School chief suspends two officials Hunter not informed about assault case

September 22, 1990|By Ginger Thompson

Baltimore School Superintendent Richard C. Hunter, outraged because he had not been informed of an alleged sexual assault of a 7-year-old girl at an elementary school in West Baltimore last month, suspended two school administrators indefinitely yesterday, a schools spokesman said.

Charged with the assault is Keith A. Lewis, a 36-year-old custodian, who has been suspended without pay. The spokesman for the school system said that if Mr. Lewis is acquitted, he will be reinstated and paid all lost wages.

Mr. Lewis, who lives on North Dukeland Street, is an eight-year veteran of the school system. He is charged with sexually fondling and exposing himself to the girl Aug. 17 at Grove Park Elementary School in the 5500 block of Kennison Avenue.

Douglas J. Neilson, the school system spokesman, said the child's mother notified the principal, Janet C. Cooper, of the assault on Aug. 20. He said the principal transferred Mr. Lewis to Northwestern High School while police conducted their investigation, and on Sept. 13 Mr. Lewis was arrested and charged at the high school.

Although at least two principals were aware of the allegations against Mr. Lewis, reports of the assault did not reach Mr. Hunter until yesterday.

"Dr. Hunter is outraged," said Mr. Neilson, who told Mr. Hunter about the allegation after receiving a media inquiry earlier yesterday.

"I can assure you that whatever rules and policies have been followed up to today regarding communication through the ranks will becompletely changed," Mr. Neilson added.

Mr. Neilson would not say which two administrators had been suspended with pay, but he said they would remain out of the school system until an internal investigation was completed.

Boyse Mosley, the principal at Northwestern High school, said that when Mr. Lewis was arrested he notified the school system's custodial division.

After Mr. Lewis was released from custody, he returned to work until yesterday, Mr. Mosely said.

"I got word that he had to report to personnel and that was the last I had heard from him," said Mr. Mosley, who declined to comment further.

Larry Burgan, head of the city schools police force, said he also was made aware of the alleged assault on the day Mr. Lewis was arrested.

"I reported it to my superiors and to public information," Mr. Burgan said.

Mr. Neilson said that changes in internal communications policies have already begun in his office.

"I told my staff that for any call we get, the first office we will notify will be the superintendent's," he said.

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