Police suspect coach abused more than one girl Arundel teacher put on unpaid leave ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

April 10, 1993|By Kris Antonelli and Carol L. Bowers | Kris Antonelli and Carol L. Bowers,Staff writers Staff Writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

Anne Arundel County police suspect there may be more victims of a Pasadena high school teacher and softball coach charged Thursday with sexually abusing a female student during an 18-month relationship.

"We don't want to blow this out of proportion, but there is a high probability that there are other victims," said Sergeant Robert Tice, head of the county police Child Abuse Unit. "What could also happen is that students will start to come forward and we will interview them, too. We are working with the school system to develop a master plan on how we are going to handle this."

Captain Michael Fitzgibbons, head of the Criminal Investigation Unit, said he doubted investigators would delve into the 25 years the coach has been with the school system. "We certainly will interview the current crop of students," he said.

Ronald Walter Price, 49, of the 200 block W. Edgevale Drive in Brooklyn Park, teaches social studies and coaches the Drama Club and varsity girls softball team at Northeast High School. He was charged late Thursday with a fourth-degree sex offense, child abuse and performing unnatural and perverted sex practices.

Mr. Price was placed on unpaid administrative leave yesterday by School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II.

Mr. Carter said he plans to meet with Mr. Price soon to review the charges "and come to a decision about his employment status with the Anne Arundel County Public School System."

"I don't know what to say," Mr. Carter said of the incident. "I'm nonplused."

The superintendent said he would meet with Principal Joseph Carducci Tuesday to discuss whether psychologists would be sent Wednesday to counsel students returning from spring break.

Huntley J. Cross, special assistant to the superintendent, said yesterday that the 16-year-old first made her accusations known to school officials, who notified police Wednesday. He said the girl spoke to a counselor Tuesday evening, then provided a more detailed account Wednesday.

According to charging documents, contact with the girl began when she was 14. The alleged abuse began with touching, then progressed to kissing, fondling her breasts and eventually intercourse, the documents said.

The incidents took place in the school's audio-visual room, as well as the girls' dressing room near the stage, the documents said, sometimes while the teacher and student were working on drama equipment, props and costumes.

Court documents also said Mr. Price "confessed to the above-mentioned acts" when confronted by the investigating officer, Detective William Collier.

Mr. Price could not be reached for comment.

According to charging documents, the student and Mr. Price "were agreeable to the sexual involvement."

"It's really hard to understand this," Sergeant Tice said, "but it was an on-going relationship and as she got older, she knew it was wrong."

Co-workers and parents of students were caught unawares by the allegations.

"I thought he was a very good drama teacher," said Carlene Heilman, president of the Northeast High PTSA. "I thought this man dedicated his life to these kids. . . . I'm really surprised to hear this."

Chris Kirby, past president of the Northeast Citizens Advisory Council, another parent group of which Mr. Price was a member, said, "I'm speechless. I'm really sorry to hear that. If he didn't say he was guilty, I'd stand behind him, that's how much I think of him."

Lynn Pitonzo, coach of the Northeast High School varsity girls softball team until retiring in January, had worked for eight years with Mr. Price, who was her assistant.

"I've never seen more than the normal concern for his players from him," she said. "I don't know how the team is going to handle this."

Assistant coaches Earl Dundorf and Marianne Schultz could not be reached for comment.

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