MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (DC News Now) — Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) released findings from an investigation after sexual harassment accusations against a newly-promoted principal surfaced.
In a post shared Thursday on the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the Montgomery County Board of Education shared a summary of a report from Jackson Lewis, the external team that investigated several sexual harassment allegations against Joel Beidleman.
“In short, investigators found significant and troubling failures by senior management in MCPS,” a statement from Montgomery County Board of Education President Karla Silvestre said in another post on X.
Beidleman had just been approved as principal of Paint Branch High School in a Board of Education vote on June 27. According to the summary, he was promoted while he was being investigated.
A Washington Post article published on Aug. 11 detailed a series of complaints against Beidleman that had been filed as early as 2016. There were at least 18 verbal or written complaints from MCPS staff members, parents and union stewards, according to the article.
The summary did not include any recommendations for corrective actions, but it did provide facts that could be used for a “comprehensive corrective action plan.”
The summary said that Beidleman was promoted during an MCPS investigation because “key decision-makers did not exercise enough diligence to ascertain important details about the investigation.” Administrators did not ask about the specific nature of the investigation.
According to the investigation, there was “no evidence” that the Board of Education knew about the pending MCPS investigation, the type of investigation or any other allegations against Beidleman.
The report said that key MCPS decision-makers knew about the investigation by July 19 but did not inform the Board of Education until “on or about” Aug. 4. Beidleman was promoted on June 27. The current MCPS promotion process does not have any way to automatically identify if a candidate is under investigation.
While the summary said that MCPS investigated all formal complaints, there were some long-standing practices and processes that led to anonymous and informal complaints not being formally investigated.
Dawn Iannaco-Hahn, parent of a 7th grader at Farquhar Middle School, said she knows some of the teachers that were involved.
“Now that this thing has come out on Twitter too they’re livid because they’re like ‘I know that they saw these anonymous things,'” she said. “I know the people that submitted them or I was one of the people that submitted them.”
During its investigation, Jackson Lewis interviewed 30 current and former MCPS personnel and reviewed over 30,000 documents from MCPS emails and text messages from 10 MCPS cell phones.
Montgomery County Executive March Elrich issued the following statement:
The Jackson Lewis report summary released by the Board of Education raised some deeply troubling questions that need to be answered regarding this specific case as well as the process on how all allegations of sexual harassment are handled within the system.
I have not seen the full report at this time, and I have not been briefed by MCPS nor the Board of Education about this investigation.
From what I read that was publicly available, it is disturbing that those involved in promoting a principal did not feel an obligation to follow up on the details of an investigation that they were aware of prior to approving the promotion. That is highly irresponsible, inappropriate and a risk to school security.
But, equally upsetting is the disclosure that the MCPS promotion process “does not have a mechanism to automatically identify whether a candidate for a promotion or a transfer is under investigation” and that anonymous tips are not followed up on and investigated. I await the broader investigation, including addressing the issues submitted by the teacher’s union members and staff to the Board and administration, and I expect a full and complete investigation that addresses all the outstanding questions and issues.
The MCPS staff, families, and the entire community deserve transparency, accountability, and a better process.Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich