Sex scandal unfolds under Geraldo's spotlight ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

April 23, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer Chau Lam from the New York Bureau contributed to this article.

NEW YORK -- A student crying that she'd been betrayed. A parent warning a teacher at the neighborhood high school to stay away from her daughter. A lawyer taking pains to say that the girls his client had sex with were not virgins. A teacher insisting that his attraction to teen-age girls resulted from forces beyond his control.

The saga of Ronald Walter Price, the social studies teacher and softball coach who has admitted to having sex with four of his students, hit the talk-show circuit yesterday, as Mr. Price and his attorneys joined parents and teachers for a taping of "Geraldo!"

More than 200 people, mostly tourists from all over the nation, sat in the audience as the sex scandal that has rocked Northeast High School unfolded.

The show will be watched by an estimated 10 million people when it airs Wednesday.

"You were my favorite teacher," said 15-year-old RaeAnne Lussier, a Northeast student who broke down when Mr. Rivera came over to her. "Yours was the only class I enjoyed going to. I can't get you out of my head, and now I don't respect you any more."

Mr. Rivera asked Mr. Price to look at the girl. He did, but did not answer her directly. When the talk-show host asked how he felt, he said simply, "Not good. Not good at all."

"I didn't think it was right," the 49-year-old said toward the beginning of the show. "But I didn't set out to do this. It just happened."

Edwina Voelcker, who had two daughters in Northeast several years ago, asked Mr. Price if he would be angry if his own daughters had sex with their teachers.

"I would be upset, real upset," he answered.

"If he touched any of my daughters, he would be dead," Ms. Voelcker shot back. "Is your next trick sons?"

The talk show known for controversial and sometimes bawdy segments reached its lowest point late in the taping when an audience member accused Mr. Price of seeking out virgins.

"I want to correct something," responded Timothy Umbreit, one of Mr. Price's attorneys. "None of them were virgins."

"I don't know how to respond to that," Mr. Rivera said. "I know you are an attorney, but I think that's a low blow. What difference does that make?"

The 25-year school veteran has been charged with child sexual abuse for alleged involvement with three girls in 1982, 1987 and this year. The alleged trysts occurred in several rooms at Northeast. Each of the three counts of child abuse, a felony, carries a maximum prison term of 15 years.

Mr. Price was to appear on "Geraldo!" Wednesday, but the day before was charged with the two earlier counts and held without bail. The first charge, involving sex with a girl from the time she was 14 until she ended the relationship recently, at age 16, was placed April 8.

His lawyers have said the arrest was to keep him off television, and Mr. Rivera frequently mentioned the "appalling and clumsy bureaucratic attempt to keep Mr. Price from going

public."

The hourlong segment included several current and former students and Northeast parents, as well as a New York psychiatrist. "From high school to bedroom," Mr. Rivera said between commercial breaks, "It's a real-life High School Confidential."

The host wasted no time in getting Mr. Price to admit to having sex with six or seven students since the early 1970s, eliciting groans from the audience at CBS studios.

Mr. Price acknowledged he had violated his students' trust, but said his closeness sometimes helped faltering students perform better in school.

"Perversion is the word a lot of people use," said Mr. Price, adding that he probably would have continued having sex with teen-agers if he wasn't arrested. "If it was a perversion, then I would be involved with everyone I came in contact with. And that is not the case."

"I'm not sure you are telling the truth," Mr. Rivera said.

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