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Child abuse victim sues Prince George’s County school system

A lawsuit filed on behalf of a Prince George’s County elementary school student who was molested by a former teacher’s aide alleges the county negligently hired the employee despite his criminal record, which included charges of assault and sexual offenses.

The plaintiff, who is identified in the lawsuit as “J.G.,” was abused by Jason Jamar Howard, a teacher’s aide at Glenn Dale Elementary School, when she was in the first and second grades, according to the lawsuit, which was originally filed in February in Prince George’s County Circuit Court but was transferred Tuesday to U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Howard pleaded guilty in 2013 to sexual abuse of a minor and was sentenced to 25 years in prison with all but 10 years suspended, according to court records.

Sherrie Johnson, a spokeswoman for the county school system, said Wednesday the county does not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for past and future medical and psychotherapy expenses, as well as physical and mental pain and suffering and emotional distress. Along with the county school system, the county board of education and the school’s former principal also are named as defendants.

“Defendants breached their duty by either failing to conduct a criminal background check on Howard, which would have revealed Howard’s past charges of assault and sexual offense or by conducting a criminal background check and hiring him despite these charges,” the suit states.

Howard was charged with two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of a fourth-degree sexual offense in 2002, the lawsuit states. Prosecutors later dropped the charges, court records show.

In November 2011, the county school system hired Howard as a “substitute group activity assistant” for the 2011-12 school year, a position that included teaching lessons in J.G.’s first-grade class. The following school year, Howard was hired as a special education aide and was also responsible for administering lessons in J.G.’s second-grade class.

By his own admission, according to the lawsuit, Howard molested J.G. 10-to-15 times over the course of those two school years.

J.G. subsequently was removed from school and has had to receive counseling and undergo invasive medical examinations, according to the suit.

“Plaintiff feels unsafe at home, has frequent nightmares, and lives in constant fear that Howard will reappear and continue the sexual assaults,” the suit states.

Dianne Stewart Hamlin, the girl’s lawyer, did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment on the lawsuit. Hamlin is with The Hamlin Law Group LLC in Silver Spring.

The case is J.G. v. Prince George’s County Public Schools et al., 8:16-cv-01008-PWG.

The county school system also is facing civil litigation stemming from alleged child abuse by Deonte Carraway, a teacher’s aide who volunteered at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School and pleaded not guilty last month after being charged with a number of sexual offenses, including producing child pornography. Police said they have identified at least 17 victims of Carraway, according to news reports.

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.