WASHINGTON — Prince George’s County Public Schools has launched a detailed student safety plan, five months after a former school aide was indicted on charges that he sexually abused students at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School in Glenarden.
The plan lays out steps the school system must take in four critical areas aimed at ensuring there won’t be any repeats of the scandal.
“The four building blocks, if you will, that they’re saying is sort of the framework for how they are going to go, do seem to be important ones,” said law professor Mary Leary of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University of America.
The four areas of focus are:
- Culture and climate
- Reporting and training
- Screening of employees, volunteers, vendors and contractors
- Curriculum and counseling
The plan calls for steps to be phased in beginning this month and continuing into next summer. For example, safety assessments must be completed in all school buildings this month, in the area of culture and climate.
Also this month, the plan calls for revising mandatory training for teachers and staff on reporting suspected child abuse.
“There’s the legal requirements, but then there’s the question of how well is a school system training their employees to understand when it is they need to act,” said Leary, a former member of the legal team at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The school system’s plan for background checks, including for parents who want to volunteer, seems aimed at screening all those who would have access to students.
“It appears to me that this plan of action has really looked at what the Catholic school system did in the wake of the Catholic church’s child sex abuse scandal and part of what they implemented was a very vigorous screening process,” Leary said.
Leary says it’s impossible to judge the effectiveness of the Prince George’s County plan until all the pieces are put in place, but she says it appears to be a good starting point.