Teacher tried in assault case to get clear record

Accusers' parents outraged by action

February 12, 2000|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore school teacher, twice acquitted of charges that she assaulted her pupils, is having her city court record erased. And the children's parents are outraged.

Barbie Scott has reapplied for her job in Baltimore schools. While she will not necessarily land another teaching position in a Maryland school system -- as happened in 1997, in spite of her criminal past -- parents of two boys she was accused of injuring still worry she may again work with children.

"I am very upset about that," said Tammy Malone, whose son, Kevin Scott, 9, testified last month that Scott (no relation) struck and bloodied his nose March 31. "I know we all need jobs, but I don't think she should be working with children."

Scott was acquitted last month of child abuse and second-degree assault for allegedly striking Kevin, then a third-grader at Rosemont Elementary School in West Baltimore.

Scott had been hired by city schools in 1997, three years after she was acquitted of striking a pupil in the Anne Arundel County system. Scott also had that charge expunged. Baltimore school officials say they were unaware of her prior record, which included a 1985 assault with a deadly weapon conviction in Pasquotank County, N.C.

Scott, 41, has not returned repeated telephone calls by The Sun. System spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt would not comment on the likelihood of her being rehired.

Twenty days after a jury acquitted Scott on Jan. 4, city teachers union lawyer Keith Zimmerman filed a petition for expungement of the record on her behalf. Defendants found innocent can petition to have the charges, court dates and dispositions erased from their record.

Scott was tried in June 1994 on battery charges after former pupil Delbert Bragg, then 6, said she twisted his right arm behind his back at Annapolis' Tyler Heights Elementary School.

A judge acquitted Scott. Because she had her Anne Arundel record erased, Baltimore school officials had no legal means of learning about her history there. Anne Arundel officials gave Baltimore school officials a favorable report on Scott, Pyatt said.

Delbert's mother, Judy Bragg, has said she would like to see a law enacted that requires charges -- not just convictions -- to show up on background checks. She cannot stand the thought of Scott having yet another record expunged, she said.

In 1994, the General Assembly passed legislation expanding the number of convictions that school systems were apprised of for potential hires, said Ellen Mugmon, legislative chairwoman for the state Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Before then, teacher background checks focused on only 10 criteria, including kidnapping and rape, according to an official at the Criminal Justice Information Center.

Given the law, Baltimore officials should have known about Scott's 1985 conviction in North Carolina for assault with a deadly weapon against then-husband Ervin T. McPherson, as well as her 1986 trespassing conviction, also in North Carolina.

"If she [Scott] were hired in Baltimore City in 1997, that should have come up," Mugmon said. "There was no limitation then."

Karl Pence, president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, said he wants school systems to adhere to the law. He also said Anne Arundel officials erred in not telling Baltimore about the allegations Scott faced when she taught there.

"I just don't think it's right to not represent fairly, and particularly school system to school system," Pence said. "If the school system that let her go let her go because they were concerned about her behavior, then it really is professionally unethical not to have made that clear to another employer."

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