Arundel investigator to be named Abuse-reporting to be main focus

August 08, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County school board is to decide Tuesday who will look into charges that Superintendent C. Berry Carter II failed to comply with state law in reporting cases of child abuse.

The school board spent part of last week interviewing potential investigators and plans to make an announcement at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the school system's headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis.

Mr. Carter was placed on paid administrative leave July 31 as a result of a state investigation that condemned his handling of the case of Ronald Walter Price, the Northeast High School teacher charged in April with three counts of child abuse.

That probe showed that school officials took no action against Mr. Price for seven years despite repeated allegations by students, graduates and teachers that he was having sexual relationships with some of his students.

The state report also showed that in 1987, Mr. Carter -- who was then the county's deputy superintendent -- was notified of allegations against Mr. Price but took no action.

Since Mr. Price's arrest in April, Mr. Carter has maintained that he had "no direct knowledge" of any allegations against Mr. Price, 49.

He has had no comment since being placed on leave.

But state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said she was concerned about the report's findings and ordered the Anne Arundel school board to hire an independent investigator to identify and discipline employees who failed to properly report child abuse.

Dr. Grasmick said she would have to approve the investigator, and directed the school board to find someone "who has never been employed by Anne Arundel County public schools."

Thomas Twombly, president of the county school board, said at a news conference a week ago that the local probe would focus first on Mr. Carter's role in a scandal that has garnered the attention of the national media.

Specifically, the local investigator's charge is to first determine whether Mr. Carter:

* Knowingly failed to follow family law regarding child abuse.

* Failed to properly supervise staff who were responsible for reporting child abuse.

* Failed to maintain proper records.

* Promulgated inaccurate guidelines in reference to child abuse reporting.

* Demonstrated "incompetency and willful neglect of duty."

"The balance of the investigation will be devoted to identifying any other school system employee involvement," Mr. Twombly said.

Larry Chamblin, a spokesman for the State Department of Education, said Dr. Grasmick expects the Anne Arundel school board to take "prompt action" once the report is delivered.

The investigation is to be completed by Nov. 30.

Mary K. Albrittain, the liaison between the county school board and the State Department of Education, said she will meet this week with board members to discuss the investigation and other mandates from Dr. Grasmick aimed at teaching employees more about detecting and reporting child abuse.

The law requires any school system employee who suspects child abuse to report it immediately to police or social workers.

But the state investigation found that many Anne Arundel teachers thought they should report suspected child abuse to a guidance counselor or school principal, who should then make the report.

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