What to Know
- Parents of a 4-year-old boy with special needs say they were told video from a school bus shows their son being molested.
- They were told the same thing happened to another child on the bus.
- PGCPS confirmed the aide and his supervisor are on administrative leave.
A school bus aide has been charged following allegations he molested special education, pre-kindergarten children on a Prince George's County school bus.
Michael Patopie, 38, of Capitol Heights has been charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses, the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office said.
Police say Patopis inappropriately touched two students while they were on the school bus in November 2015 and in May 2016.
A former Prince George's County school bus driver told News4 she saw Patopie inappropriately touching the victims in November 2015 and reported it to her supervisors. Months later, she anonymously reported the incident to Child Protective Services (CPS).
CPS then alerted the parents of one of the victims, a 4-year-old boy with special needs. The victim's parents were told bus cameras caught the abuse and they were shown enough video to identify their son, but they had not seen the alleged abuse.
The parents said they were told the same thing happened to another child on the bus. According the charging documents, the second victim is 5 years old and reported the alleged abuse to his mother.
The children involved have verbal delays and trouble communicating.
“My son might say one or two words, but he does not say sentences at all, and I saw something change, but I just didn’t think of that,” the mother of the 4 year old said.
The bus was carrying students from James Ryder Randall Elementary School in Clinton, Maryland. An unrelated investigation found students in the school’s Head Start program were forced to hold objects over their heads for a long time as punishment in June.
Prince George’s County Police confirmed they are investigating the incident, which was reported to CPS May 24 and to police June 20. The boy reported more information to police in August, according to sources. The boy's father said the incident happened in November.
PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said he didn't find out until August, when school started.
"When I became aware of it, I had those folks placed on administrative leave,” he said. “I can't act on what I don't know."
Many parents say they're struggling to understand why the school district's leader didn't know about the allegations.
Prince George’s County Public Schools confirmed the aide and his supervisor are on administrative leave. Maxwell said the school system is "moving to immediately seek" Patopie's termination.
"I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students," Maxwell said.
On Wednesday, a judge revoked Patopie's $500,000 bond and order that he be held without bond. The judge said he believed Patopie is a threat to the community.
Patopie's mother, Katherine Patopie, defended her son Wednesday.
"I'm saying...he's not that kind of a person," she said. "You've got to be around him to see it yourself. He's not that kind of a person."
"In this case, there will be a hearing soon here as well to determine what the employment status will be based off of our investigative findings," said Rex Barrett, director of security for Prince George's County Public Schools.
Seven months ago, the community was horrified after learning a former teacher’s aide was reportedly sexually abusing students at another county school.