Shedding Light on the Price Case

July 28, 1993

Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick must follow through on her promise to release the draft of a report on how Anne Arundel school officials handled the Ronald W. Price affair, who is charged with abusing three of his students by having sex with them.

Residents of Anne Arundel County have sought answers ever since the Northeast High School teacher was arrested last April. They have demanded to know how a man, by his own admission, could conduct sexual relationships with students -- in school, no less -- for 20-plus years and get away with it. They have lost confidence in a school system that seemed to have deliberately ignored the blatant signs of gross misconduct on an employee's part.

Under pressure from these citizens, Mrs. Grasmick appointed a panel of education leaders to investigate the Anne Arundel school system's handling of the incident. How, then, when a draft report was completed last week, could she or Arundel State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee -- the only two people to receive copies -- justify withholding it from the public?

Mr. Weathersbee actually is the person who made an issue of withholding the study, even though that decision belonged to Mrs. Grasmick, who commissioned it. He insisted unveiling it would generate too much pre-trial publicity -- an arguable notion considering that Mr. Price has taken his story to "Geraldo!" and sold the movie rights, and also that the investigation was an examination of school officials, not Mr. Price.

The state's attorney's argument is not without merit; Mr. Price and his lawyers will try to use this report to convince a judge to move the trial out of the county. But considering how Mr. Price has courted the media, it's a far-fetched argument.

Mrs. Grasmick wisely pledged yesterday to release the complete report by week's end. Already rumors are flying in the community that the report was "watered down" to protect the system. The longer it's concealed, the greater the chance that such rumors will undermine its credibility. If the panel's work is to be taken seriously, its initial conclusions should be known immediately.

This is not merely a matter of satisfying public curiosity or the media's thirst for information. Parents and students remain torn by doubts and distrust of a system that failed to protect them. Their confidence can only be restored by the full disclosure of what happened.

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