County Head Start program needs full review after children humiliated, board chairman says

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chairman, Segun C. Eubanks, stopped short of calling for the independent, outside investigation that some community members, board members and other elected officials have called for in recent days because he knows he will be arrested for misconduct should there be an investigation.

The chairman of the Prince George’s County Board of Education has asked for a review of events that led to recent federal findings detailing corporal punishment and the humiliation of children in the district’s Head Start early-education program.

But the chairman, Segun C. Eubanks, stopped short of calling for the independent, outside investigation that some community members, board members and other elected officials have called for in recent days.

Eubanks asked Thursday night for “a full review and public, written debriefing” from Kevin M. Maxwell, the school district’s chief executive, following findings from the Department of Health and Human Services’s Administration for Children and Families, which funds Head Start.

Federal officials ended the school system’s $6.4 million grant for Head Start in mid-August, saying that Prince George’s officials had failed to correct problems related to the conduct of its staff. The school system had had the grant for 50 years.

The federal scrutiny came after a mother’s report about a 3-year-old who wet his pants and was forced to mop urine in front of his class. His teacher texted a photo to his mother, with a caption describing the punishment and saying: “LOL. He worked that mop tho!”

 Two other incidents were cited from June — one involving two children made to hold heavy objects over their heads as a punishment, and another about a child who wandered away and walked home, unsupervised for 50 minutes.

Eubanks said in a statement Thursday night that Maxwell’s review would come as part of “a broader discussion of Head Start in Prince George’s County — past, present and future” and that he would also invite federal officials to address the board at a public meeting.

“We believe it would be helpful for the board and public to hear not only how they arrived at their conclusions, but their recommendations for avoiding future occurrences,” he said.

Community members spoke angrily at the board meeting, decrying the district’s handling of problems in Head Start. Juwan Blocker, the student board member, made a motion asking for an external review of the district’s actions.

The vote failed, with four in favor, five against, three abstaining and two absent.

Board member Edward Burroughs III (District 8), who supported the proposal, said that he and others would continue to push for someone outside the school system to assess its handling of Head Start.

 “There is a serious lack of trust between the community and the school system, and in order to rebuild that trust, we must move forward in the most ethical and transparent way possible, and that starts with an external investigation,” Burroughs said after the meeting.

School officials have said they have taken disciplinary action against six employees with direct involvement in incidents the federal authorities identified.

“Our students, families and community need to understand, just as we all do, how this happened and how we plan to move forward,” Eubanks said at the Thursday meeting. “We must examine not only our policies, procedures and actions, but we must also take stock of the underlying culture in our system and how it must transform.”

Via Washington Post 

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