A tenured Maryland educator was promoted in June despite numerous allegations of sexual harassment, threats, retaliation and workplace bullying.
After an outcry from parents and others, the employee has been put on administrative leave while the district investigates.
Dr. Joel Beidleman received the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) board’s unanimous approval to be promoted from the principal of Farquhar Middle School to principal of Paint Branch High school on June 27.
The promotion came with a salary close to $200,000, according to NBC Washington.
Following his promotion, members of the county teachers’ union went public with serious complaints that the district had swept under the rug.
“Members decided it was time to escalate and seek help outside of MCPS,” said Jennifer Martin, head of the union, according to NBC.
An investigation into Beidleman by The Washington Post unearthed at least 18 verbal or written reports from staff, parents and union representatives dating back to 2016.
Jenni Coopersmith, a former employee and parent at MCPS, said she complained to school officials in 2016 that she and her daughter were being harassed by Beidleman, but nothing happened, according to Fox 5.
Beidleman’s harassment caused Coopersmith to resign.
Chelsea Curtis, former president of the middle school’s PTA, never experienced harassment by Beidleman but heard of it happening to others.
“I only heard a little bit about this harassment while I was there as PTA president,” Curtis recalled, according to ABC 7 News. “They did what was right to report it, but it fell on deaf ears.”
Once the allegations were made public, MCPS took back Beidleman’s promotion and placed him on administrative leave. The school district vowed to listen to the community as they investigated the allegations.
However, MCPS announced last week its decision to hire a private law firm to investigate Beidleman, outraging the community even further.
Donald English Jr. from Jackson Lewis law firm defended the board in past lawsuits, including one against the district’s COVID-19 mandates.
Coopersmith doesn’t believe the school should be able to choose who investigates the matter.
“The state should absolutely step in. One hundred percent the state should step in,” Coopersmith said, according to Fox 5. “This is the fox guarding the hen house, and they absolutely should not be able to investigate themselves.”
Coopersmith isn’t alone in her sentiments. MCPS parent Dawn Iannaco-Hahn said she’s losing confidence in the district.
“MCPS is losing more and more trust as the days go by,” Iannaco-Hahn said. “I need MCPS to stop with the rug-sweeping and the coverups and pretending like this isn’t a big deal or that they didn’t know about it.”