ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County’s school board is facing heavy criticism for its decision to hire its own private law firm to investigate a principal who’s been accused of sexual harassment and bullying.
County Executive Marc Elrich spoke out Tuesday about the school board getting to choose who investigates them. MCPS has hired a Baltimore law firm that’s represented them before, and for both Elrich and parents, that’s raising major concerns about whether the probe will be truly independent.
Former Farquhar Middle School principal Joel Beidleman has been accused of sexual harassment on multiple occasions. Despite the allegations, he was promoted to principal of Paint Branch High School, and then put on leave.
Parents say teachers have complained for years with no action. They told FOX 5 Tuesday that MCPS should not get to choose its investigator.
"This is not an independent anything! So, already it’s been a day and they’ve lied. We’ve caught them in a lie already," said Dawn Iannaco-Hahn, a Farquhar Middle School parent. How are we supposed to trust them?"
"MCPS doesn’t care," said Chelsea Curtis, another parent whose child attends Farquhar. "They care about numbers and grades, and they don’t care how you get those numbers and grades."
The county executive – who is a former school teacher – is calling for Maryland’s inspector general to take over the sex harassment probe.
Elrich says outside the budget process, county government has little authority over MCPS to force the change, and described the relationship now as not "cooperative or interactive."
"I’d prefer somebody outside the system where you’d get somebody with that experience with the school system that could be looked at as neutral, or you could get the state to take a look at it," Elrich said. "There are other people who could do this."
FOX 5 did reach out to principal Joel Beidleman for comment, but we have not gotten a response. For their part, MCPS did not comment publicly, instead, they released a statement Tuesday confirming they’d retained the Jackson-Lewis law firm in Baltimore to investigate with what they called "precision and speed."