Carroll teacher charged in online sex sting in Virginia; police aware of other possible victims

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Police in Virginia say they have become aware of other possible victims of a Carroll County Public Schools teacher who was arrested Wednesday after soliciting a detective posing online as a teenage boy.

Kenneth Brian Fischer, 39, of the 800 block of Amherst Lane in Westminster, is facing charges in Virginia on four counts of solicitation of a minor in connection with an online chat investigation that began Aug. 31 by the Fairfax County Police Major Crime Bureau, Child Exploitation Unit, according to a news release from Maryland State Police, which assisted in the investigation.

Fischer, who most recently taught at West Middle School and is a former Carroll County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, has been suspended by the school system without pay since his arrest.

Assistant Superintendent of Administration Jon O’Neal said no current student or staff member had come to the administration with complaints about Fischer. When asked if there were complaints from former students, O’Neal said he could not comment on personnel matters.

A detective posing as a 14-year-old boy was contacted by a stranger, later identified as Fischer, through a geo-social cell phone application, according to a news release from the Fairfax County Police Department. Fischer initiated a conversation with the detective and, soon after, solicited for sexual contact with the detective, who he believed to be a juvenile, according to the release. Fischer also sent sexually explicit images, presumably of himself, to the detective, according to the release.

During the investigation, detectives identified Fischer as the person who made the contact online. When it was determined that Fischer lived in Maryland, the detectives contacted the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for assistance with the investigation.

Through the investigation, detectives have become aware of other possible victims in Northern Virginia and Maryland, according to Fairfax County Police, and are asking the public to talk to their children and report any suspicious contact outside the school setting with Fischer. Anyone with information about Fischer is asked to contact the Major Crimes Bureau, Child Exploitation Unit at 703-246-7800, or the Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131. People can also submit a tip anonymously through Crime Solvers electronically by visiting www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text-a-tip by texting “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES(274637). Anonymous Tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.

At about 5:40 a.m. Wednesday, the Maryland State Police Computer Crimes Section, with the assistance of agents from Homeland Security and Investigation, FBI Baltimore Field Office and Westminster City Police, served a search warrant at Fischer’s residence, according to the Maryland State Police news release. Investigators from the Fairfax County Police were also present.

Various electronic and digital data storage devices were recovered and turned over to the Fairfax County Police investigators, which planned to initiate a digital forensic analysis.

Fischer was arrested in his home while the search warrant was being served. He is being detained at the Carroll County Detention Center. He is currently being held without bond after being charged as a fugitive from justice, according to electronic court records.

Fischer’s attorney, Robert N. Smith III, of Westminster, said his client waived extradition and Virginia authorities have been given a deadline of seven days to pick up Fischer. Fischer was arrested solely on the arrest warrant from Virginia, according to state police. At this time, Fischer is not being charged with any violations of Maryland criminal law.

Smith said any comments regarding the case would come within the confines of the courtroom, but he did say he was “disappointed” at some statements attributed to law enforcement.

“Although we understand the concern of the citizens for any children, we are nonetheless disappointed that the police have apparently chosen to litigate this in the press,” Smith told the Times on Thursday night.

Carroll County Public Schools “immediately began cooperating with law enforcement and the State’s Attorney’s Office in the investigation,” according to a statement emailed to the Times Thursday morning. “Dr. Fischer has been suspended without pay pending a recommendation of termination to the Board of Education. We will continue to do whatever we can to assist law enforcement in their investigation.”

Board of Education President Devon Rothschild said while she could not comment on a personnel issue, a typical termination recommendation would be brought to the BOE in closed session during its monthly board meeting.

“However given the seriousness of the allegation, there is the possibility that this would be brought to us before our next board meeting,” she said. The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 11.

A personnel termination request is brought to the school board with a brief description of the incident and the superintendent’s recommendation, Rothschild said, and then the BOE votes on whether it will uphold the recommendation.

“We are cooperating as fully as we can with law enforcement,” she said. “Our number one concern is the safety of our students.”

Carroll County Education Association President Teresa McCulloh said Fischer is not a member and doesn’t pay dues of the teacher’s union.

Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo said via text message that his office has been working with the Maryland State Police and Fairfax County Police in the investigation to quickly identify any other potential victims.

“The Carroll County Public School System has been very cooperative in this investigation, and we anticipate their continued cooperation moving forward,” he said. “The safety of the children is everyone's top priority, and we are all working to make sure all evidence is obtained and every lead pursued."

Fischer, a Liberty High School graduate, began his career with CCPS in 2000 as a teacher at North Carroll High School, before going to Winters Mill High School from 2002 to 2007. In 2006, he was named the Carroll County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

He later moved into administration, and was the assistant principal at North Carroll High from 2007 to 2010, assistant principal at Francis Scott Key High School from 2010 to 2013 and then principal at Manchester Valley High School from 2013 until 2015. Four days before the start of the school year in 2015, Fischer requested a return to the classroom and was transferred to Sykesville Middle School for the 2015-16 year. He taught at Mount Airy Middle in 2016-17 before moving to West Middle this year.

School officials sent an email countywide, and to the parents at West Middle School, notifying them of Fischer’s arrest.

“As you are aware, one of our teachers, Dr. Kenneth Fischer, was arrested yesterday on four counts related to child sex offenses. We know that the charges are serious and we recognize and understand your desire to have additional information. As we explained in a previous email to you, we are cooperating fully with law enforcement and their investigation,” the email to West Middle parents reads. “We do not want to do anything to impair or interfere with that investigation. Cooperating with the investigation means that there is information we are allowed to disclose and information we cannot disclose. In addition, timelines for the disclosure of information are also provided to us. We can promise you that as soon as law enforcement allows us to release information, we will share it with you.

“We encourage you to take the time to talk to your children. We also have counselors available for students. If you have any information relative to this case, please contact Corporal Roger Schwarb from the Maryland State Police at 410-953-8271. As always, the safety and well-being of our students is our number one concern.”

Despite the emails, which came late morning or early afternoon, some parents say they weren’t notified soon enough.

Doug Reaves, who had a child this year in Fischer’s class, said he saw that Fischer was arrested in the news before he heard it from the school system. Wednesday, he said, his daughter had a quiz canceled and a substitute taught the class.

“None of that should have been typed on a keyboard [and sent to the press] before someone reached out to the kids and the parents,” Reaves said. “I’ve got a child at school with a smartphone. This is on Facebook now.”

emily.chappell@carrollcountytimes.com

410-857-7862

twitter.com/emilychappell13

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