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Six former and current teachers at Kemp Mill Elementary School in Montgomery County are suing over allegations of bullying by the school's principal.
The suit claims Principal Floyd Starnes bullied and harassed teachers who sought to improve classroom conditions. The teachers also allege that the county board of education was aware of Starnes' behavior and did nothing to stop it.
"Teachers who have spoken up to him regarding what we think was unethical behavior, or behavior not in the best interest of the children, were retaliated against," says Carmel Mansour, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.
Starnes would also intimidate children, according to the plaintiffs. Once, Starnes took a student into a closet for 30 minutes, Mansour says.
"And then after that, the teacher was asked to sign a particular MCPS form saying nothing happened, but really that teacher had no idea what went on inside that closet," Mansour says.
The plaintiffs' attorney says they could just be the tip of a larger iceberg. The six teachers who have come forward might reflect a much larger group of complainants, according to attorney Robert Welcheck.
"For every plaintiff in this case, there's probably 20 teachers or staff members who would love to talk about the situation, but they're fearful cause they're in the Montgomery county Schools system," Welcheck says, adding he's received anonymous calls from teachers who want to discuss their situations, but are afraid.
Montgomery County Public Schools has said the teachers' statements are "overwhelmingly false and erroneous," in a statement from MCPS spokesperson Dana Tofig.