Patricia Price's show of support ANNE ARUNDEL SCHOOL CONTROVERSY

August 01, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

No one ever contacted the former Northeast High student whose name topped a list of 10 students rumored to have been involved with social studies teacher Ronald Walter Price -- a list available to school administrators in 1989.

"Patricia Bateman? She's sitting right there," said Mr. Price, pointing to the woman who is now his wife.

Had she been asked about their relationship in 1989, questioners would have found the 1986 Northeast graduate openly dating Mr. Price -- a relationship she unabashedly acknowledges began during her senior year, when she was 17.

In June, the two spent their second wedding anniversary at home, trying to enjoy a candlelight dinner.

Celebrating at a restaurant was out of the question. Mr. Price, 49, is under house arrest on charges of sexually abusing three other young women, who, like Mrs. Price, had affairs with him while they were his students.

Despite the turmoil of the past four months, Mrs. Price, now 25, still says her marriage to Ron Price was a dream come true.

"I went to him and said, 'I want to have a relationship with you,' " Mrs. Price recalled. "He said, 'Whoa! I think we'd better talk about this.' So we got in the car and parked in the lot of some shopping center, and talked for a long time. And then we kissed. That's how it began."

Some might consider Mrs. Price just another of her husband's victims -- he has admitted to having affairs with eight students since 1979 -- or believe that she's taking her cue from the $H country standard "Stand By Your Man."

But Mrs. Price says she loves her husband. No matter what he's done, she says, she will not initiate a divorce -- especially after seeing her own mother suffer through two failed marriages.

"You have to look at it from my point of view," Mrs. Price said. "I look at it as Ron having an affair in our marriage. He hasn't done anything that isn't forgivable. I take my marriage vows seriously."

As for the student he had the affair with, she said, "How can I say what he did with her was wrong, when it's what he did with me?"

Mrs. Price's mother, Barbara -- a store manager who agreed to an interview only if her last name was not used -- says she had no idea her daughter was dating Mr. Price at 17.

"I didn't find out she had an intimate relationship with Ron in high school until I watched the 'Geraldo!' show," said Barbara, who has received several pieces of hate mail even without having her name publicized. "I never suspected. I don't know how I would have reacted had she come to me at the time. We probably would have discussed it. But I still feel she was mature enough at 17 to make that decision."

'I don't want to leave him'

Barbara can't remember what she thought as she drove to her daughter's house April 8, the night Mr. Price was charged with the first of three counts of child sex abuse.

She does remember her daughter's first words: "Mom, I don't want to leave him. Please don't make me leave him."

"I told her that nobody can make you do something you don't want to do," Barbara recalled. "People may not understand this, but I don't want her to leave him, because she'd be miserable. Is she miserable now? Probably. But there are degrees of misery. It would be like putting a beautiful wild animal in a cage to protect it -- you can't do that because it would be unhappy."

Barbara said she realizes now that her daughter was forced to be strong at an early age.

"Unfortunately for Patti, my divorce from her stepfather when she was 14 was for the same reason -- my husband had an affair with another woman," she said. "Maybe this has something to do with her decision, I don't know. I'm not sure she knows."

All she's ever wanted, Barbara said, is for her daughter to be happy and have what she wants. "And Ron Price is what she wants."

That doesn't mean Barbara isn't upset over the situation -- or the hate mail she has received for simply being Mr. Price's mother-in-law.

"Am I over being angry? Yes. Am I hurt? Yes," Barbara said. "I can hurt my kids, and that's OK. But if other people hurt my kids, that's not OK. I believe as a man that Ron should have had the ability to prevent this from happening. But I think he really does have a problem."

But she said that people haven't really looked at his side of the story.

"The 16-year-old and the others are hurt, but are they devastated for the rest of their lives? I don't think so. I think they'll get on with their lives. But people don't want to see Ron as a human being -- and he is."

Feeling betrayed

Mr. Price says he still can't explain why he began the affair with the 16-year-old just six months after he married Patricia Bateman.

The girl's decision this spring to confide in a school guidance counselor sparked a chain of events that put Mr. Price on national television and earned Northeast High School fame it never wanted. Once the 16-year-old talked to authorities, two graduates came forward to press charges as well.

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