State panel to target abuse charges

June 15, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

The state superintendent of schools has said she will appoint a three-member committee to investigate Anne Arundel County school administrators' handling of child sexual abuse allegations against a former Northeast High School teacher.

The committee will be made up of a representative from the state attorney general's office, a high-level state Department of Education administrator, and a third person from the state level who has a background in reviewing documents and procedures, Renee Spence, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Education, said yesterday.

"The feeling of the state is that although Anne Arundel County could handle their own investigation, with the state coming in, there would be more of an objective point of view," she said.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, began a letter-writing campaign pressuring state officials for an investigation into the case that began when Ronald W. Price, a former social studies teacher, was charged with child abuse and performing unnatural sex practices with a student. Since then, two former students have gone to police with the same complaints. Mr. Price, 48, faces similar charges in those cases.

Superintendent Nancy Grasmick is expected to announce the committee appointments by the end of the week. The members will be required to report to her in about a month, Ms. Spence said.

"Naturally, the Police Department is responsible for the criminal aspects of the case," she said. "The purpose of this investigation is to make sure policy and procedures have been followed."

Some parents and PTA officials have complained that rumors circulated about Mr. Price for years and that although school administrators were aware of them and had a list of students involved with him during his 25-year teaching career, they did nothing about it.

"I think the investigation will really help," said Mrs. Roeding, who wrote to Dr. Grasmick, county school officials and the governor to ask for an independent review.

"I want to know what happened that this was allowed to be going on in the school for so long. Was the policy inadequate? Or did people fail to report what was going on?" she asked.

In 1989, a graduate of Northeast reported to then-Assistant Principal Mary Gable that she had had a relationship with Mr. Price when she was a student there. But when confronted by police, she declined to press charges and the case was dropped.

While school officials initially said they knew nothing of Mr. Price's reputation with students, the school board's attorney acknowledged last week that school officials had a list in 1989 of 10 young women rumored to have been involved with Mr. Price.

Mr. Price has admitted to having had relationships with four of the 10 and said he has had sex with as many as seven students in the past 20 years.

County School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II said last week he would ask the county Board of Education to have an outside investigator sort through the circumstances of the Price case.

Mr. Price has argued twice on national television that he is not criminally responsible.

They also claim that at least two other teachers at the school engaged in similar activities.

Last month, science teacher Laurie Susanne Cook, 33, was charged with child sexual abuse and a fourth-degree sex offense after a student at Northeast reported to police that he had been involved with her during the 1991-1992 school year. Ms. Cook, of Catonsville, who has been a teacher for five years, has maintained her innocence.

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