HHS report could lead to termination of Prince George's County Head Start program

- A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services could lead to the termination of a Maryland school system’s Head Start program.

The program lost a $6.5 million federal grant after complaints of abuse and poor teacher training surfaced during an investigation. After a report, addressed to Dr. Segun Eubank, Board Chairperson of the Prince George’s County Board of Education, the HHS says a review found that teachers humiliated children in the classroom, used corporal punishment as a method of discipline, and left a child unattended.

The report says that in December of 2015, a 3-year-old boy at H. Winship Wheatley Early Childhood Center was forced by a teacher to mop up his urine after an accident during naptime. The report says that as the child was cleaning up, the teacher took photos of him and sent one to his parents, along with the caption, “LOL, he worked that mop tho.”

READ THE FULL REPORT: https://www.scribd.com/document/321467987/Head-Start-Report

In June of this year, the report continues, students at the James Ryder Randal Elementary School Head Start Center were forced to hold heavy objects - possibly books and boxes - over their heads for long periods of time after being disruptive during naptime. The report says that the students were made to continue holding the object even after crying an calling out to their teachers.

In a statement, HHS' Administration for Children and Families said:

"The Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is committed to continuing Head Start services in Prince George's County and to minimize any disruption to children and families.  We know local communities rely on Head Start programs to deliver high-quality early learning and critical comprehensive services.  ACF takes seriously our responsibility to ensure all Head Start grantees foster a healthy and safe environment for the children and families they serve."

Also in June, the report says, a 5-year-old child left the Langley Park McCormick Elementary School Head Start Center and walked home alone. The child was not seen leaving the school after a visit to the nurse's office and was found unattended outside of her family's apartment by an aunt.

In a statement, Prince George’s County Public Schools said:

“Prince George’s County Public Schools and the Prince George’s County Board of Education received official notice Monday, August 15 that our Head Start program grant was terminated due to failure to “timely correct one or more deficiencies. We are reviewing options with the Administration for Children & Families regarding Head Start. The program will begin as planned on Monday, August 29. Our goal is for children and families to have uninterrupted access to the Head Start program and services. More details will be available later today.”

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker released a statement after being informed that the grant was being eliminated:  

“I am angry and extremely disappointed at the recent news that the grant for the Prince George’s County Head Start Program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been terminated. I have asked Dr. Maxwell to address this matter immediately and I have confidence that he and the Board of Education will  ensure that the families of the 932 children in the program do not lose this valuable and important educational service.  The acts that are documented in the report from Head Start are unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our school system

Head Start was designed to provide a nurturing learning environment for early learners and our school system must ensure that the students we are entrusted to protect are safe.  This report demonstrates that there are teachers and other school professionals in our school system who did not understand the sacred nature of their responsibility.  It is my understanding that Dr. Maxwell has dealt with them swiftly, as well as addressed this situation with the entire Prince George’s County Public Schools Head Start staff.  We must rid the system of those who do not take their responsibility seriously.

As a result of this situation, I have assigned members of my senior staff to work with Prince George’s County Public Schools to resolve this matter and restore funding to this extremely critical program.  I also want to assure the families in our Head Start Program that school will start on August 29 as scheduled and that your child will be nurtured and provided with an excellent head start to their education.  We absolutely take the protection and care of your child as our most important duty.”

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