A 9-year-old boy told his fourth-grade teacher a school aide was sexually abusing him on school grounds, but the teacher ignored him, according to a new lawsuit in the troubling child pornography and sex abuse case in Prince George's County, Maryland.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday says the child told his teacher at Sylvania Woods Elementary School in Glenarden that school volunteer and choir director Deonte Carraway was molesting him, but the teacher told him to return to his seat.
"I don't believe you. Go sit down," the suit says the teacher said.
Families previously have said school administrators failed to take action when they were informed of possible abuse, but this is the first time a teacher has been accused of ignoring an account of abuse.
On Monday, a federal grand jury indicted Carraway on 13 counts of sexually exploiting children. Prosecutors say the Glenarden resident filmed videos of children age 9 to 12 having sex with him and each other at the elementary school and other locations in Maryland. Prince George's County police have identified 17 victims.
Sexual abuse victim advocate Lisae Jordan said the teacher, who is named in the suit, was obliged to report the student's account to police or child welfare officials even if they did not believe it was true.
"This is a case where a child is saying 'Someone tried to use me to create child pornography.' That teacher should have reported," said Jordan, who is the executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
In Maryland, everyone -- not just teachers -- is required to report child abuse to authorities.
"In Maryland, everyone is a mandatory reporter. So, if you or I know that a child might be being abused, might be being neglected, we have the duty to report that," Jordan explained.
However, while the victim can sue the teacher and school board, in Maryland, the teacher cannot be charged with a crime for not reporting possible abuse.
"There are not criminal penalties in Maryland. That's something that the General Assembly has really struggled over for many years but resisted," Jordan said.
Another gap in Maryland's laws puts children at risk, the advocate said.
"Right now, that teacher could fail to report, the police could know the teacher failed to report, and they wouldn't even have to tell the school board," Jordan said.
The Maryland General Assembly is considering a law to require police to tell a school board if they know of a teacher who did not report possible abuse.
Prince George's County Public Schools declined to comment on the lawsuit and the employment status of the fourth-grade teacher.
"PGCPS has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to abuse reporting," a spokeswoman said. "There is an expectation that staff and administrators report everything."