3 arrests at Md. elementary school spark concern, meeting with superintendent

WASHINGTON — Parents whose children attend Cloverly Elementary School, in Silver Spring, Maryland are concerned about the arrests of three school employees and met privately with Montgomery County Public School Superintendent Jack Smith.

During the current school year, a substitute teacher was arrested and charged with sexual abuse involving students at the school, and a lunch aide has been charged with possession of child pornography. Last year, a long-time teacher at the school was convicted of sexually abusing four girls.

Smith met behind closed doors with parents and staff members Tuesday evening.

“It’s terrifying to send these kids to school, every single day, not knowing if they’re going to be safe,” said parent Jenifer Miller, who has three children attending Cloverly, and attended the meeting.

“It makes me sick to my stomach.”

After the meeting, Smith told reporters he wanted to make it easier to vet teachers and employees again.

“Last year we started that process of re-fingerprinting employees,” said Smith. “It does require their signature, and that it be notarized, so it’s a bit cumbersome, and we’d like to see that law changed.”

Miller, and other parents expressed concern that child predators could fall through the school’s screening process.

“If no one has committed a crime, it’s not going to come up on any background check,” she said.

“Apples go bad after a period of time, you have to keep checking,” echoed Robin Ficker, a Republican candidate for county executive, who attended the meeting.

According to attendees, Smith said he couldn’t guarantee that no child would be abused, but was committed to making changes to promote safety.

“Everybody offends for the first time,” said Smith. “When you do the fingerprint, and the background check, going back and doing that on a periodic basis, it’s a good move.”

Last year, longtime Cloverly teacher John Vigna was sentenced to 48 years in prison for sexually abusing four female students over more than a decade.

Smith told parents he would present several security options at future meetings, and gather parental input on which measures could be immediately put in place, and discuss which could be implemented in the near future.

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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