Parents say officials were warned about coach

April 15, 1993|By Peter Hermann and Carol L. Bowers | Peter Hermann and Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writers Kris Antonelli, JoAnna Daemmrich, Kevin Harrison, Angela Winter Ney and Chris Ward contributed to this article.

Rumors that a Northeast High School teacher was having sex with one of his students seem to have pervaded the Pasadena school for months, and some parents said yesterday that administration officials were warned about the man nearly two years ago.

"I know that people had approached the principal about a year and a half ago about why he was hanging around with this particular student," said Chris Kirby, the immediate past president of the Northeast Citizens Advisory Council. "If he's saying he was treated for this, I think it was the responsibility of the psychologist or psychiatrist to notify somebody that it could be like a fox-in-the-henhouse situation.

A student who had Ronald Walter Price as her drama coach said yesterday that he lectured the group one day last year about the rumors. "I can't believe you kids are saying these things about me," he reportedly told them.

Mr. Price, 49, of the 200 block of Edgevale Road in Brooklyn Park, a county teacher for 25 years and Northeast's softball and boys soccer coach, was charged last week with sexually abusing a 16-year-old student.

The teacher, who has been married three times, twice to former students, has admitted through his lawyer to "the factual basis of the criminal charges," but denies criminal responsibility. He claims to suffer from a "debilitating and treatable" disorder that school officials have known about "for some time."

Anne Arundel County police, who are interviewing at least 12 other alleged victims, said this week the school system notified them four years ago about a girl who claimed she was sexually harassed by the teacher. Police had to drop their investigation when the student refused to talk.

School officials would not address questions about the police investigation in 1989.

"Sometimes the public's right to know doesn't outweigh the privacy issue," said Nancy Jane Adams, a spokeswoman for the school system. Mr. Price has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.

Huntley J. Cross, assistant to the superintendent, described yesterday's school day -- the first time students have attended classes since the charges were filed on Friday -- as uneventful. Mr. Cross said a crisis team, including two psychologists, had been assigned to Northeast and that someone from the team would attend each of Mr. Price's scheduled classes.

Principal Joseph Carducci, who has declined to comment on the charges, sent a letter home with students yesterday. "Recent events related to Mr. Ronald Price have raised some concerns on the part of students and community members," he wrote. "Please be secure in the fact that the school system is acting appropriately to ensure the welfare and safety of our students at Northeast."

Students interviewed yesterday morning said they had heard rumors about Mr. Price.

One student, Judy Martin, a 17-year-old junior, said, "He was always a quiet teacher. "I heard a lot of rumors. He never said anything to me personally." Mr. Price was Miss Martin's social studies teacher.

In their statement released earlier this week, Mr. Price's lawyers praised the girl for being courageous, but said his client was "equally courageous." That raised the ire of Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs.

"He's blaming everyone but himself," she said. "This is appalling. The man, the teacher, is not the victim. If he knew he was ill, he should have removed himself from the situation years ago. And I hold him even more responsible for not doing so."

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