Principal cleared of delay 'Proper action' taken in alleged abuse

July 28, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

A county principal acted properly in handling complaints of alleged child abuse by a fourth-garde teacher, school system officials said today, following a three-week investigation.

School Superintendent C. Berry Carter released a two-paragraph statement Monday afternoon that cleared former Millersville Elementary Principal Henry Shubert, as well as other school officials, of allegations that they failed to report complaints of child abuse in a timely manner, as required by state law.

"The investigation reveals that school officials took proper action, including referral to the Department of Social Services when appropriate," Mr. Carter said in the statement. "Privacy considerations prohibit the school system from releasing details of the investigation. Be assured, however, that the school system will continue to cooperate in these matters with the appropriate investigating agencies."

The statement does not directly name Mr. Shubert or other school officials.

School spokeswoman Jane Doyle said the administration would not comment further on the case or the status of fourth-grade teacher Margaret M. Snyder, who has been charged with three counts of assault and battery for allegedly assaulting three students in her classroom in March and June.

Parents at Millersville Elementary maintain that Mr. Shubert, who has since been transferred to Brock Bridge Elementary, knew about complaints against the teacher but did nothing. PTA president Steve Segraves filed a complaint July 5 asking for a full investigation.

But Mr. Shubert said he hopes the superintendent's statement will put the incident to rest.

"I'm glad the statement has been made," he said. "I'm looking forward to a positive relationship with the Brock Bridge community." Mr. Shubert said he has met with several Brock Bridge parents and feels they have "gotten off to a decent start."

Just last week, however, a decent start didn't seem possible. Brock Bridge parents had called their second meeting in two weeks, protesting the transfer of Mr. Shubert to their school while the school system's investigation was under way.

Parents repeatedly said they would not feel comfortable until they knew when reports of child abuse were made and when the allegations were turned over to school administrators and the Department of Social Services. However, that information will not be made public, said Mr. Carter.

The allegations against Mr. Shubert became public after Ms. Snyder, 57, was charged by police June 29. According to charging documents, the children were scratched and fingernail marks were made on their arms, stomachs and chests after the teacher grabbed them.

A week later, Mr. Segraves delivered a complaint to Mr. Carter stating that Mr. Shubert and possibly other school officials "up the line" may have known about the abuse for months but did not act. State law and board policy require professional staff members to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Social Services within 48 hours.

In the meantime, Mr. Shubert was transferred to Brock Bridge Elementary, and Brock Bridge Principal James W. Preston was assigned to Millersville. School officials would not comment on the reason behind the transfers.

Deirdre Buell, Brock Bridge PTA president, said that now that the investigation is over, parents should end the controversy.

"If they indeed went through the proper requirements, then I'm satisfied with that," she said. "I'm comfortable working with [Mr. Shubert]."

But other parents said they were not satisfied.

"They've done exactly what I thought they'd do," said Robin Stapleton, a Brock Bridge parent who helped organize last week's meeting. "What's to stop them from saying he did nothing wrong and then hiding all the details in his personnel file?"

Ms. Stapleton said a group of parents would pursue legal action in an attempt to have details about the investigation made public.

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