Charles Co. superintendent apologizes after arrest of ex-school aide

WASHINGTON — The superintendent of Charles County Public Schools pledged a full investigation and to provide counseling for the students who were sexually assaulted by a former school aide.

Superintendent Kimberly Hill said she learned on Friday that former instructional assistant Carlos Bell had been indicted on child pornography and assault charges for sexually abusing students and recording it. She called the charges horrifying.

“To our parents and our community who put their faith and trust in us to safeguard their children, I apologize on behalf of Charles County Public Schools,” Hill said. “Student safety is job 1. And clearly we have work to do to ensure that this will never happen again.”

Bell was removed from his position in December and barred from contacting students after school officials learned of inappropriate text messages sent by Bell to a high school student, Hill said.

Those texts launched a criminal investigation into Bell, which eventually turned up graphic images of Bell assaulting middle-school aged children in a classroom as well as at his home in Waldorf.

Sheriff Troy Berry said that investigators believe the abuse occurred at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, where Bell worked.

Hill said she too wants to know how students could be sexually abused by a staff member on school property and she said school officials would cooperate with the sheriff’s office as the criminal investigation continues.

She also pledged a review of the school system’s protocols and curriculum to ensure that students and staff alike know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse and how to report it.

She also committed to providing counseling to any student who was victimized.

“We will do whatever is necessary to earn our community’s trust and to ensure that our schools are safe places for teaching and learning,” Hill said.

Bell had a clean record and underwent two routine background checks that included fingerprinting, Hill said.

Bell was hired in the fall of 2014 and began working at Stoddert in March 2015, she said. As an instructional assistant he worked with general and special education students. He also coached indoor track at LaPlata and McDonough high schools.

No other staff members have been disciplined as a result of the criminal probe, she said.

When similar charges were filed against a former school volunteer in Prince George’s County, the principal at the school where Deonte Carraway worked was placed on administrative leave and eventually replaced. The school system overhauled its student safety practices, training and curriculum as a result of the Carraway case.

Hill encouraged parents to talk to their children and to report any inappropriate contact between Bell their child to police by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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