State faults Arundel school official for inaction on '87 sex allegations

July 30, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer Staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

The man who is now superintendent of Anne Arundel County schools knew in 1987 of allegations that Ronald Price was having sexual relationships with students, but took no action against the high school teacher, according to a state investigation released yesterday.

The report, which details "a pattern of negligence" by school officials over a seven-year period in which Mr. Price was repeatedly accused of having sex with students, prompted the school board to call an extraordinary meeting for tomorrow to discuss "personnel matters."

But board President Thomas Twombly and other members contacted would not comment on whether Superintendent C. Berry Carter II's job is in jeopardy.

Dr. Carter, who was a deputy superintendent at the time, received a report in 1987 that outlined concerns raised by two teachers at Northeast High School about Mr. Price's behavior with female students, state investigators said.

The teachers reported that:

* A relative of a former student told them the young woman had sexual relations with Mr. Price while attending Northeast.

* Parents complained that Mr. Price made inappropriate sexual remarks to their daughter and repeatedly called her at home.

* Mr. Price and a female student emerged together from a locked room after a teacher who wanted to use the copier in the room knocked on the door.

* A teacher who walked into a storage room at the school found Mr. Price and a female student locked in an embrace.

Dr. Carter and an assistant apparently agreed that the allegations should be forwarded to the Department of Social Services, but the state investigation concluded that the information never was turned over to either social workers or police.

Dr. Carter, who has been superintendent for a year, has said all along that he had no "direct knowledge" of Mr. Price's behavior until the social studies teacher was arrested this year on child abuse charges after a student reported having an affair with him.

The superintendent declined to be interviewed. His office released a statement that did not address Dr. Carter's role in the Price case, but said the school system would use the state report as a guide to "fix whatever is broken."

Allegations made in 1988-89

The investigation, conducted at the behest of state School Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick, also found that allegations about Mr. Price having relations with students were raised in 1988 and 1989.

But again no action was taken against Mr. Price.

In 1988, the report said, a student told then-principal Joseph Cardamone she was having an affair with Mr. Price. The principal reported the conversation to social services, but the case was dropped when the young woman would not cooperate with investigators.

Mr. Cardamone told investigators he spoke about the allegation with Mr. Price, who denied it. The principal, who has since retired, took no disciplinary action.

In 1989, a graduate of Northeast told an assistant principal that while she was in school she had an affair with Mr. Price, and named 10 other students rumored to have been sexually involved with the teacher.

Police were told of the young woman's allegation, the report said, but apparently were never given the list of names. They dropped the investigation when the young woman who made the allegations refused to cooperate.

The assistant principal, Mary Gable, and Mr. Cardamone said they had passed on the information to Dr. Carter's assistant, Paul Acito. But Mr. Acito, who is now retired, told the state investigators he never heard about that incident.

Again, no disciplinary action was taken against Mr. Price.

Mr. Price has since admitted having sexual relations with four of the 10 students on the list.

Mr. Cardamone, Mr. Acito and Ms. Gable could not be reached yesterday for comment.

'Pattern of negligence'

Ms. Grasmick, the state superintendent, said the findings demonstrate a "pattern of negligence" on the part of Dr. Carter and other Anne Arundel school officials that left children vulnerable to abuse.

"Whoever had responsibility at the time dropped the ball. We need to safeguard that this will never happen again," said Ms. Grasmick, who has ordered all 24 Maryland school systems to review their child abuse reporting policies.

Ms. Grasmick said the report also found the following problems with the Anne Arundel school system's handling of child abuse reports:

* Teachers are not sure what conduct constitutes sexual abuse, and many do not know that the law requires them to immediately report any suspected child abuse to social service workers and police.

"For example, two teachers commented that they doubted that many of their colleagues would have considered a sexual relationship between a teacher and an older student to be a reportable offense," the report said.

Ms. Grasmick has ordered the school system to develop and begin by Oct. 30 a training program for teachers on the detection and reporting of child abuse.

The training program must be approved by the state.

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