Teachers frustrated by the length of the investigation process
Frustrated by assault allegations that can take months to investigate, union leaders and teachers at a western Baltimore County elementary school are demanding that schools officials speed up the process to return innocent educators more quickly to their classrooms.
Teachers also are increasingly troubled that some students are making false accusations because they have learned that the school system's policy is to immediately remove accused teachers from the schools while an investigation is conducted, Teachers Association of Baltimore County President Cheryl Bost said yesterday.
"There's a double standard," she said. "The feeling is that there are no consequences on the opposite side. We're removed immediately, but the disruptive kids who make false accusations face no discipline."
Teachers at Edmondson Elementary School maintain that so far this school year, 12 employees - including teachers, instructional assistants and maintenance workers - have been placed on paid administrative leave because of students' allegations.
Noting privacy concerns, county school system spokeswoman Kara Calder said she could not confirm the number of Edmondson Elementary employees on administrative leave.
But systemwide, 42 employees - including 32 teachers - are on leave and assigned to "alternate work locations," such as the district's distribution warehouse on Pulaski Park Drive, Calder said. The school system has about 17,000 employees, of whom about 8,000 are teachers.
"In Baltimore County, we're very protective of our children and take a strong stand on the appropriate treatment of our students," she said. "The procedure we follow provides due process for all adults consistently and supports us as we work to provide a safe learning environment for our children."
Bost said the county's school system has more teachers out on administrative leave because of accusations of wrongdoing than the state's 22 other county school districts combined. The union doesn't have numbers for Baltimore City, she said.
A typical scenario in which an allegation might be deemed unfounded would be a teacher pulling on a child's arm to stop him or her from leaving the classroom, Bost said.
In Baltimore County, it typically takes 30 days to complete an internal investigation, and "99 percent" of the allegations turn out to be false or unfounded, Bost said. Often, she said, students quickly recant.
In some cases, teachers are removed from their classes for several months while the accusations are investigated.
"Our concern is that if a teacher is accused on a Monday and by Tuesday a student recants, we don't believe the teacher needs to be out past Thursday," she said. "It should take maybe at most three or four days to sort out."
Domestic partner benefits added
The Baltimore County school board added domestic partner benefits to recently approved contracts last night after the system's five employee unions agreed to extend the provision to same- and opposite-sex partners.
The five-year pacts, approved last month, include an average 4 percent raise for workers in the unions that represent about 17,000 workers.
In other business, the board approved the 2008-2009 school calender without adding Muslim holidays. Advocates wanted schools closed for Eid al-Fitr or Eid al-Adha.
Smith nominates new zoning official
An assistant county attorney who has been involved in a Timonium-area community organization has been nominated to be a deputy zoning commissioner for Baltimore County.
Thomas H. Bostwick has been nominated to replace Deputy Zoning Commissioner John Murphy, who is retiring.
Bostwick has been an assistant county attorney since 2000 and was an assistant state's attorney from 1992 to 1997. He was president of the Pot Spring Community Association from 2004 to last year, county officials said.
County Executive James T. Smith Jr. announced the nomination yesterday, saying in a written statement that Bostwick "has impressive legal credentials, and that, along with his involvement in the community association, makes him uniquely qualified for this position."
Bostwick's appointment must be confirmed by the County Council. Murphy has agreed to remain in the position through the end of the month.
Audiologist accused of theft, fraud
A Reisterstown audiologist has been charged with felony theft and insurance fraud, the state attorney general's office said.
Asher Elkayam is accused in an indictment of submitting more than $31,000 in false claims to insurance companies for reimbursement for hearing aids that he neither acquired nor distributed to patients between July 2004 and July 2006, the attorney general's office said. Elkayam was indicted last week by a Baltimore County Circuit Court grand jury, records show.