Two calls about suspected child abuse at Harford County's only public special education school were made to local police in 2011, according to records, while a parent of a third student made a complaint Wednesday, within hours of a story about abuse allegations at the school being published in the media.
During Monday's Harford County Board of Education meeting, several parents of students at The John Archer School near Bel Air spoke of alleged incidents of abuse at the school, including one where a child was allegedly restrained with his arms held against his back.
Since Tuesday, the only comment the school system has made regarding the charges is that school officials are "aware of the allegations and an investigation is underway," according to an e-mail written by the system's director of communications the morning after the school board meeting.
According to the Harford County Sheriff's Office, two calls for suspected child abuse were made between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2011 from John Archer, one on June 17, 2011 and another on Dec. 22, 2011.
John Archer Principal Deborea Montgomery made the call in December, according to the sheriff's office.
Reports were written for both cases, but cannot be released to the public under the Family Law Act 1-202, sheriff's office spokesperson Monica Worrell said.
On Wednesday, a woman called the sheriff's office from the 100 block of West Aztec Street in Aberdeen, according to the sheriff's office calls for service.
The woman said her son, a John Archer student, had bruises on him and, after reading Wednesday's article in The Aegis about the abuse allegations, the woman wanted an officer to come out. No further information regarding the call was available.
Calls to the Maryland State Department of Education requesting any reports of child abuse filed or current investigations under way at John Archer were not returned Wednesday or Thursday.
The John Archer School, which is in the 100 block of Thomas Run Road near the campus of Harford Community College, opened in 1971 and has 147 students enrolled with 22 teachers, according to the school's website. Ages of students range from infants, enrolled in an infants and toddlers program, to high schoolers into late teens.
Instructional areas include subjects in communication, behavior and social skills, community skills and career vocational skills, according to the Harford County Public Schools website, http://www.hcps.org.
Proposed move to Bel Air Middle campus
In 2007, Harford County Executive David Craig proposed building a new John Archer facility near Bel Air Middle School because of that school's central location and federal and state mandated inclusion programs for John Archer's older student population.
The Bel Air Middle campus was also favored for its proximity to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.
This project has been put on hold, however, because renovations are also needed to Homestead/Wakefield elementary schools, on the same campus as Bel Air Middle, a project whose funding has also been pushed back.