Carroll County Public Schools system endures controversy, turmoil in 2017

For Carroll County Public Schools, 2017 was filled with numerous high-profile incidents, many leaving the school system in the spotlight, sometimes statewide and nationally.


The school board also announced its retention of an independent investigator, who in November, came back with preliminary findings, according to an email obtained by the Times through a Public Information Act request. The school board hired Judy Bresler, from Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr, to complete the investigation at the price of $294 an hour.

In the email to the school board, then-board President Devon Rothschild said Bresler’s investigation came back “clean.”

“I was going to add this as an agenda item for Closed, but wanted to let you know that Judy has completed her investigation and has come back with a clean report of CCPS policies and regulations regarding child abuse and sexual assault,” Rothschild wrote in her email dated Nov. 6. “She actually commended our policies for being more proactive then [sic] most, as our policies include the reporting of grooming behavior as well. She will be recommending some minor ‘tweaks’ to our policies. As soon as she completes her write-up, she will report out to the full Board.”

Field trip ban

Over the course of a little more than two weeks, CCPS went from announcing a temporary halt of field trips to Baltimore City, to announcing a lifting of the ban, and new guidelines, beginning in 2018.

The temporary ban was put in place by Superintendent Stephen Guthrie on Nov. 22, after a recommendation came from Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees. DeWees’ recommendation was in response to an email from a CCPS parent concerned about violence and crime in the city. The original decision left parents and community members split.

CCPS spokeswoman Carey Gaddis told the Times that in the two weeks between the announcement of the new policy and lifting of it, at least two field trips into Baltimore City went on as planned while several others were canceled. One field trip cancellation that garnered a lot of attention was that of the Francis Scott Key High School marching band.

Francis Scott Key High School’s band did not participate as planned in the Baltimore Mayor’s Annual Christmas Parade, which took place in Hampden on Sunday, Dec. 3. Carroll County has sent other school bands in past years, but this would have been Francis Scott Key’s first appearance in the parade.

With the announcement of the lifted ban came a list of altered guidelines, including notifying the Baltimore Police Department of all field trips into the city through a field trip notification form, establishing methods of communication between all staff, chaperones and bus drivers prior to the field trip, and a banning of unsupervised student time during a field trip.

Pledge of Allegiance incident

The video was posted to the student’s Instagram account, and included the description: “Some people don't understand how disrespectful it is to sit during the pledge or national anthem and deserves to get there ass kicked More of y'all need (stand up) to these jackasses that sit during the pledge.if you have an issue with what I did today talk to me about it not your little buddy's behind my back. #standthef***up #america #dumbass #hedeservedmore #bitch”

And though the student was disciplined, CCPS would not comment specifically on his punishment, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

We the People

In February, teachers at Westminster High were told by administration to take down posters featuring the “We the People” images, an incident that put CCPS in the national spotlight, gaining traction with outlets such as the Huffington Post and The Washington Post.

School system leaders deemed the posters as taking a political stance, something that officials said is against school policy for teachers.


The posters featured Latina, Muslim and African-American women in the same red, white and blue schematic of the “Hope” election posters for Barack Obama. Both were designed by Shepard Fairey, who told the Los Angeles Times in January that his imagery was “a pointed reference to people who have felt attacked by President-elect Donald Trump.”

Elevated levels of lead, copper in fixtures

Test results released in early January showed seven schools had failing bubblers or water fountains, 26 schools had failing fixtures in school kitchens and seven schools passed all water tests. The tests, which were done by Baltimore County-based Enviro-Chem Laboratories Inc., pulled morning water samples in November or December of 2016, and looked at levels of copper and levels of lead.


At the time, school officials said they believed the issues stem from the particular items and pipes in the buildings, rather than the water source.