Statement from Superintendent Starr Regarding Child Abuse

December 4, 2014

On December 4, 2014, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr spoke with the media about how allegations of child abuse are handled by MCPS. Dr. Starr's statement is included below. Click here to watch video of Dr. Starr's statement.  

As a superintendent, an educator, and the father of three students in our schools, my top priority is the health and well-being of our students. This includes ensuring that any allegation or suspicion of child abuse is handled appropriately and thoroughly.

In my 3.5 years as superintendent, I have seen our schools and offices handle these matters appropriately. A vast majority of the time, we get this right.

However, recent incidents have caused me to believe that there is more we can do to improve our processes and procedures. The safety and wellbeing of our students is too important to accept the status quo.

Recently, I have taken a number of steps to improve how we monitor and report allegations of abuse. I have created a work group that includes staff, community members, and representatives of the police, CPS and the state’s attorney’s office, to review our regulations, policies, and protocols and help us develop training and resources.

This builds on our already strong relationship with the police, CPS, and the state’s attorney’s office. I appreciate their partnerships and their commitment to children.

Among the other actions we have taken:

Last month, we held training for all of our principals to reinforce our protocols we use whenever there is an allegation of abuse and to review the expectations for communicating with parents. This follows up on training we did in October 2013, in partnership with the police and Child Protective Services, which reviewed protocols for monitoring and reporting allegations of abuse.

We have implemented a robust centralized database in order to monitor employees against whom allegations have been raised, even if the police chose not to investigate or charge them.

We are changing our expectations with regard to background checks for employees of contractors who work in a school building. State law requires only a sex offender registry check for these employees, but we are now requiring fingerprinting and full criminal background checks.

While we already do training on recognizing and reporting suspicions and allegations of child abuse, I feel like we need to do more. We will require additional training of all current and future employees. It is my expectation that all MCPS employees will take this training before the end of this school year.

I firmly believe that all Montgomery County Public Schools are safe environments for our students and staff. I am committed to continuous improvement in this area and working with the police, the state’s attorney’s office, and our community partners to make sure we have the best policies and processes in place. 

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