Carroll County Times
Carroll County Education

Independent investigation of CCPS policies, procedures following Fischer firing comes back 'clean'

Two months after the Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education voted to retain an independent investigator to review the school’s policies and procedures following the arrest of former teacher Kenneth Fischer, preliminary findings show CCPS is ahead of other school systems.

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 was begun on Aug. 31 by the Fairfax County Police Major Crime Bureau, Child Exploitation Unit. He was arrested Sept. 13 and suspended without pay.


The school board voted to terminate the former West Middle School teacher and 2006 Carroll County Public Schools Teacher of the Year on Sept. 25.

Shortly after his arrest, the school board announced its retention of an independent investigator.


“As a Board, we want to assure you that a complete and thorough investigation is being conducted by law enforcement,” the release from the BOE read. “Even so, we have taken steps to retain an independent investigator to thoroughly review our policies and procedures. We believe that this added measure will ensure we are doing all we can do as a school system to protect our children.”

The Board of Education hired Judy Bresler, from Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr, to complete the investigation. Bresler was paid $294 an hour, said Jon O’Neal, assistant superintendent of administration.

As of November, Bresler came back with preliminary findings of her review, according to an email from then-BOE President Devon Rothschild to board members, which was obtained by the Times through a Public Information Act request.

“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.”

Kesler, who said she could not speak about the CCPS review specifically, said the board asked her to look at internal procedure for investigating complaints and policies and regulations, to see if there were any gaps or improvements to be made. She has done this type of review for other school systems, Kesler added.

“[School systems] usually have pretty straightforward policies and procedures dealing with reporting suspected child abuse, including child sexual abuse,” she said, because those are required by law.

That sort of thing usually gets conveyed to employees through policy, procedure and training, she said.

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But, Kesler added, such a policy or procedure usually kicks in only once there is a suspicion that abuse has occurred.


“To me, that’s in a sense too late. Something’s already happened,” she said.

In working with employee discipline cases over the last 35 years, Kesler said, she has seen there’s a pattern — known as grooming behavior — that takes place often, prior to the abuse. Grooming behavior starts as almost innocent, everyday interactions, and can take place between students and teachers, team members and coaches or really anywhere there’s a trusted adult with children around, she said.

A person will take normal procedures, and “it just slowly kind of escalates,” she said. The person will take a normal behavior and slowly push the boundaries, a little at a time, Kesler added.

So, Kesler said, when looking into a school system’s policies and procedures, she looks to see if they identify concerns about staff and student interactions that precede any actual suspicion of abuse, before grooming behaviors take root and something happens.

In an interview with the Times, Rothschild said as soon as the investigation is completed, the information will be presented to the school board in closed session. Any policy change and discussion would happen in open session, she said.

“When any unfortunate incident happens, we as a school system want to make sure we are doing anything we can to prevent it from happening again,” Rothschild said.