Price of the Price scandal

August 17, 1993

The Ronald Price scandal continues to cost the Anne Arundel school system dearly, and not just figuratively.

The price tag just went up by $106,000 as the school board hired Washington attorney Alan I. Baron to investigate possible misconduct by Superintendent C. Berry Carter II and other officials. Add to that the cost of paying two superintendents (Mr. Carter, whom the board placed on paid leave, and Carol Parham, now acting superintendent) and the possibility that damages will be awarded to the alleged victims, and this becomes an expensive debacle.

Mr. Baron's $106,000 fee made us raise our eyebrows at first. A recent state investigation contains compelling information that Mr. Carter and others knew of but ignored reports that Mr. Price was having sexual relationships with his Northeast High students.

We wondered if it were necessary for the board to spend so much money to discover what seems obvious: that Mr. Carter should not be running this school system and that others who erred should be disciplined.

The money, however, will be well spent if it gets to the root of the problems that let Mr. Price stay in the classroom and answers questions that remain: Did Mr. Carter knowingly compromise students' welfare? Are there others not mentioned in the state report who failed to obey child abuse reporting laws? Before Ron Price's admitted affairs with students, did the school system wink at teacher misconduct, or try to hush them up to avoid embarrassment? What is wrong at Northeast High, where three teachers await trial for sexual abuse and two others have been transferred for sexual harassment?

Taxpayers with an interest in education have reason to be optimistic that their money will buy answers. Mr. Baron comes with impressive experience, including two years as special impeachment counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives in proceedings that resulted in the conviction of two federal judges. We are pleased to see someone with these qualifications involved in this issue.

Board members must remember, of course, that they may as well throw the money they are paying Mr. Baron out the window unless they act promptly upon his findings.

This school system needs fixing before it costs any more parents their peace of mind and any more children their safety.

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