Parents at a Prince George’s County school in Maryland are seeking answers after a district volunteer was charged with sexually abusing elementary-age children.
A recently filed complaint characterized the conditions at the school as “an unchecked breeding ground for sexual abuse.”
For more than a year, Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School volunteer Deonte Carraway victimized the young pupils under his charge. The 24-year old man – who was charged with nearly two dozen counts of sexual abuse – has since been sentenced to almost a century in prison for producing child pornography.
Hired as a teacher’s assistant in November 2014, The Washington Post reports that Carraway’s career had hints of trouble from its start.
“You need to check Deonte’s phone,” a 9-year old student told an administrator one month after Carraway was hired. “There’s some things with kids on it, nasty things.”
But nothing happened for more than a year.
No investigation was launched. Children complained of the man’s strange behavior, as did other employees. The Post says that teachers found Carraway’s behavior odd – he acted younger than his age, touched kids inappropriately, and was often disruptive.
Even the principal tried intervening, telling Carraway that he should only interact with children in public parts of the school, so as to “ensure that actions or conversations that could be deemed inappropriate do not take place.”
Since Carraway’s conviction, new policies have been implemented to prevent the tragedy from recurring. The first wave were enacted last year, aimed at protecting children from grooming and abuse.
Among the recently-introduced guidelines include training session for staff, which would teach employees to spot and report warning signs among their colleagues.
The rules were passed through an emergency committee, circumventing the often-lengthy process of implementing new codes into the district handbook.
“It is one of the many steps we need to take to strengthen our system,” said board president Segun Eubanks last year. “I do believe that when we implement these policies and related procedures our students will be safer.”
Parents, meanwhile, voiced their own set of complaints – wondering how and why an unpaid volunteer working as a teacher’s assistant and librarian could have spent so much time alone with young students.
Carraway, apparently, had not been subjected to a proper background check. Policies dictating the reporting of suspicious behaviors weren’t followed, and district officials never pursued the complaints and concerns which were voiced leading up to the worker’s arrest.
A recently-filed and updated lawsuit alleges that much of the blame for Carraway’s disturbing escapades lies with the district. Parents say lax management should foot the blame for purportedly creating an environment conducive to abuse.
The complaint says that even after being admonished to only speak to students in public places, Carraway continued his old ways – ultimately manipulating students to take hundreds of pornographic pictures and a number of illegal recordings.
The updated complaint also suggests that then-Principle Michelle Williams had “pulled strings” to take Carraway on as an employee, possibly even considering him for a paid position. Although Carraway passed a required background check, the two references necessary for his employment were never consulted – yet the man was taken on anyway.
Carraway wasn’t arrested until the relative of a student found inappropriate pictures on the child’s phone.
Upon confronting administrators, the man was told to return to the school the following day for a meeting.
Rather than trusting in the district’s management, the man went to the police.