Message sent to the HCPSS community on March 19, 2018:
I want to follow up on the message I sent to you Saturday night and provide some additional information about our efforts since then.
As soon as I learned of the arrest of Steven Katz, I took immediate steps to notify the community and begin the communication process through our principals. My letter was followed by a message from school administrators to their communities. These messages provided information on the dates we know that this individual served as a substitute in those schools. We also provided resources to assist parents with talking to their children about this very difficult topic. Additionally, every school also has student services staff that any student or family can access for support.
I appreciate the supportive response by the Howard County community since Saturday and I am encouraged by your collaboration to keep our children safe. Staff have already begun to review the process for evaluating substitutes and putting in place a system to more periodically conduct background checks.
Since I reached out on Saturday, we have gathered a bit more information.
The most important information that I can share is that if you suspect that your child may have had an inappropriate encounter with this individual – or any individual – please contact Howard County Police Department Detectives at 410-313-2630 or the Department of Social Services at 410-872-4203. This communication is critical.
My office and our school leaders have been asked why this individual was able to work as a substitute teacher during the time he was being investigated by the Montgomery County Police Department. Unfortunately, news of the arrest came as a surprise to us as we were not aware that this individual was suspected of these charges until Saturday, March 17. This put us in a position of responding to a situation without having many details. Over the next several days, we will be working with our law enforcement counterparts as well as neighboring school systems to ensure that we implement stronger communication protocols when sharing information related to the safety and security of our children.
We know that this individual has been a substitute teacher in Howard County for the past six years. The vendor that we use to track and fulfill substitute teaching positions allows us to easily access the past two years of jobs he had accepted. In those two years, this individual had been a substitute teacher at 43 HCPSS schools. We are currently working with the vendor to access additional schools in which he may have worked prior to two years ago. The list of schools is included at the end of this letter. To this point, we are not aware of any formal complaint lodged against this individual that would have permitted the system and police to conduct a child abuse investigation.
We are all here to keep our children safe and provide any additional supports that they require.
Michael J. Martirano
Initial message sent to the HCPSS community on March 17, 2018:
Over the weekend we learned of the arrest of Steven Katz for an incident involving sexual abuse of a minor that occurred while he was working at a Montgomery County elementary school. This individual has also served as a substitute teacher in Howard County. We are reviewing Mr. Katz’s work history with HCPSS and will be cooperating with the Montgomery County Police Department in their investigation. Detectives have requested that parents whose children may have had contact with Katz talk with their children about their interactions. Any concerns should be shared immediately with the detectives at 240-773-5400.
These charges cause me great concern as I’m sure it does for each of you. We take safety of our students seriously and I am greatly chagrined that this individual was trusted to enter our classrooms and teach our children. As with all HCPSS employees, he underwent a criminal background check, fingerprinting and a detailed reference check when he was hired by HCPSS. I have directed our staff to review the process for evaluating substitutes, and putting in place a system to more periodically conduct background checks.
School administrators and staff, particularly at schools where this substitute teacher worked with children, are prepared to provide support for families as you process this news. I encourage you to contact your school’s principal directly with any questions or concerns. Principals at schools where he worked are proactively reaching out to their school communities and will ensure that the necessary supports are available Monday as students return to school.
As a parent and an educator, I find this news troubling, and violating. As you have these difficult conversations at home with your children, please do not hesitate to reach out to your child(ren)’s Principal, counselors, teachers or community superintendents if we can provide any support whatsoever.
Michael J. Martirano