Prince George's County's Head Start Program Loses $6.5M Grant After Federal Investigation - NBC4 Washington

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Prince George's County's Head Start Program Loses $6.5M Grant After Federal Investigation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Preschoolers punished and humiliated: Those are the shocking findings of a federal investigation into Prince George’s County’s Head Start Program. Now the program has been stripped of its federal funding. News4 Prince George's Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports. (Published Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016)

    What to Know

    • A federal investigation allegedly revealed poor instructor training and alleged abuse of students.

    • The grant was terminated due to failure to "timely correct one or more deficiencies," a spokesperson said.

    • Despite the loss of the grant, the program will begin Aug. 29 as planned, a spokesperson said.

    Prince George's County's Head Start program lost a $6.5 million federal grant after complaints of abuse and poor teacher training surfaced during an investigation.

    The county's public schools system and board of education were notified Monday that the grant was terminated due to failure to "timely correct one or more deficiencies," a spokesperson said.

    The program was apparently under a federal investigation for months after a review by the Administration for Children and Families allegedly revealed poor instructor training and alleged abuse of students.

    According to the review, a teacher at the H. Winship Wheatley Early Childhood Center in Capitol Heights forced a 3-year-old boy to mop up his own urine after he had a bathroom accident during naptime on Dec. 17, 2015. 

    As the child mopped the floor in urine-stained clothes, the teacher sent a photo to the boy's parent with a caption explaining the punishment. The message included the abbreviation "LOL." Another text sent to the parent said, "he worked that mop tho."

    The Administration for Children and Families says the punishment and texts were meant to humiliate the child and are a form of emotional abuse.

    On June 15, a teacher and teacher's assistant at James Ryder Randall Elementary School Head Start Center forced two children to hold objects over their head for an extended period of time as a punishment for their behavior. 

    A witness said one of the children was crying and calling the teacher's name, but was instructed to continue to hold the object. The other child dropped the object and was told to pick it back up, the Administration for Children and Families says.

    The witness reported the incident and later asked the teacher how many minutes the children were given. The teacher replied, "Oh, probably like 5 minutes," the report from the Administration for Children and Families says.

    The review also found delays in the reporting of the incident that have since been corrected. 

    In yet another incident, a five-year-old was able to wander away from the program and returned to his home, crying. According to the report, the child was unsupervised for about 50 minutes, and Head Start did not know where she was for about 75 minutes.

    The child had to cross at least one street to get home, the report said.

    Prince George's County School CEO Kevin Maxwell responded to the report bluntly: "With all the work that we have done, we still have some people who we haven't apparently gotten through to," Maxwell said.

    "What I can say is I expect our employees to behave appropriately," Maxwell said. "And when they don't, I am going to deal with them appropriately."

    Despite the loss of the grant, the program will begin Aug. 29 as planned.

    "We are reviewing options with the Administration for Children & Families regarding Head Start," Raven Hill, a communications officer for Prince George's County Public Schools, said in a statement.

    School board members were scheduled to be briefed Wednesday morning on the next steps, which may include the use of private Head Start providers.

    "Our goal is for children and families to have uninterrupted access to the Head Start program and services," Hill said.