‘I don’t believe you:’ Lawsuit claims teachers failed to report abuse as 23 kids sexually violated

WASHINGTON — Teachers did not follow state requirements on reporting suspected child abuse, according to a lawsuit filed by families of victims of convicted sex child offender Deonte Carraway.

Carraway pleaded guilty to abusing at least 23 children at a Prince George’s County elementary school between November 2014 and February 2016.

Ten teachers and faculty are identified as having raised concerns about teacher’s aide-turned-volunteer Carraway’s inappropriate and abusive behavior to Principal Michelle Williams or other school administrators, the lawsuit said. Williams and the county board of education are named as defendants in the suits.

The teachers did not uphold their legal obligation as mandatory reporters, the suit alleges. Despite telling the principal of Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary about instances of seeing Carraway alone in the bathroom with a student, pushing three students to the ground and being too familiar with the kids, among other allegations, other teachers dismissed or ignored student’s reports of abuse, the suit said.

‘I don’t believe you.’

Multiple teachers told students they didn’t believe their reports of abuse, including fourth-grade math teacher Gwyndolyn McNair, who is among those being sued in connection with the Carraway case.

The suit alleges a fourth-grade boy who was pulled out of class by Carraway returned to tell McNair that “Deonte wanted another student to ‘hump’ him’.” Carraway removed him from class to take the boy to the dressing room behind the stage, where he instructed him and another boy to perform a sex act while Carraway recorded it on his phone, the suit said.

McNair is quoted in the lawsuit as responding to the child, “I don’t believe you. Go sit down.”

In another instance, the suit said a first-grade boy told a school counselor that he was in the bathroom when Carraway came in with several other first-grade boys and ordered them to urinate on each other while he watched, the suit said. The counselor is quoted as responding to the student, “I’ll deal with it. Go back to class.”

‘Failure to practice effective policies’

Attorneys for the victims’ families argue that the school system policy that teachers followed, as described in the lawsuit, did not square with the state requirements.

“Employees of the Prince George’s County Public Schools follow a practice that violates the law because employees do not make reports unless and until they have personal knowledge of abuse and neglect,” the suit said.

A representative of the school system said student safety remains a top priority and that since Carroway’s arrest, it has taken steps to improve and strengthen procedures for protecting kids.

Educators in Maryland are required to immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect to the head of their agency, only as a first step, according to Family Law 5-704 (a) (2), cited on the Maryland Department of Human Resources website.

It goes on to say that notifying the principal “does not substitute for the staff member’s need to call the local department of social services and complete the (Child Protective Services) form 180 and notify the State’s Attorney’s office.”

Yet not one of the 10 teachers and staff took their concerns past the principal’s office, the suit claims, while Carraway’s sexual abuse of at least 23 children went on for more than a year.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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