Md. school district rocked by child porn case pledges new classes, training

WASHINGTON — The Maryland school district rocked by allegations a former middle school teacher’s aide sexually assaulted students and produced child pornography, says it’s rolling out new classes to help both students and teachers recognize sexual harassment.

Those are some of the steps outlined in a July 17 letter to parents from Charles County Public Schools Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill.

Earlier this month, Carlos DeAngelo Bell, 30, of Waldorf, Maryland was charged with sexually assaulting several male students in a classroom at the Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, where he was an instructional assistant, at his home and at other locations. Charles County authorities said Bell recorded video of the assaults and that 10 victims have been identified so far through cellphone images and videos.

The school system “is going through a difficult time right now, and, as the superintendent of Charles County Public Schools, I can assure you that we are going to do all that we can to address every challenge we are facing,” Hill said in the letter.

Hill’s letter said the school selected new lessons “to help students recognize the signs of sexual harassment and/or assault and how to get help.” In addition, teachers will receive enhanced training from the Center for Children on how to protect children from sexual abuse.

The school also plans to hold three “information nights” on July 28 and Aug. 16 to answer questions from staff and parents.

The Charles County Center for Children will provide free therapy for the victims both during and after the investigation, Hill said.

Hill said the school system’s hiring practices have also been reviewed.

Bell was hired as a temporary instructional aide in October 2014, according to a timeline of the investigation publicly posted by the school. An FBI fingerprint review turned up no criminal history, the school said.

Bell also worked as an indoor track coach at La Plata High School, the school said.

A La Plata parent contacted Charles County authorities in December 2016 to report inappropriate messages between Bell and a student, according to the school’s timeline. The school placed Bell on administrative leave after learning of the allegations and ordered him off school property and to stay away from students.

School officials said Bell failed to show up in January for temporary administrative duty and was terminated in January. But in May, according to the school’s timeline, Hill issued a “no trespass” order against Bell after hearing reports that he was seen at a CCPS track event.

Police arrested Bell on June 30, and he was charged with producing child pornography and second-degree assault.

There was a more-than-six-month delay between when the improper messages were first reported and when videos and photos that police say depicts the assaults were discovered by investigators on Bell’s cellphones.

Extracting data from digital devices takes an average 8 months, officials said, because heavy workloads and a lack of personnel has contributed to a growing backlog of digital evidence in the Maryland State Police’s computer forensics unit.

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