By Liz Bowie
Updated September 27, 2014
While Baltimore County officials were deciding whether Michael Williams was fit to continue teaching, he was assigned to a dusty, windowless room at a Pulaski Highway warehouse that held old textbooks, surplus computers and other materials. He, along with a dozen or so employees, sat at a long table reading detective novels and playing Trivial Pursuit.
Sometimes they would fall asleep until supervisors, watching from a security camera, came in to wake them up.
Williams, who had been accused of touching a girl on the cheek with a yardstick, was paid his full salary plus benefits for more than a year to show up at the warehouse when school was in session. At his school, Woodlawn Middle, a substitute was hired to teach his class.
“The county doesn’t move on anything quickly. They let people sit there and rot,” said Williams, who denies having touched the girl. He made $67,000 a year as a teacher.
Every year, hundreds of school system employees are immediately escorted out of Baltimore-area schools when they are accused of misconduct and are told they can’t return to the school until an investigation is completed. Those investigations can take more than a year to be concluded, and in the meantime taxpayers pay the bill for both their salaries and the substitute teachers’.
That problem is not uncommon, particularly in urban school systems and in states with strong teacher unions, said Dan Weisberg, executive vice president of the New Teacher Project, a nonprofit that works on educational equality issues.
“Some of these cases take longer than capital murder cases,” said Weisberg, who was previously a labor relations attorney for the New York City school system. He believes it is important to give teachers an opportunity to argue their case to someone other than the principal who may have accused them, but says school systems should limit the time for reaching a decision.