Grimm's Dismissal Ignites Controversy

The Top Stories Of 1991

December 29, 1991|By Dianne Williams Hayes

Exercises in civil disobedience were not planned as part of the curriculum at Northeast Senior this year, but they were nevertheless, as students and parents marched and railed against the school's principal.

Joseph Carducci Jr., who replaced Principal Joseph Cardamone inFebruary, didn't make any friends last spring when he announced thatpopular Athletic Director Bob Grimm was being relieved of his duties.

Parents and students staged rallies in front of the school demanding that Grimm be reinstated. Much of the controversy focused on whether the dismissal was a personal battle between the men over Grimm's refusal to reschedule a Good Friday sporting event.

But Grimm's dismissal was only the beginning. The controversy became even more heated when Carducci told teachers and guidance counselors to tell him ofany girls considering an abortion so that he could counsel them and notify their parents.

The principal said he was merely following his interpretation of the school system's confidential communication policy. Abortions, he said, are among types of student behavior that are harmful "to self or others," and so must be reported to parents.

Matters reached a boiling point when a school secretary whose husband had been chairman of a meeting of parents fighting Carducci's actions suddenly found herself transferred to Broadneck.

Parent meetings and protests increased. In September, the American Civil LibertiesUnion joined the fray, threatening a lawsuit if the abortion policy was not discontinued.

By the start of school in September, Carducci was trying to extend an olive branch to parents who vehemently opposed him. Grimm, who had since been transferred to Meade, was offered his old job back (he declined). Secretary Virginia Zimmerman was moved back to Northeast.

In November, Carducci sent home a newsletter notifying parents of changes in the confidential communications policy.

School system administrators "have recently determined that thepolicy is silent on the issue of abortion," he wrote in the newsletter. "They have determined that communications on issues of abortion and pregnancy will be dealt with as a health issue."

The atmosphereis quieter at Northeast now, but rebuilding trust between the principal, students, parents and teachers is an ongoing process.

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