Sex, Lies and the Arundel Schools

July 31, 1993

Anne Arundel School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II has to go.

Whether he resigns or the school board fires him is immaterial. No educator who knowingly abandons children to a suspected sexual abuser, then lies about it, can or should lead a school system.

Mr. Carter has fallen hard and far. Appointed amid enthusiastic support from parents and most school staff last summer, he now stands exposed as the single most culpable administrator in the most damaging school scandal of recent memory.

A damning investigation commissioned by state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick showed that Mr. Carter knew in 1987, when he was Arundel's deputy superintendent, that Northeast High School teacher Ronald Price was strongly suspected of having sex with female students. The information he received at that time begged for immediate action: reports from parents about Mr. Price's repeatedly calling their daughter at home, a teacher who walked into a storage room to find Mr. Price and a student locked in an embrace.

Yet Mr. Carter never notified police or the Department of Social Services, and he never made sure his subordinates did, either -- despite a state law requiring educators to report any suspicion of child abuse. He allowed Mr. Price to stay in school and later be named girls' softball coach until a student filed charges against him last April. After Mr. Price's arrest, after police said they investigated the teacher in 1989 on similar charges, Mr. Carter insisted he had "no direct knowledge" of Mr. Price's behavior. Now we know he did.

He issued a press release last spring condemning sexual contact between teachers and students as "wrong." Yet now we know he and other county school officials were negligent in preventing or punishing this horrible form of child abuse. The state found Arundel educators have been ignoring the child abuse reporting law for years.

School officials would never have admitted any of this had not the County Council of PTAs, sensing the system's stubborn silence smacked of a cover-up, pressed for a state probe. All too often, one bureaucracy protects another. But Mrs. Grasmick pulled no punches. Her report shows clearly how Ron Price got away it for so long: because school officials who knew turned their backs.

Mr. Carter shares the blame with an assortment of subordinates who also knew but failed to act. Board members can do nothing about those who have left the system. But when they gather today for an emergency personnel meeting, they should make sure those who remain are held accountable for the negligence that left the children of Anne Arundel County vulnerable to sexual abuse.

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