PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – As prosecutors announced charges against a bus aide accused of sexual abuse, the union that once represented him says it took too long and concerns reported by another member were ignored.
“We’re being directed to report [abuse],” said Shirley Kirkland. “Once it’s reported it’s up to the peers to do what they’re supposed to do and that’s not happening.”
Kirkland is the President of the union that represents support professionals working for Prince George’s County Public Schools George’s, ACE-AFSCME Local 2250.
She says a now retired bus driver, reported Michael Patopie to her superiors in November of 2015, after witnessing inappropriate behaviors. The superiors, Kirkland says, ignored it.
“[The driver] made the report that she thought she saw this member or this gentleman inappropriately touching a student. She even let them know that she thought she saw him kiss the student on the temple,” Kirkland said.
“She did everything that she was supposed to do… She made the report and she reported it to her peers. It wasn’t taken seriously.”
Police arrested Patopie Tuesday morning and charged him with second degree child abuse, sexual abuse of a minor, and assault.
According to police, Patopie was caught on tape, inappropriately touching two students – a four year old and five year old – in November of 2015 and in May of 2016.
Kirkland says the arrest should’ve happened sooner, if the reports of the bus driver were taken seriously.
“It would’ve been earlier,” she said, “had it been addressed properly.”
Since, by her account, it wasn’t, Kirkland says it’s time for the person in charge of the school system to step aside.
When asked if CEO Kevin Maxwell should resign, Kirkland said, “yes. I do, and I’m saying that because there’s no way in the world these things should be taking place and you know nothing about it.”
In response to those calls, a spokesperson for Maxwell told WUSA9, Dr. Maxwell is “committed” to the school system.
“This work is personal to him: He was raised in Prince George’s County, began his career in education here and lives in this community,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Dr. Maxwell hopes to address the school system’s longstanding challenges through better collaboration and communication with all stakeholders.”
Maxwell has previously said he did not learn about the allegations against Patopie until August of this year.
In a statement today he said he is “sickened” by the allegations.
“I am horrified by the nature of these crimes, sickened and angry that this individual may have preyed upon our students. We will cooperate fully with our law enforcement partners to ensure that he is held accountable,” the statement said.
A spokesperson for the school system says they’ve begun the process of firing Patopie.
He is currently being held on $500,000 bond.
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