WASHINGTON - Where's the money?
That's the question parents of students with disabilities at one Montgomery County school are asking after they learned their children had bank accounts where money was deposited and withdrawn -- allegedly by school staff.
As first reported by WTOP, a group of parents whose students attend the Rock Terrace School in Montgomery County say their young adult children are transitioning out of the program. But the parents only recently found out their children were getting paid for work performed as part of their vocational training at the school.
The mother of one student, who didn't want to be identified to protect her daughter, told WTOP: "I knew she had an account - had no idea it was considered income."
The reason she didn't know it was income was because she never saw a bank account. She only found out after she received a W-2 for the first time this spring.
She then went to the Montgomery County Teachers Federal Credit Union where the account had been set up. She says it turns out her daughter was getting small payments for her work since 2008. The mother showed WTOP the statements and, while they had her daughter's name, the address given wasn't her home address. It was the address for Rock Terrace.
"I don't know if that stuff was supposed to be claimed. There are a lot of repercussions here," she said.
The mother went on to explain that as her daughter prepares to leave school, she'll have to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and worries those benefits could be jeopardized if there's any unreported income.
"Everything has to be reported to social services. Every single thing."
But she says there weren't only deposits into the account -- there were withdrawals.
"Eighty-eight dollars here, $200 dollars there."
Sitting at her kitchen table, the mother motioned toward her daughter, explaining she wouldn't be able to fill a time sheet out on her own. She said according to her daughter, the students were brought to the credit union and assisted with making withdrawals.
"So I asked her what did you do with the money that you withdrew?"
The answer: Her daughter gave it to the teacher. With raised eyebrows, the mother recounted the conversation.
"So at that point, where's the money -- OK?"
Montgomery County School officials say they are asking the same question, that there's an ongoing investigation into allegations of misuse of funds at the school. The principal, Dianne Thornton, was placed on leave, a routine practice under the circumstances.
Here's a statement from Dana Tofig, Montgomery County Schools spokesman, on the matter:
"Montgomery County Public Schools is investigating allegations that staff at Rock Terrace School improperly used funds that students earned through their Transition to Work program. While these are just allegations at this point, we are taking the matter very seriously and are conducting a thorough investigation. Appropriate action will be taken based on the facts of the case, once the investigation is completed. In order to protect the integrity of this investigation, we will not comment further at this time."
WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report.
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