Claiming her daughter was assaulted at school, ex-delegate weighs lawsuit Aberdeen principal denies charges

August 29, 1993|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Barbara O. Kreamer, a former Harford councilwoman and state delegate, has told local and state officials she is considering a lawsuit against the county school system over alleged injuries to her daughter.

In a "torts claim" letter sent to the officials Aug. 13, Mrs. Kreamer claimed her daughter, Elizabeth, an eighth-grade student at Aberdeen Middle School, was repeatedly "assaulted" by other students last school year and is now so traumatized that she cannot attend public school this fall.

Elizabeth, the letter said, "experienced physical and mental pain and suffering, deteriorating grades and ultimately was forced to attend private school at great expense to her and her family" as a result of the alleged assaults.

Copies of the letter were sent by certified mail to County Attorney Ernest A. Crofoot; Lucille Maurer, the state treasurer; and the Harford Board of Education.

Agnes S. Purnell, Aberdeen Middle's principal, said, "There were no incidents out of the ordinary last year" at the school.

"These are middle school kids, and there will be some horseplay. This happens in every middle school -- including private schools -- and shouldn't be blown out of proportion," she said.

Attorney Wendy A. Kronmiller, who represents the Kreamers, said the letter was meant to notify the officials of a potential lawsuit against the school system, Aberdeen Middle and Mrs. Purnell.

"This is a formality, required by law, that preserves the Kreamer family's right to sue," Ms. Kronmiller said.

Robert Kreamer, Elizabeth's father, said Thursday that the family would have no comment. "We have not decided if we are going to file suit," he said.

Mrs. Kreamer, a Democrat and Harford lawyer, ran unsuccessfully for Town Council in Aberdeen last year. She also was campaign manager for Ruth Elliott, the mayor of Aberdeen. After the election, the Aberdeen Town Council rejected Mrs. Elliott's attempt to install Mrs. Kreamer, 44, as town attorney.

The tort claim letter said the Kreamers made repeated oral and written complaints to school officials about alleged assaults on their daughter by other students. Despite their complaints, ". . . the situation deteriorated, culminating in an assault in May 1993 that resulted in criminal charges filed against a student."

Mrs. Purnell said the Kreamers filed the charges.

No details of that incident could be obtained because the student isunder 18.

"Mrs. Kreamer indicated that she filed legal charges against the little boy once she left my office. He cried and begged [her not to] and said he was sorry," Mrs. Purnell said.

Mrs. Purnell said she could not discuss the May incident in detail because of student confidentiality. She said the student was dealt with "appropriately" within the school system.

Sources in the school system said the boy allegedly hit Elizabeth with a textbook.

The Kreamers claimed the alleged assaults occurred because of "insufficient staffing, insufficient monitoring of students, overcrowding and because the administrators of Aberdeen Middle School failed to adequately respond to repeated complaints."

"None of these things are true, and the school system will be exonerated," Mrs. Purnell said.

She said the school is not crowded. It has about 1,150 students and a capacity of 1,500, and has more teachers than most other middle schools in the county, she said.

"The county average is about 57 professional staff per 1,000 students and our ratio is about 62," Mrs. Purnell said. Professional staff includes teachers, guidance counselors and administrators.

Furthermore, class sizes range from 17 to 30 students, but only a "couple" of classes have 30 pupils, she said.

She said teachers have control of their classrooms and patrol hallways while classes are changing.

The Kreamers said in the letter that they ". . . incurred damages including doctors' bills, the expense of private school tuition, and Beth's physical and mental pain and suffering."

Mrs. Purnell said the Kreamers never reported any injury to the school system.

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