The Board of Education has agreed to investigate whether Northeast Principal Joseph Carducci Jr. instituted an abortion policy that violates board policy and possibly federal law.
Newly appointed board member Maureen York announced the decision during a Monday night meeting of 40 Northeast High School boosters calling for Carducci's removal. Previously, School Superintendent Larry L. Lorton had describedthe controversy as a "dead issue."
Four faculty members, including former guidance counselor Leonard Sokoloff, have told the Anne Arundel County Sun that Carducci set a verbal policy at his first staff meeting last February requiring faculty members to inform him about any pregnant student considering an abortion so he could counsel them against it.
FOR THE RECORD - Due to a reporter's error, a school board member's position on Northeast Principal Joseph Carducci Jr.'s reported directive that any girl at the school considering an abortion be referred to him for counseling was misstated Wednesday.
Maureen Carr-York did not say such a policy would be against federal law.
"We are investigating that issue right now, and believeme, we are interested in that," York said, noting such a policy would be against federal law. "If he did have that position and it were possible for him to back down, we think that would be good."
York said, however, that some discrepancies have emerged in different faculty members' accounts of what transpired at the February faculty meeting.
She said that some faculty members came away with the impression that Carducci only wanted to explain to pregnant students that they could carry their pregnancies to term without dropping out of school and that they would not lose credit if they had too many health-related absences.
Carducci denied in a letter mailed to Northeast families last week that he ever told the faculty to report pregnant students to him
Linda Grunder, Linda Tetrault, Abner Haynie and Carol Vickery, who say they discussed the pregnancy/abortion policy with Carducci and Director of Secondary Schools Shirley Hicks at a June 14 meeting, were incensed by the principal's denial.
"This letter is an out-and-out lie," Grunder said. "The abortion issue was on a written agenda, and he and the Director of Secondary Schools Shirley Hicks told us that as principal he had the right to have that policy."
"That's the first I've heard of it," Hicks said last week when asked about Carducci's abortion policy. She claimed parents are disseminating "misinformation."
Lorton dismissed the parents' case for removing Carducci June 10. Leaders in the parents group believe the school system is stonewalling them.
York explained to parents that the Board of Education "is not under Dr. Lorton's control," and is conducting an independent investigation.
"We thought Dr. Lorton was communicating well with you," she said. "We were given the impression from him that the shift had taken place from Dr. Carducci's unacceptabilityand that he was working with you. We thought that was the way it wasgoing, but obviously that's not the case."
The group has scheduled an "informative protest rally" for 6:30 tonight outside the school.