SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) – Parents say a local elementary school ignored multiple complaints against a teacher, now accused of child sex abuse.
Investigators say Lawrence (Larry) Joynes, 55, of Dundalk, molested at least 15 children in his classroom over two decades. Joynes, a Montgomery County Public School teacher of 27 years, most recently taught music at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring.
To Catch A Predator
In October 2012, Homeland Security arrested a South Carolina man for possession and distribution of child pornography. Agents seized the man's computer, finding hundreds of images, videos and emails depicting children in sexually compromising positions. Investigators pinpointed correspondence with a Yahoo email address. The account stemmed from an IP address registered to Joynes' home along the 1900 block of Ormand Road in Dundalk.
In February 2013, police arrested the 55-year-old music instructor trying to escape through the back door of his modest red brick row home. According to charging documents, Joynes agreed to a sit-down interview, where he admitted to filming many of his students, ages 7 to 10, in class.
"Joynes described how he has played games with his students, having the student suck on a peppermint stick. Joynes also described how he had a student suck on his finger... He would watch the videos of himself sticking his finger in the student's mouth then masturbate while visualizing the student performing oral sex on him," charging documents vividly allege.
With a search warrant in hand, detectives seized CD-ROMs, cell phones, cameras, hard drives and computers from Joynes' house. Forensic investigators claim to have uncovered dozens of sexually-laced photographs and videos of elementary-age children, many filmed inside Joynes' music room at New Hampshire Estates Elementary School.
Crimes In Two Counties
On Thursday, Joynes' took a plea deal in Baltimore County District Court. The State's Attorney's Office agreed to drop all, but one count of possession of child pornography, in exchange for Joynes' acceptance of guilt. Sources close to the prosecution say the softball move was made simply to accelerate the former teacher's transfer to Montgomery County where the charges are far more egregious and damning - 14 counts packing a punch worth more than 300 years in prison.
Less than 24 hours after leaving Baltimore County, Joynes appeared Friday via closed-circuit television for his bond review in Montgomery County District Court. Despite a request for release ahead of trial, a judge set no bond, citing the seriousness of the crimes at hand.
Were Warning Signs Ignored?
Court documents released Friday show the disgraced music teacher was kept on the job, despite multiple complaints of inappropriate classroom conduct.
In September 2010, a mother told New Hampshire Estates' principal that Joynes asked her second grade daughter to, "crawl into his lap." In addition, "it was reported that Joynes asked the child if she had a special pillow she slept on, and did she dream of Joynes and, she was told that the conversation was a "secret," court documents allege.
Then in November 2011, a first grade student reported Joynes, "tickled her during instruction."
With two complaints in hand, New Hampshire Estates' principal issued Joynes a laundry list of "conditions" to abide by, but allowed him to remain on-staff, teaching without any supervision.
"Activities only in public areas, classroom door to remain open during instruction, stay off playground during recess, no sitting at the cafeteria with students, use of staff restroom only, don't be alone with any student in classroom, and no touching of students in any form," the conditions stated.
"I was one of the moms who came to complain," parent Stephanie Herrera, whose son was in Joynes’ music class, said. "There was something that was not right about him, just seeing him."
Two years ago, Herrera scheduled a meeting with New Hampshire Estates' principal to address mounting concerns of questionable language, lectures and touching; valid issues she contends, that fell on deaf ears.
"The principal never did nothing. 'Oh he's weird, he's weird,' they'd say, and that was it," Herrera added.
Although Joynes' was disciplined in November 2011, school leaders neglected to inform parents or police.
"The principal put a piece of paper in his file. What good is that going to do? This was allowed to continue," Janis Sartucci remarked.
Sartucci is a leading member of the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, a watchdog organization that focuses the bulk of its time putting the microscope on Montgomery County Public Schools.
"I guess I thought there were lines you didn't cross and so it's quite surprising to find out this has been going on," Sartucci added. "It's time for the superintendent (Joshua Starr) to speak-up on behalf of our children and tell everyone this will not be tolerated."
Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig tells ABC7 News Superintendent Joshua Starr has used the Joynes' case to remind principals to contact Montgomery County Police and Child Protective Services upon reports of questionable staff behavior. Starr also ordered enhanced training, plus a comprehensive review of school district operating procedure.
"This case has led to changes in the way we monitor and track allegations of employee misconduct. This includes allegations that may not rise to the level of requiring a police investigation or termination, but raise a reasonable question about a staff member's behavior that should be monitored," Tofig said in a written statement.