Safety advocates: Protect children from predators in school

WASHINGTON — As Prince George’s County school officials and police investigate whether administrators at a Glenarden elementary school knew a volunteer aide was taking pornographic videos of children at the school, safety advocates are offering suggestions to protect children.

State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks was asked if a school employee saw something suspicious but turned a blind eye could be held responsible for what happened at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary.

“Absolutely, absolutely they could,” said Alsobrooks in a Wednesday evening news conference. ‘We’re early in the investigation, we don’t know yet that that is the case, we will go as far as our investigation takes us, and take action based on what we learn.”

School principal Michelle Williams was placed on administrative leave, after the arrest of volunteer aide Deonte Carraway, who is charged with 10 felonies, including making child pornography, soliciting children, and child sexual abuse. He was being held in lieu of $1 million bail.

County and school officials are promising a full investigation into whether procedures were followed once police and the FBI complete their criminal investigations. A lawsuit filed by the guardian of a Sylvania Woods student claims that school officials knew of Carraway’s exploitation of the children there or at least suspected that something was amiss. No action was taken until the 9-year-old student’s uncle called police to report inappropriate messages that Carraway sent to the boy.

According to the lawsuit, as an aide, Carraway was able to pull students out of class. He took them to bathrooms and the auditorium to film the children performing sex acts.

JuRiese Colon, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, suggests schools adapt the “2 to 1 Rule,” utilized by groups including the YMCA and Scouts.

“You don’t allow adults supervising children one-on-one,” says Colon. “You’d have a leader, with children around them, but you’ll have another person with them, just to monitor the situation.”

Some question whether hiring extra adults to provide protection from predators in schools would be cost-prohibitive.

“I think you can do a lot of things that are free,” says Colon. “It might be altering schedules and lunch times, so there’s an extra teacher with a classroom.”

Colon say the physical layout of schools can help to make sure adults don’t have inappropriate privacy with children.

“Years ago, we would have classrooms with doors that were solid,” says Colon. “Now you see there are windows in those doors, because that allows people to see in.”

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.

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