Monday, May 7, 2001

Officials are investigating reporting failure

Magruder High School teacher accused of child abuse
Mar. 7, 2001
Effie Bathen
Staff Writer
The county school system has launched a secondary investigation in connection with charges that a Col. Zadok A. Magruder High School art teacher made sexual contact with a female student, according to a school spokesman.
The school system is investigating the method by which the alleged incident was reported, according to Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Brian J. Porter.
Porter refused to give any more details.
Tim Delaney, director of the Montgomery County Police Family Services Division, said his office received the complaint of alleged sexual abuse from the school principal and arrested Magruder teacher Donald Gooden, 56, on Feb. 28.
Gooden, of the 5100 block of Church Road in Mitchellville, is charged with one count of child abuse and one count of fourth-degree sex offence. He was released on $15,000 bond the day of his arrest, police said.
"The young lady came forward with a complaint of sexual contact," Delaney said.
After talking with her parents, the teen told investigators that she had reported the alleged sexual abuse to a female teacher about two weeks earlier, he added.
"That teacher didn't notify anyone," Delaney said.
The female student complained of "a continuum of incidents" that occurred in the classroom between Jan. 22 and Feb. 15, according to police spokesman Officer Derek Baliles.
According to charging documents in Montgomery County District Court, Gooden asked the teen if she would pose nude so he could make a painting of her. The art teacher said he could get $600 for a painting and would pay her $75 for posing.
According to the charging documents, the teen also complained that Gooden once touched her breast, slapped her rear end, and twice made inappropriate sexual comments to her.
The charging documents also said that Gooden, a 30-year veteran teacher, denied any wrongdoing when the police questioned him.
Thomas Morrow, attorney for Gooden, said his client would "vigorously defend the charges."
Porter said the school system was conducting a separate investigation looking into how the student's complaints were handled.
He said that school policy encourages students to report any incident of sexual misconduct by a student or staff member, and that state law requires education employees to report any such incidents they hear about.
In comments to the County Council's Public Safety Committee March 1, Kristen Bender, field community prosecutor for the Wheaton-Glenmont District, also said it was important for teachers to report cases of sexual misconduct with a student when they hear of any.
She said it is a misdemeanor if a teacher fails to report a student's complaint of that nature.
Gooden is the second public high school teacher in Rockville within the last several months to be charged with child abuse linked to alleged sexual misconduct.
The other is Rockville High School teacher Adolfo I. Wittgreen, 31, of Oakview Drive in Mt. Airy.
His trial is scheduled for April 23, when he will face 12 counts ranging from child abuse to fourth-degree sex offenses. Prosecutors say he groped and kissed two students.
Wittgreen and Gooden could face 15 years in prison per victim for the child abuse charges, police have said.
Porter said both Wittgreen and Gooden also could face dismissal because the school system considers sexual activity between its teachers and any students inappropriate to the student-teacher relationship.
Despite what happens in court, the school system could dismiss a teacher accused of serious misconduct based up "a preponderance of evidence," a school personnel officer has said.
The State of Maryland also has laws against "moral turpitude," Porter explained. "Certainly any violation would constitute grounds for dismissal."