by Alana Cole-Faber
In August of 2014, my children began school at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School (formerly Robert Goddard), one of PGCPS’s Specialty Schools. Having completed a successful year of preschool, our children were so excited to finally be attending “real school” with the big kids. We felt incredibly fortunate that we had won the lottery and that our children would have the privilege of attending a National Blue Ribbon school. We have moved a lot as a family, and as parents we were looking forward to settling down in Prince George’s County and getting to know our new community, the teachers, parents, and the school system in general. Instead, we have spent a large portion of the last year dealing with an appalling problem.
In October 2014, our children came home and told us that my son had been spanked at Dora Kennedy French Immersion School. We were stunned. We immediately separated and interviewed our children to find out what had happened and to be sure all of the details of their stories matched up. The children told us that my son had been jumping up and down while the class was singing, so the teacher asked the class to tell her which child had misbehaved and deserved to be punished. The majority of students pointed to my son, so he was called to the front of the class and struck until he cried. I asked my daughter if she thought our son had been hit hard, and my daughter said, “The teacher hit him hard, but she hits another boy even harder.”
My children then went on to name three other children who had been struck by their teacher during the year. (Corporal punishment is illegal in public schools in Maryland. Even so, it is worth noting that we had never received so much as a note home from this teacher to say that our son had misbehaved in class.)
The next morning, we went to the school to report the abuse. We spoke to a supervisory staff member at the school first. The supervisor listened to our story, then left to remove the teacher from the classroom and sent in a security officer to take our written statement. It was explained to us that any time there are allegations of abuse or harassment, a written report is sent to the county for investigation. It was also explained to us that this teacher would not be left alone with students during the investigation. We wrote a written report, including the names of the other children who had been struck. We also asked that our children be moved to other classrooms, just in case the teacher were allowed to return to the classroom following the investigation.