Officials in a Maryland school system that placed hundreds of employees on leave amid allegations of abuse and neglect say they have improved training and procedures this year to strike a better balance between protecting students and keeping staffers on the job.
Forty employees were on administrative leave as of early October in Prince George’s County public schools, officials said Thursday, and just five cases have originated this school year.
The school system drew a wave of complaints from parents, educators and elected officials last year as the number of such cases soared, with nearly 850 employees — including more than 400 teachers — placed on leave for alleged misconduct in the 2016-2017 school year.
The surge reflected a jump of more than 1,000 percent from 2014-2015, the year before Prince George’s was roiled by child abuse scandals and stepped up its emphasis on reporting of suspicious behavior.
While many lauded efforts to boost safety, they also complained that the district went overboard and did not distinguish between serious and lesser claims. Many teachers were out of classrooms for weeks or months; parents and students did not know when they would return, and some said classroom instruction was compromised.
This year, officials said they believe the school system — Maryland’s second-largest, with more than 132,000 students — is showing signs of turning a corner.
“We’re trending down and back to what it looked like more than a year ago,” said Lewis Robinson, director of employee and labor relations for the school system.
He and others say the district has added three administrative procedures and revised six. New online training was completed by more than 90 percent of staffers. There is also a new employee-incident tracking system.
Principals were trained over the summer in new practices and about which situations warrant…