Montgomery County Schools officials say they’re making progress on tackling bullying, sexual harassment complaints

By the time classes start for the 2024-2025 school year, Montgomery County Public Schools will have a number of changes in place designed to address complaints of bullying and sexual harassment by school employees.

That’s according to school officials who briefed the members of two Montgomery County Council committees on Thursday morning.

The action is in response to the Office of the Inspector General’s report from January that found a number of deficiencies in the school system’s own investigations into complaints. The OIG’s report was an outgrowth of allegations leveled against former Farquhar Middle School Principal Joel Beidleman, which was first reported by the Washington Post in August of 2023.

At Thursday’s committee work sessions, the MCPS Acting Chief of Staff to the Superintendent, Henry Johnson, told council members that updates to the Employee Code of Conduct will be in place by Aug. 26 and that training for new employees will include that information.

Among the changes will be requiring supervisors to “disclose prior romantic and sexual relationships with employees in their supervisory chain” and revisions to the Department of Compliance and Investigations internal manual to outline how complaints should be received, tracked and handled.

Johnson told council members, “We are in the process of implementing step-by-step written procedures around assessing the complaints, and the decision-making process. And of course, we hope to have those steps in place for principals and other staff members by the opening of school of this year.”

Johnson said that since April, the school system has investigated 22 cases around workplace bullying and harassment that have been “screened, completed and closed.” Without specifying numbers, he said there have been “some” administrative leave initiations and terminations as a result of the investigations. He also said there were five cases that resulted in reassignments and or reprimands, and 16 cases had been “unsubstantiated.”

Interim Superintendent Monique Felder also attended the briefing. She said, “We are committed to keeping you, the council and the public, informed and updated (on the changes being made).”

Felder will be leaving office at the end of the month. The new MCPS superintendent, Thomas Taylor, will start the job on July 1.

The Montgomery County Inspector General Megan Limarzi attended the briefing, and was asked if she had been called upon to help draft the changes the school system is making. She said no, explaining, “It’s important that we maintain our independence and that we are able to later come back and assess (the school system’s policies). If we’re part of creating it, no one is going to believe that we’re unbiased in our review.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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