An Anne Arundel district court judge ruled to hold a Severna Park Elementary School teacher charged with dozens of child sex abuse crimes without bail Friday, saying he had concerns for the safety of the community.

Judge Kemp W. Hammond disagreed with Matthew Scott Banks Schlegel’s plea to be released before trial, saying he was “extremely disturbed” by what he read in court documents outlining the allegations against the defendant.

Hammond ordered Schlegel detained without bail until he appears for a preliminary hearing on June 12.

After the judge made his ruling, several attending the hearing who had identified themselves as parents of children allegedly victimized by Schlegel sighed quietly. One woman said, “Yes,” in approval of the judge’s decision.

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Assistant State’s Attorney for Anne Arundel County Anastasia Prigge recommended the court detain Schlegel based on the “very serious allegations” against him.

Eight children from different grades have alleged Schlegel touched them inappropriately, she said. Schlegel faces 36 charges, including multiple charges each of sex abuse of a minor, third- and fourth-degree sex offenses and second-degree assault.

Prigge disputed the defendant’s request to live with his elderly parents in Rockville as alternative to going back his own home before trial because “there are still children in Rockville.”

“He has a serious appetite for children sexually,” she said.

Schlegel has been accused of inappropriately touching several female students while they were in school, according to court documents.

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“It wasn’t one-time touching, it was repeated touching over time,” Prigge said.

The investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division Child Abuse Unit began in March, police said, and Child Protective Services conducted forensic interviews with “multiple child victims.” All were girls.

School officials removed and reassigned Schlegel after the first allegation was made on March 15, according to Bob Mosier, chief communications officer for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Schlegel has since been working in a building in which there are no children.

As of Friday, Schlegel was still employed and being paid by the county. But Mosier said, “We are examining the charges and will make any changes to his employment status as appropriate.”

Prigge said Schlegel was a “beloved teacher” and that the students hesitated to talk to authorities because “they loved him so much.”

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Prigge asked the parents of victims attending the bail hearing to stand. Several people stood. All raised their hands when she asked them to signal if they had concerns about Schlegel returning back to their community.

The mother of a child victim, who asked to speak without giving her name to protect her daughter’s identity, said she was “speechless,” but also pleased that Schlegel would be detained.

Since the events, her daughter has had anxiety and “struggles to attend school.” When she does attend, she often asks to go home, the mother said.

In having him removed from the community, the mother said, her child wouldn’t have to fear running into him around town and could possibly begin her healing.

The girl’s mother described the ordeal as “traumatizing and numbing.”

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Representing Schlegel, defense attorney Peter S. O’Neill asserted that the 44-year-old veteran Anne Arundel County Public Schools should be allowed to live at home with his wife and two young children while he waits to stand trial.

Schlegel would remain at home and go out only for medical appointments and to meet with his attorney. O’Neill said the defendant has been verbally threatened and attacked on social media since the accusations surfaced, and the family’s property has been vandalized.

“He has a right to have a life,” O’Neill told the judge.

O’Neill argued that Schlegel had no criminal record, was not a flight risk and had community support. About a dozen people stood when O’Neill asked who had attended to support Schlegel and his family.

“You don’t get this kind of support unless you’re worthy of that support,” O’Neill said.

Brenda Wintrode covers state government, agencies and politics. Before joining The Baltimore Banner, Wintrode wrote an award winning series of long form investigations for Wisconsin Watch.

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