A 38-year-old man was arrested and charged Tuesday with molestation for abusing special-needs children on a county school bus, according to court documents from the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Office.
A warrant was issued Monday for Michael Paul Patopie of Capitol Heights, who worked as a school bus aide for the county’s public schools system and rode a bus that carried children to James Ryder Randall Elementary in Clinton.
According to the charging documents, a bus driver observed Patopie inappropriately touching two children ages 4 and 5 on Nov. 19 and May 31.
The bus driver said she observed Patopis kiss one of the children “on the forehead” while sitting on the bus.
Authorities obtained a video from the November incident, which they say show Patopie sitting next to the other child. His right hand could be seen on camera, but “his left is out [of] view moving up and down” on the child.
Once the child gets off the bus, Patopie got up and sat next to the other child and did the same thing, according to the court document.
School officials contacted Child Protective Services in May and the police in June, though county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell said he wasn’t made aware of the allegations until last month.
The principal sent a letter to parents dated Sept. 13 informing them that Patopie and the transportation supervisor were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
Patopie is charged with second-degree child abuse, sex abuse of a minor, second-degree assault and other sex offenses. He is currently being held at the county’s Department of Corrections on $500,000 bond.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 24.
Charles Nichols, the father of the 4-year-old child, joined about two dozen parents and residents Monday for a rally outside the county administration building in Upper Marlboro.
“I went from anger to hurt,” said Nichols, who spoke for the first time on camera. I just can’t believe no one is doing anything to protect our kids in this school system. No one has really taken responsibility for anything and it seems like nobody cares about the kids. We have to change this school system and the only way this gets changed is you have to come out here and speak about it.”
The rally urged state legislators to repeal House Bill 1170, which was passed in 2013 and allows the county executive to appoint the chair, vice chair and one other school board member and the school system’s chief executive officer.
According to the 28-page bill, a final report must be submitted to state officials by Dec. 31, 2017, on academic progress of the school system.
“During the 2018 regular legislative session, the General Assembly shall deliberate and determine whether the provisions of this act shall be terminated,” the bill states. “If the General Assembly does not take any action to terminate this act, the provisions of this act shall continue to be in full force and effect.”
Rally organizers called for the resignation of Maxwell, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and school board Chairman Segun Eubanks and Vice Chairman Carolyn Boston in the wake of a string of accusations of neglect and abuse of vulnerable students that led to the county’s Head Start program losing more than $6 million in federal funding.
“We are not going to take this anymore,” said former school board member and rally organizer Rosalind Johnson of Greenbelt. “The dysfunction and the failures of this school system have got to end. Our children are too important to be relegated to a sidebar and you are not taking care of them.”