A Montgomery County teacher accused of inappropriate physical conduct with students has failed in his attempt to appeal his firing.
The Maryland Board of Education Sept. 25 upheld the county’s decision, saying it was supported by “the facts and the law.”
Daniel Picca worked as an elementary school teacher in the county public school system for 17 years and, according to documents submitted to the state board, was repeatedly reprimanded for conduct with students described as “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.”
While employed at Rachel Carson Elementary in Gaithersburg, the principal gave him three warnings between 1993 and 1995 after students and parents reported some of his behaviors made them uncomfortable, the state's records indicated. One boy said Picca had organized an unauthorized “Strong Boys Club,” wherein male students stayed after school to clean his classroom for candy, according to the board's report. The boys were asked to take off their shirts and feel their muscles, the board’s report stated.
County police began to investigate Picca’s conduct with students in 1995 after a parent complained that the teacher had wrestled some of the students, grabbing them in the process; taken students to McDonald’s without permission; asked some male students to take off their shirts and took pictures of them, according to the state board's report.
Picca was not brought up on any criminal charges following the police investigation, but a health and human services department investigation into the same acts found Picca to be “responsible for indicated child abuse,” the board’s records indicated.
According to the board, the county school district was not made aware of the department’s 1996 findings until 2010.
Picca was moved to Luxmanor Elementary in Rockville following a formal reprimand by the superintendent, the state board's report said. Similar accusations, including having students take off their shirts and flex their muscles, were made, according to the state board's findings.
He received two formal reprimands from the principal of that school before a county school board investigation recommended he be transferred to a different school where his interactions with students could be more closely monitored, the state board wrote in its report.
Picca began teaching at Kemp Mill Elementary in Silver Spring in 2000. A fellow teacher reported that she observed him massaging a student’s shoulders and arms in April 2010, which prompted another investigation by the school board, according to the state board.
Picca was placed on paid administrative leave later that year before ultimately being fired on May 10, 2011 for insubordination and misconduct.
WTOP.com reported last year that Picca thought his firing was retaliation for complaining about Kemp Mill’s principal.
The Washington Post’s editorial board weighed in on the case Sept. 29, following the state board’s ruling:
The decision is far from vindication of the county’s handling of the case. Rather it’s a stinging indictment of a school bureaucracy that for almost two decades believed it had a problem but reacted with a seemingly endless flow of ineffective warnings, letters, reprimands and — most appalling — reassignments of the teacher to other schools and other students.