3 employees accused of child sex abuse at special education day school, police say

(L-R) Jermaine Thomas, Ariel Eppard and Wesley Dean (Maryland State Police)

Three employees at a special education day school and treatment center in Frederick County have been indicted on child abuse and sexual assault charges against two students. 

On June 5, Frederick County Child Protective Services contacted the Maryland State Police Criminal Enforcement Division concerning allegations of child sex offenses occurring at The Jefferson School in Jefferson, Md.

A joint investigation initiated by Maryland State Police and Child Protective Services developed information that indicated Jermaine Thomas, 35, of Frederick, and Ariel Eppard, 27, of Hagerstown, "committed sexual assaults involving one victim on multiple occasions both on and off the school campus," according to a news release. Authorities say Wesley Dean, 32, of Montgomery Village, committed sexual offenses involving the two students on the school's campus. 

Investigators say the two victims are a 17-year-old girl and an 18-year-old girl who were both students at the time of the incidents.

Police say the offenses involving Thomas, Eppard and Dean allegedly began in late 2018 and continued into this year. Each suspect was a staff member at the school involved in the supervision of students in the residential area, according to investigators. 

Thomas was indicted Wednesday morning at the Frederick County Courthouse after agreeing to turn himself in to the Federick County Sheriff's Office. Eppard was arrested by Maryland State Police before noon Wednesday at a second job location in Hagerstown. Meanwhile, Dean was arrested Wednesday afternoon in Montgomery County. 

The news release states that Thomas has been charged with three counts of sex abuse of a minor and seven counts of child pornography/filming a sex act. Eppard has been charged with two counts of sex abuse of a minor, two counts of fourth-degree sex offense (person in position of authority) and two counts of a court-ordered provider engaging in sex act. Dean is charged with one count of sex abuse of a minor, one count of fourth-degree sex offense (person in position of authority), and two counts of court-ordered provider engaging in a sex act. 

Thomas, Eppard and Dean have been taken to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center where they will have an initial appearance before a court administrator. 

The Jefferson School released the following statement Wednesday evening: 

"The Jefferson School and Residential Treatment Center has learned that criminal charges were filed against three former employees. We have been working closely with law enforcement authorities and other agencies in their investigations into these allegations and will continue to collaborate with them when and where appropriate as the proceedings continue. We took immediate action and notified the police and Child Protective Services of those allegations when we were made aware as the safety and well-being of our students and residents is always our first priority. The three staff members were immediately placed on leave and later terminated.

We are in the process of reviewing all procedures and safeguards at The Jefferson School. We are committed to supporting our students, residents and their families, and are dedicated to providing the highest standard of education and care in a collaborative and compassionate environment."