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Principal accused of harassing students, teachers and staff

Tuesday - 3/20/2012, 7:17pm  ET

WASHINGTON - Six former and current teachers at Kemp Mill Elementary School in Silver Spring have filed a civil suit against the schools' principal and the Montgomery County Board of Education, The Gazette reports.

According to the suit, Principal Floyd Starnes bullied and harassed school staff and teachers for years, and the Board of Education knew about it but did nothing in response.

Starnes is accused of inappropriate touching and verbal abuse, referring to students and staff as "babes" and "dolls," taking young students into closets and mooing like a cow at the staff over the intercom.

It also alleges Starnes told his staff not to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services.

The group filing suit claims Starnes encouraged them to falsify personnel files and say he threatened retaliation against them for any attempts to challenge his leadership.

Dana Tofig, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, tells WTOP the board has not been served with the lawsuit, but is aware that a press conference was held Tuesday to announce the suit.

"We will respond to these allegations in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time," he wrote in an email. "It is unfortunate that a group of people is using the media to make accusations - thus far proven to be overwhelmingly false and erroneous - against the principal of Kemp Mill Elementary School."

The allegations are similar to what Dan Picca -- a former teacher at Kemp Mill Elementary -- told WTOP in August 2010 after his controversial firing from the school.

Picca, who taught fifth-grade, said his termination was a retaliatory move after he challenged Starnes' behavior.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)