A “culture of fear” is poisoning the Prince George’s County School system in the wake of reforms designed to better protect children from abuse, according to the local leader of The Association Of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel, the union that represents principals.

“We don’t have any problem with reform. But destroying is not reforming,” said ASASP local president Doris Reed.

Reed is reacting as the school system has revealed that at least 636 of its nearly 24,000 staff have been placed on paid administrative leave in the 2016-2017 school year for alleged misconduct, or the failure to report it.

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School officials have not reported how many of the complaints were sustained.

Reed says at least 20 principals have been fired since 2015, frequently when there are no facts to sustain a complaint.

The flood of alleged misconduct cases comes after a school safety task force recommended changes to better protect student safety in the wake of abuse scandals in 2016. Notably, the failure to report suspicions is now viewed as seriously as misconduct itself.

Reed and some parents say the pendulum has swung too far in reaction.

“I am so concerned with the number of substitute teachers that are in place throughout the county because of teachers and administrators that are on paid administrative leave,” wrote DuVal High School parent Keisha Chase in an email.

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Chase is among a group of parents organizing a petition drive to elevate a current resident principal at DuVal to the permanent leader of the school.

PGCPS spokesperson Raven Hill said the system’s focus is “getting people back in the classroom as quickly as possible.”

Suspensions can last from two days to several months depending on the complexity of the investigations, Hill said.