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John Archer principal leaves school, parents still upset

Abusive BehaviorJohn ArcherChild Abuse

Dr. Deborea Montgomery is no longer principal at John Archer School, the news coming a few short weeks after parents spoke out publicly about allegations of child abuse at the school.

Despite her departure, more still needs to be done, parents said during Monday's Harford County Board of Education meeting.

Parents of John Archer students received a letter Monday from Mary Gernand, the school's acting principal, informing them that Montgomery "moved on to other endeavors" and that she, Gernand, would serve as principal for the remainder of the school year.

Harford County Public Schools will conduct a search for a permanent replacement, the school system's spokesperson said.

Montgomery has taken a position in the HCPS central office in the special education department, according to Harford County Public Schools Communications Manager Teri Kranefeld,

Janice Wright, mother of John Archer student Matthew Wright, thanked the board for the changes at the school, referring to Montgomery leaving her role as principal. But that won't solve everything, she said.

"Those people that [allegedly] did this to my son," Wright continued, "are still there."

Wright, of the 4000 block of Oak Ridge Drive in Street, had spoken at a previous school board meeting, alleging that her son was restrained with his hands on his back.

In an e-mail from the mother, she clarified that Matthew was allegedly "restrained face down with his hands on his back and three straps going across his torso."

Along with her frustration that more hasn't been done at the school, Wright addressed the school board and Superintendent Robert Tomback, calling them out for not responding to e-mails she sent asking for them to address the allegations.

"It gives the impression that you …have a lack of concern for the children at John Archer School," Wright said.

Rick Grambo, the board's vice president, was the only member to respond to her, she added.

In an e-mail from Del. Donna Stifler, Wright went on, the delegate wrote that Tomback told her police found no criminal intent after Wright had reported an incident of child abuse and the case was closed.

"Which is true," Wright noted. She added, however, that a detective found that staff placed her son in danger of positional asphyxia.

Wright read the state's definition of abuse and said, "I believe that placing my son in danger of positional asphyxia would …meet that Maryland definition."

According to a spokesperson for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, "As stated in the report, the opinion of the investigator was that the way the child was placed on the therapeutic device placed him in danger of positional asphyxiation."

In an e-mail from Wright, she explained that Matthew "never walked into the school and always sat down." The therapeutic device, called a tumble form grasshopper, would transport him.

"So, everyday Matthew would stop walking, sit down and the school would bring the tumble form grasshopper to him, place him face down and put his hands on his back and place three straps across his torso," Wright wrote. "Don't you think putting him in a wheelchair would have been easier and safer?"

After the investigation, the sheriff's office found "no indication that anyone involved had any intent of abusing the child," the spokesperson said. It was noted that it was determined, based on evidence, that no crime was committed.

Wright told the school board that members need to set up a meeting with parents to address their concerns "and tell them what they need to hear: that their children are safe and you have the safety and welfare of these children at the forefront of your minds."

Frank Janczak, the parent of another John Archer student, also thanked the board for the change in administration at the school, but noted, "We're not done by a mile."

Beth Janczak, his wife, also gave thanks to the board.

"What was done to 14-year-old Matthew is despicable," he said.

Janczak, of the 2000 block of Ady Road in Forest Hill, said the school needs to have a written plan or protocol when it comes to using restraints.

He added that he had asked a hospital's emergency room, though he didn't specify which one, its protocol for using restraints and was given a 19-page algorithm.

"Restraining can never be done for discipline," Janczak said. "Restraining can never be done to make the faculty's job easier."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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