
- Six complaints in the report were not part of The Post’s original investigation
- A MCPS central office employee “improperly altered” the timeline of the DCI’s investigation of Beidleman timeline, per the report
- The law firm found that the school district did not place Beidleman on leave until Aug. 4, only until “specific allegations raised by The Post in early August 2023 and the imminent media coverage of the issue,” according to the report
- There were three formal complaints made by students against Beidleman. All were addressed by Beidleman’s supervisors and were resolved, per the report
- Jackson Lewis found that five individuals knew about MCPS’ internal investigation into Beidleman’s misconduct and participated in his promotion to principal of Paint Branch High School. The names of those officials were redacted in the report
- Investigators found there was “insufficient evidence that the failure to inquire was intentional and/or designed to conceal the allegations”
- MCPS does not have a process where written personnel information, such as personnel files, is reviewed as part of the promotion process, according to the report
- “As a result, [redacted] personnel file was not reviewed as part of [redacted] promotion process,” investigators wrote
- MCPS does not have a process to catalogue similar complaints received from different sources, per the report
- MCPS has no process in place to identify and/or delay the promotion of a candidate for a position while an investigation of that candidate is pending, according to the report
- Beidleman had a “reputation for inappropriate conduct,” but that did not lead to any central office officials mentioning their concerns about the internal investigation into the principal, according to the report
- Jackson Lewis noted a “lack of diligence” by key member of MCPS leadership prior to the promotion, and a “continued lack of diligence” prior to his promotion, according to the report
- Jackson Lewis concluded that the board and McKnight were not aware of DCI’s investigation
- School district officials also ignored informal and anonymous complaints against Beidleman and only investigated claims that were filed to the central office on a specific form, per the report
- “Many of those anonymous complaints contained sufficient details to enable DCI to initiate a formal investigation… DCI similarly failed to investigate collateral complaints that were brought to it by witnesses that were interviewed for the [redacted] investigation,” investigators wrote
- Anonymous complaints from 2021 to 2023 were not formally investigated, per the report
- “DCI has a standing practice of not opening formal investigations into any anonymous complaint,” investigators wrote, “… DCI should have investigated the anonymous complaints received against [redacted] because of the number of complaints that were received in a relatively short period of time”
- Three anonymous complaints submitted through the Maryland Safe Schools Tip Line were not formally investigated. The last anonymous complaint was submitted on July 20, after the principal’s promotion, according to the report
- Five anonymous complaints submitted through Lighthouse (a third-party hotline service that MCPS utilizes) from February to May 2023 were not formally investigated, according to the report
- Two emails addressed to the Board containing anonymous allegations were not formally investigated. Investigators wrote that they were unable to find the emails in board member email accounts
- Three student-related complaints to the district were addressed by Beidleman’s supervisors and were not placed in his personnel file, according to the report
- The Post obtained one from a former PTA president, Chelsea Curtis, who requested to change schools after Beidleman told her daughter that her friend was a “whore.”
- Jackson Lewis investigators found that no official involved in the principal’s promotion “violated any MCPS policy or engaged in any intentional misconduct”
- Investigators interviewed more than 59 key MCPS personnel, more than 30,000 documents were collected from MCPS email accounts and text message discussion threads were collected from 10 MCPS cellphones, according to the report
The Oct. 12 release of the report also came with changes in central office:
- Deputy superintendent Patrick Murphy is no longer employed by MCPS, The Post confirmed with MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram
- Betty J. Collins now serves as the acting deputy superintendent beginning Oct. 16. Collins had a 49-year career in MCPS as a teacher, principal and director of instructional leadership before retiring in 2018, according to the Oct. 13 email from McKnight to staff
- Two employees in the Office of School Support and Well-Being (OSSWB), director Eugenia Dawson and associate superintendent Donna Redmond Jones are on administrative leave, The Post confirmed with Cram
- Yolanda R. Allen will now serve as acting director of OSSWB starting Oct. 16. Allen was previously the executive director in the Office of the Deputy Superintendent and has temporarily resigned from the position, per McKnight’s email
- Michelle E. Schultze will serve as acting executive director in the Office of the Deputy Superintendent beginning Oct. 16. Shultze served as director for the Office of School Support and Improvement (now OSSWB) and acting director in ODSSWB multiple times since her retirement in 2020, according to McKnight’s email
- LaVerne G. Kimball now serves as acting chief in the OSSWB beginning Oct. 16. Kimball worked in MCPS for 37 years and retired in 2018 as associate superintendent of elementary schools, per McKnight’s email
- E. Lancellotti Dempsey will serve as acting associate superintendent in OSSWB starting Oct. 23. She was the principal of Shady Grove Middle School and Northwest High School and retired as the associate superintendent of human resources and development, according to McKnight’s email
- Diane Morris, associate superintendent of schools and Beidleman’s former supervisor, is on administrative leave with pay, The Post confirmed with Cram
- Morris was Farquhar Middle School’s principal before Beidleman and handled his principal evaluation, The Post reported
Jackson Lewis concluded the report with, “Every member of MCPS leadership that we interview expressed genuine remorse, accountability and indicated that they have learned from this situation.”
At the Oct. 12 board meeting, President Karla Silvestre apologized to district staff for the failures in MCPS’ complaint processes that the report documented, saying members were “deeply sorry” and vowed to rebuilt trust.
McKnight also spoke at the meeting and thanked the board for releasing the redacted report “which many in our community have asked for and is indeed an important step for restoring trust with our staff and community,” she said.
“As part of building trust, I want to clearly communicate with our staff about where transitions in personnel are occurring. That’s why [Wednesday night], I shared with our administrators and supervisors’ information on personnel updates, and I pledge to keep our staff apprised of any additional updates,” McKnight said.
She added that she will continue to listen to staff while putting together the corrective action plan that the board had tasked her to develop. McKnight also said that she will “fully cooperate with ongoing investigations.”
The OIG is conducting two probes surrounding the Beidleman investigation. They will be reviewing the school district’s response to “receiving and responding to allegations of misconduct” against employees, and MCPS’ procedures for the “receipt, assignment, investigation, referral, resolution, documentation and retention” of allegations made by its employees, according to a letter from the Office of the Inspector General to the board.
OIG is not able to comment on the case as it is an open investigation.
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