The principal of North Carroll Middle School was charged last week with striking his 17-year-old son during a November argument at their Westminster home.
Richard N. DeLong, 46, has been principal of the890-student school since July 1988 and has been a school system employee for almost 25 years.
DeLong was charged with battery, and his son with juvenile battery, by Tfc. Charlene Jenkins of the Westminster barracks of the state police on Friday.
The misdemeanor charge, which, under Maryland law, carries no minimum or maximum penalties, stemmed from a Nov. 13 argument between DeLong and his son over car keys, court records show.
DeLong and his son were arguing over the keys when, court records say, his son ran out of the house. When he returned to the Greenvale Road home to gather some of his belongings, DeLong struck him on the left side of the head, according to the charge.
His son was taken to Carroll County General Hospital, where he required five stiches, the records say.
DeLong did not return calls Friday.
The charge will not prevent the longtime educator from continuing his $64,119-a-year job, school officials said.
"We've been advised that Rich DeLong has been criminally charged with an offense arising out of a domestic dispute," said a school board statement read by Assistant Superintendent William H. Hyde. "Under the public school laws of Maryland, it is not permissible to discipline a teacher or principal solely because that individual has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense."
Hyde said that DeLong -- or any other school employee charged with a criminal of fense -- could be disciplined only if he were found guilty or if his alleged offense was detrimental to "his effectiveness as a teacher or principal."
Hyde also said that even if DeLong were to be found guilty, it would not necessarily mean he would be disciplined.
DeLong began his career in the Carroll school system as a teacher in the late 1960s, Hyde said. He was later an assistant principal at several schools before becoming principal of New Windsor Middle School in August 1986, where he stayed until becoming principal at North Carroll Middle School.
In his three years at North Carroll, DeLong is credited with instilling an emphasis of community service into the teachers and students.
"I can tell you from what I've seen, he's the kind of principal who goes one on one with the students," said Eileen Mayle, a mother of an eighth-grader and the president of the Parent-Teacher Organization.
"He's always encouraging teachers and students to get involved. He seems to have a good working relationship with the teachers and the student body. There's a realpositive atmosphere there," she said.
Mayle said that DeLong often eats lunch with the students, sitting down and cracking jokes with them. "He is very friendly, except when it comes to discipline," Mayle said. "He tries to talk to them, to find out why they did what theydid."
Mayle said his remaining at the school causes her no concern. "I still feel comfortable," she said. "He's very good with the kids."
DeLong oversees a staff of about 70 teachers, janitors, secretaries and cafeteria workers. The school serves children in the Hampstead and Manchester areas.
He faces a preliminary hearing in Carroll County District Court on March 9, 1992.