Maryland

Substitute Teacher Charged With Sexually Abusing Elementary Student

Steven Katz taught at 15 Montgomery County schools since last year and was also a substitute teacher in Howard County

A substitute teacher has been charged with sexually abusing a student at an elementary school in Silver Spring, Maryland, police say.

On March 8, the student at Cloverly Elementary School told his parent that his substitute teacher, 59-year-old Steven Katz, ran his hand down his back and onto his behind, charging documents say.

An agent with Child Protective Services went to the school on March 13 to interview students who may have witnessed the alleged abuse. Multiple students reported that Katz made them feel weird, and one student said Katz touched his waist, charging documents state. 

During an interview with detectives, Katz admitted to inappropriately touching the student, claiming the incident was an accident, police said. When questioned about touching the back of another student, Katz initially denied the act but later confessed to that incident and the touching of a student's waist, according to a charging document.

Police then issued a warrant for Katz's arrest and he turned himself in on Saturday.

A judge released Katz on $10,000 unsecured bond, meaning he did not have to put up money to get out of jail.

Katz's attorney, Robert Bonsib, said his client has subbed in school for the past eight years and has never been accused of something like this before.

"At this point, we encourage everybody just to hold judgment," Bonsib said. "Let's see where this case goes. Mr. Katz has never been in trouble before, and he expects in this case that he'll be vindicated at the end of the case."

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith will meet with Cloverly parents April 3.

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Some parents protested outside the school at the beginning of the school day Monday.

"I'm angry that we've been ignored by MCPS, and we need Jack Smith to come out right away to answer some of our questions," one parent said.

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Derek Turner told News4 on Sunday that Katz has taught at 15 of the county's schools since May 2017. No other students have made allegations against Katz, Turner said.

The 15 schools include:

Burtonsville Elementary School

Olney Elementary School

Sherwood Elementary School

Cloverly Elementary School

Pyle Middle School

Kennedy High School

Burnt Mills Elementary School

Brooke Grove Elementary School

Seven Locks Elementary School

Sherwood High School

Wayside Elementary School

Paint Branch High School

Farquhar Middle School

Frost Middle School

Burning Tree Elementary School

In a letter sent to parents, Howard County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Michael Martirano said Katz was a substitute teacher in Howard County as well. Martirano said the news of Katz's arrest has sparked a change in how the school system will do background checks.

"These charges cause me great concern as I'm sure it does for each of you. We take safety of our students seriously and I am greatly chagrined that this individual was trusted to enter our classrooms and teach our children," Martirano said. "As with all HCPSS employees, he underwent a criminal background check, fingerprinting and a detailed reference check when he was hired by HCPSS. I have directed our staff to review the process for evaluating substitutes, and putting in place a system to more periodically conduct background checks."

Katz subbed at 43 Howard County schools over the past six years. No one formally complained about him.

"What we don't know is something we're asking all of our parents to have conversations with their young people, if they've had any interaction with this individual, to bring that forward immediately," Martirano said.

Montgomery County police said any parents whose children may have had contact with Katz should talk to them and contact SVID detectives at 240-773-5400 if they believe their child was victimized.

The News4 I-Team has found in the past year that background checks run by local school districts are sometimes imperfect. Multiple school districts, including Montgomery County, acknowledged they do not call all prior references during their checks.

Cloverly Elementary administrators have also been scrutinized in the past for their urgency in handling complaints about teachers. In 2017, former teacher John Vigna was sentenced to 80 years in prison with all but 48 suspended for sexually abusing multiple students.

During the trial, there was evidence school administrators reprimanded Vigna years earlier for physical contact with students — including allowing girls to sit on his lap, lifting them in the air and dancing with them — but allowed him to remain in the classroom.

Montgomery County Public Schools would not comment if it took disciplinary actions against those administrators but said in 2016 they began requiring training for all employees in how to spot and report suspected abuse.

Unlike full-time teachers, substitute teachers are not required to be licensed in the state but must still pass background checks.

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