Meeting Scandal With Silence

May 11, 1993

Confronted with the worst scandal in Anne Arundel County school history, the superintendent and the school board have responded feebly.

For three weeks, Northeast High School teacher Ronald Walter Price has described his affairs with students on local and national television. He has implied that child abuse is rampant in schools and that school leaders are ignoring it.

Meanwhile, Superintendent C. Berry Carter II and the school board have been eerily quiet. No outrage. No sympathetic words or strong public efforts to heal Northeast students and parents, or the county at large for that matter. And no commitment to discover how the alleged crimes went undiscovered for as long as 20 years.

The schools were right for not slinging mud with Mr. Price on "Geraldo!" and "A Current Affair." Still, when "A Current Affair" came calling, the administration could have made a brief, dignified statement, as county police did, instead of sending Assistant Superintendent Kenneth Lawson out yelling for reporters to turn off the cameras and threatening to call the police.

Since then, Mr. Carter's strongest statement was a news release saying, "Engaging in sexual contact with a student is wrong, and it always has been." The board's only comment came from Maureen Carr-York, who said, "We have policies and procedures that handle these situations well."

But policies and procedures apparently did not help at Northeast. The school system should be telling us why.

School policy says the Department of Social Services should be notified whenever there is reason to suspect child abuse.

Why was DSS not called in 1989, when school officials were concerned enough to ask police to investigate Mr. Price? Why was DSS not called 18 months ago, when parents told Principal Joseph Carducci they suspected Mr. Price was too close with a student? Why was Mr. Price then made girls' softball coach?

PTA leader Carolyn Roeding has asked the schools for an outside investigation of the 1989 complaint and a review of policies for suspected child abuse. Both should be done. The Attorney General's office has said an outside probe can be done as long as investigators cooperate with police.

Either the school's policies and procedures for preventing child abuse have not been followed, or they have been followed but are inadequate. School officials have a responsibility to tell us which.

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