School to open with healing theme Support offered in scandal's wake

August 24, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Reporters were everywhere last spring, or so it seemed to students at Northeast High School -- the site of one of the most notorious teacher-student sex scandals in the nation.

Handling the continued media coverage is one key part of a back-to-school plan to provide support for students and teachers at Northeast -- the school where three teachers have each been charged with having a sexual relationship with students.

From the day in April when Ronald Walter Price was arrested and charged with having sex with one of his students, teens couldn't step off school grounds, go to the local convenience store, or even wait at a bus stop without reporters asking them for quotes or putting television cameras in their faces.

Thursday, Ronald L. Beckett, the school system's assistant superintendent for support services, met privately with about 20 parents. He outlined the school system's response to state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick's order that support be provided for teachers and students at the Pasadena school.

"There's a siege mentality. They've been bombarded on all sides," Mr. Beckett said. "And parents have raised a lot of concerns about the television crews and reporters' conduct."

Mr. Beckett would not divulge details of how school officials hope to deal with the media crush.

Dr. Grasmick expressed concern about the Northeast community after the release of a report condemning the school system's handling of the abuse cases. School administrators, for example, were aware of repeated allegations against one of the teachers arrested but never acted on the information until this spring, when a 16-year-old came forward to accuse Mr. Price and agreed to testify.

"The news has been bad, and it's going to continue to be bad through the fall with the various trials coming up," Mr. Beckett said. "There's an element in the plan to make the media part of the healing process."

But details of the plan have been a closely guarded secret, pending the return of teachers to school tomorrow.

Parents at Thursday's meeting were instructed to keep the details of the plan confidential, but some were willing to discuss the plan if they were not identified.

According to the parents, the draft plan calls for a full-time psychiatrist and a full-time nurse to be at the school starting Sept. 1. In addition, counselors would be available to students and staff one evening a week, at a location other than the school, they said.

The plan also calls for a student peer counseling program; 15 students will be trained to help other students, the parents said.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs, said she attended the meeting but would not discuss details.

"But I will say the plan is very well thought out," she said. "It has a lot to offer the students and faculty. More outreach to parents is lacking, though. They need to be a component of the plan."

Mr. Beckett said the details have been kept confidential to prevent word of the plan from leaking out before Dr. Grasmick and teachers at the school had seen it.

"We need to try and instill a little confidence in the staff and students," Mr. Beckett said. "There will be programs to enhance morale. This is a living, dynamic plan, and as we receive feedback we'll modify it as we go. But we need to return a sense of normalcy to the school."

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