MD only state without criminal penalty for failing to report Child Abuse
GLENARDEN, MD – Prince George’s County police announced Wednesday they’ve identified another victim of alleged child abuser Deonte Carraway, bringing the number of his suspected victims to 17.
Police believe the total number of victims of the elementary school volunteer could go as high as 55 victims. Carraway is accused of videotaping children performing sex acts on him and each other inside Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School.
So how could the teacher’s aide get away with abusing that many children before someone finally reported it? Child safety advocates said Maryland’s law on reporting abuse may have made matters worse.
In every state, the law requires teachers and principals to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse. But Maryland is the only state where educators face no criminal penalty if they let child victims down by failing to call the authorities.
Judge Sylvania Woods Principal Michelle Williams is still on paid leave and she’s not talking to the media. But lawyers for several of the alleged victims say she ignored the concerns students, teachers and parents were all raising about Carraway.
“There were red flags from teachers, parents and students, all of whom were complaining,” said attorney Tim Maloney, who is representing several of the victims.
Prince George’s Schools CEO Kevin M. Maxwell declined to answer questions about the allegations.
Maryland state law mandates that principals call police or child welfare immediately if they just suspect possible child abuse, but advocates say the trouble with Maryland’s law is there is no penalty if they don’t.
“It’s a massive problem,” said Jennifer Alvaro, a child safety advocate and therapist who has treated both sex abusers and victims. “It’s like having laws against speeding and speed limits, but if you break that law, there is absolutely nothing anyone could do to you.”
In Gatlinburg, Tenn., three basketball coaches are facing misdemeanor charges for failing to report suspicions of aggravated child rape. But those charges could not be filed in Maryland.
Two years ago, a group of state lawmakers tried to put some teeth in the child abuse reporting mandate, but the bill died in committee.
“We’re failing our children,” said Alvaro. “We’re willfully and intentionally allowing a situation to occur in this state.”
Critics say there’s no evidence penalizing teachers and principals for failing to report is reducing child abuse in other states. And they say it could swamp overloaded investigators with more unsubstantiated rumors.
I want to draw attention to the ignorance in this previous statement by reminding everyone that reports of Child Sexual Abuse are unsubstantiated less than 2% of the time.
But supporters say without clear policies and procedures, what allegedly happened at the Glenarden school is likely to happen again.
Maryland law does say teachers, doctors, and social workers who fail to report can be sanctioned by their licensing boards. But that — and getting fired — are the only possible punishments for now.