Former school instructional assistant indicted on 119 additional child sexual abuse charges
Parents upset as school tries to rebuild trust at information night
Anger. Disgust. Rage. Fear. Betrayal. These were just a few of the feelings shared with school system officials during a Parent Information Night held Friday at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School.
Some parents found the night to be long on questions and short on answers regarding Carlos Deangelo Bell, 30, of Waldorf, a former instructional assistant at the school, who has been arrested and charged with abusing students, some on school property.
Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony Covington (D) announced at a press conference Monday afternoon 119 additional counts have been filed against Bell, ranging from production of child pornography, sexual abuse of a minor, transmission or attempted transmission of the HIV virus and many others. Covington said the number of
suspected victims has increased to 24, with 11 still unidentified.
Following Covington’s announcement, the school system announced that Benjamin Stoddert Principal Kenneth Schroek has been transferred to the Office of Supporting Services due to the ongoing investigation. Marvin Jones, executive director of schools, will serve as interim principal.
Superintendent Kimberly Hill said the decision was made as a result of the additional charges announced Monday.
“When we make decisions in regards to the leadership of our schools, we have to do what is in the best interests of our children, and we felt transferring Mr. Schroek was in their best interests,” Hill said.
The investigation into Bell began in November
2016 after the parent of a student at La Plata High School, where Bell also worked as an indoor track coach, noted inappropriate text messages on the student’s phone, which were determined to have come from Bell.
Police submitted Bell’s electronic devices to the Maryland State Police Crime Lab, and Bell was reassigned to the central office pending the outcome of the investigations. Bell failed to show up for work and was terminated, according to school officials.
In late June, the crime lab reported finding video on Bell’s electronic devices of Bell sexually abusing middle school-aged boys on school property and other locations.
Bell informed investigators he is HIV-positive, and police received evidence to support the claim.
Many of the approximately 100 parents and students who attended Friday’s information session were surprised to
discover the format of the meeting was small break-out sessions in which attendees were asked to contribute information about what they’d been feeling since the announcement of Bell’s arrest and how the school could support students and rebuild trust.
Schroek said the information would be provided to the Benjamin Stoddert Positive School Climate Taskforce, which is currently being formed.
“This is very, very important to us. We want to hear your thoughts, your feelings, your concerns and your ideas for how we can move forward from the horrific events that have occurred,” Schroek told attendees.
Charles County Board
of Education Chairman Michael Lukas was in attendance, although he did not address the group as a whole.
One woman, who declined to be interviewed or give her name, stood up and told school officials she felt disrespected by the format of the night’s meeting.
“I am apoplectic that you expect them to sit at this table and tell you how they feel? Do not make a mockery of this. You have insulted us, you have insulted our children,” she said, before walking out of the cafeteria.
Waldorf resident Jonathan Lee also left early, saying he was disappointed more school system staff didn’t attend the information night.
“Nobody’s giving any answers on any of the stuff that happened. But we’re telling you what we think you should do? That’s ludicrous. It seems like nobody is accountable,” Lee said in an interview afterward.
Lee questioned why parents at Benjamin Stoddert weren’t notified in December, when letters were sent home to La Plata track team members regarding the investigation.
“This school system can text me about money, raffles, everything, but you can’t tell me when a teacher was messing with a student? If La Plata knew, we should have known, too,” Lee said. “They didn’t notify anybody at the school until July 3 of this year? That’s an accountability thing.”
Schroek said that in hindsight, he wished Stoddert parents had been notified, but that at the time, there was only the allegation of an inappropriate text to a La Plata track student.
At the end, Schroek thanked attendees for coming and helping to rebuild the relationship between the school and community.
Jonathan Lee’s wife Yonelle Lee questioned whether trust between the school and parents could ever be rebuilt.
A second public information night is scheduled for Aug. 16. Jones is expected to lead the meeting.
Tony Covington, state’s attorney for Charles County, front, gave a press conference Monday afternoon to announce 119 charges against Carlos Bell, a former Benjamin Stoddert Middle School instructional assistant accused of sexually abusing 24 children. Covington was flanked by Charles County Sheriff Troy Berry, left, and Superintendent Kimberly Hill, although neither spoke during the announcement.