Coach was involved with 4 other girls, lawyer says

April 17, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The Northeast High School softball coach and social studies teacher accused of sexually abusing one of his students has had sex with four other high school girls over the past 10 years, his attorney said yesterday.

Except to say that his client later married two of the girls, Ronald Walter Price's lawyer, Timothy Umbreit, would not be more specific. But he contended that school officials not only knew about his client's indiscretions but also have covered up for other teachers and their sexual activities.

"The school knows a lot more than they would like to come out,"Mr. Umbreit said. "Everything will come out. This is rampant Anne Arundel schools. It is a Peyton Place. Knowledge of this sort of activity goes as high as it can go."

The lawyer said he will hold a news conference in the next several weeks to detail the charges. He would not comment further.

Mr. Price, 49, of Brooklyn Park, has been charged with a fourth-degree sex offense, child abuse and performing perverted sex practices.

A 16-year-old student at the Pasadena school told authorities she had been engaged in a consensual relationship with the teacher since she was 14.

Mr. Price, a teacher for 25 years and also the boys soccer and drama coach, has admitted through his lawyer to "the factual basis of the criminal charges," but denies criminal responsibility.

Yesterday, Mr. Price met with county School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II for the first time since being charged.

Mr. Umbreit said Mr. Carter told his client he was considering two options -- suspension without pay, or suspension without pay and a recommendation to the school board that he be fired. Mr. Price was placed on unpaid leave when he was charged.

Mr. Umbreit said his client will appeal any suspension, meaning Mr. Price's $45,650 annual salary would be reinstated until the case is resolved.

Nancy Jane Adams, a spokeswoman for the school system, refused to comment yesterday on either the meeting or Mr. Umbreit's allegations. She said a statement may be released next week.

The case has drawn national media attention and is scheduled to be featured next week on the syndicated television show "A Current Afair." It also has drawn criticism from parents who say the school system should have known about Mr. Price's relationships.

Last week, Anne Arundel County police said they investigated Mr. Price in 1989 after a school official told them a girl alleged the teacher sexually harassed her. The case was dropped when the girl refused to talk to police.

Police also said Mr. Price twice lectured groups of students about spreading stories about his affairs. Sgt. Robert Tice, head of the child abuse unit, said an administrator who heard rumors once confronted the teacher.

"I think those were definite red flags," said Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs. She said she is worried that procedures are not in place to protect students.

Police said interviews with dozens of students at Northeast have turned up no information that will lead to additional criminal charges at this time.

But Capt. Michael P. Fitzgibbons, head of the criminal investigations unit, said that two former students will be interviewed Monday and Tuesday.

The captain played down the scope of the case. "I've heard this was the tip of the iceberg," he said. "I think it's more like a few cubes of ice."

But Mr. Umbreit said school officials have "swept under th carpet" sexual abuse by teachers for 25 years. He said officials were aware his client sought help two years ago.

"It is ignorance that says this is a moral issue and not a health issue," he said. "People have a difficult time equating this with alcoholism. They shouldn't."

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