Montgomery Co. schools reach $300,000 settlement in lawsuit against former principal, lawyer says

Montgomery County Public Schools has reached a settlement in a lawsuit against Joel Beidleman, former principal of Farquhar Middle School, who was at the center of multiple sexual harassment and bullying investigations by the Office of the Inspector General and the school system.

Jerry Hyatt, an attorney representing a former teacher at the middle school, told WTOP that the system reached a settlement totaling $300,000. It is the third case Hyatt has settled with the school system in the last few years.

“My client is happy to reach a settlement agreement with the defendants in this litigation. She is relieved to come to a resolution and believes that the settlement recognizes the hardships she was forced to endure over multiple years,” Hyatt said.

Hyatt’s client, who declined to be interviewed because she still works with MCPS, told WTOP through her attorney that she “feels vindicated by the terms of the settlement.”

“She hopes that the new changes in policy recently enacted by MCPS to strengthen the investigation of misconduct claims involving supervisors will prevent future teachers and staff from having to suffer what she went through,” Hyatt said.

When reached for comment, Beidleman’s attorney Donna McBride said she is not permitted to speak about the case. WTOP also reached out to MCPS for comment.

The county has pledged to follow recommendations from a previous inspector general report on misconduct in the school system. It also reported spending $487,735 on legal fees during FY24, though it is unclear if this settlement will mark an added expense for the Board of Education or Montgomery County taxpayers.

Beidleman accused of sexual harassment, bullying

Beidleman, who was promoted to run Paint Branch High School following multiple reports that he engaged in harassment or bullying, was first placed under investigation in August of 2023.

At the time, MCPS spokesman Christopher Cram told WTOP that the system had “identified an external and independent investigation team with expertise in education and employment law to promptly investigate allegations that were raised in the Washington Post’s investigation.”

The firm, Baltimore-based Jackson Lewis, was hired in August to investigate the allegations, which were received with concern by executives and lawmakers across the county.

“Who was responsible for ensuring that these allegations are properly reviewed? And did the school system conduct reviews of complaints before promoting this principal?” County Executive Marc Elrich asked in a news conference last August.

Less than a month later, officials drafted a report from the first phase of its internal investigation into Beidleman’s alleged sexual harassment, which raised “significant concerns about the vetting and promotion of personnel within MCPS,” according to a statement from the school board.

“Now that the first phase of the investigation has concluded, we will consult with the Montgomery County Inspector General and the Maryland Inspector General for Education. As independent agencies, they are charged with determining which investigations they undertake, when they begin those investigations, and the scope of those investigations,” the statement said.

A letter summarizing the report’s findings alleged that Beidleman’s promotion occurred during the investigation in part because “key decision makers did not exercise enough diligence to ascertain important details about the investigation.”

“In the coming days, I’ll be announcing a series of swift and immediate actions I’ll be prepared to take to ensure accountability,” former superintendent Monifa McKnight said in a September statement to WTOP. “I will also be working closely with my team to develop a comprehensive corrective action plan, as directed by the Board.”

Members of the Montgomery County Council, after requesting more information on the “huge failure” of school system officials, learned that an internal investigation revealed no intentional misconduct by those who chose to promote Beidleman.

Lawsuit filed against school system, Beidleman

The anonymous lawsuit filed in Montgomery County by the former Farquhar Middle School teacher accused Beidleman of discrimination, intimidation and sexual harassment. It also claimed the school system failed to act on “at least 25 verbal or written reports submitted to the school district by staff members, parents and union stewards.”

“MCPS ignored most, if not all, of these complaints and refused to perform the required investigations into Dr. Beidleman,” the complaint said.

The Montgomery County Education Association also sent a message to union members acknowledging that a law firm was looking for any other employees who were abused or intimidated with the goal of forming a class-action lawsuit.

By December, a full report released by the Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General laid bare the findings of its investigation, determining that allegations against the former Farquhar Middle School principal were substantiated.

“The investigative report about Dr. Joel Beidleman released … by the Montgomery County Inspector General clearly and professionally documents years of disturbing and egregious behavior,” McKnight said in a Dec. 1, 2023 statement.

By Jan. 24, officials inside MCPS revealed the findings of another probe aimed at the sexual misconduct allegations and announced that Beidleman was no longer employed by the school system.

“Part of overhauling MCPS is cultivating an environment and policies that facilitate greater collaboration and coordination, ensuring that important information is shared with appropriate leaders who are empowered to take action when we recognize rot in the system,” McKnight said.

“As I’ve said from Day One, these issues may not have started on my watch, but as superintendent, they will end on my watch.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report. 

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Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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