Teacher indicted on abuse counts Charges involve 3 former students

May 04, 1993|By Kris Antonelli and Carol L. Bowers | Kris Antonelli and Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writers

Ronald W. Price, the Northeast High School teacher accused of having sex with students, was indicted yesterday on sexual child abuse charges involving three former students over 10 years.

During its regular meeting, the county grand jury issued three separate indictments charging Mr. Price with sexual child abuse, unnatural and perverted sex practices and a fourth-degree sex offense.

Mr. Price, 48, of the 200 block of W. Edgevale Road in Brooklyn Park, was still being held yesterday on house arrest.

Jonathan Resnick, his attorney, accused prosecutors of trying to "gag" his client, who has given several interviews and appeared twice on national television.

"This is being done intentionally to stop the public from knowing exactly what is going on," Mr. Resnick said. "At the preliminary hearing, Mr. Price and everyone else would be able to speak their piece."

In some criminal cases, a preliminary hearing is held to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to hold a defendant for trial. A grand jury indictment, which also charges there is enough evidence for a trial, eliminates the need for the hearing.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee disputed Mr. Resnick's claim.

"We are not trying to gag Mr. Price," he said. "He can talk all he wants. Our District Court is overwhelmed with cases. The preliminary hearing is just an additional task we try to avoid. It's done constantly."

Mr. Price was charged last month with three counts of sexual child abuse, one involving a student at the high school this year and two involving graduates who came forward after the first charges were filed. The incidents involving the student this year occurred during school and on school property, charging documents said.

He has admitted to having consensual sex with the students, but claims he has an illness that he can't control and denies criminal responsibility.

Last week, Mr. Price announced that he could have the AIDS virus and his attorneys have requested that he be allowed to leave his home to see a doctor for the test. Mr. Resnick said yesterday that no judge has ruled and that Mr. Price has not yet had the test.

Yesterday, a health department nurse and two nurses from the Board of Education's office on health issues were at Northeast High to provide information about AIDS.

Jane Doyle, a spokeswoman for the Board of Education, said three students had asked for the information as of noon yesterday.

In a letter to parents Friday, Joseph J. Carducci Jr., principal at Northeast, explained that the nurses would be at school this week, and reassured parents "we are taking positive steps which are appropriate at this time.

"We understand the mixed feelings and emotions which this situation has engendered," the letter continued. "We ask you to remain vigilant but calm and join with us to work primarily for the benefit of our students by helping us to maintain a healthy and positive learning environment for all of our students at Northeast."

Mr. Price was arrested during the school system's spring break, and Northeast High provided counselors to students for the first few days after their return to classes.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, called for PTAs to review how school administrators report suspected child abuse because "recent events have caused mounting concerns regarding the procedures. . . ."

Mr. Price's lawyers have claimed that school officials knew about his illness and allowed him to continue in his job.

Students have said rumors that Mr. Price had sex with students had circulated for years, and some parents have said they told school officials nearly two years ago they were concerned about the teacher's relationship with one student.

School officials have denied having any direct knowledge of Mr. Price's illness and have refused to comment on the case.

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