The Sex-Abuse Circus At Northeast High SchoolIn 1972...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 12, 1993

The Sex-Abuse Circus At Northeast High School

In 1972, while attending Northeast High School, I was required to take a course entitled "Problems of the Twentieth Century." The course, as taught by Harry Lentz, was equal parts history, sociology and political science. Central to the course was the timeless discussion of how to balance individual rights and freedom against society's greater needs.

The concepts were heady for the average student. We pondered principles which would guide our development as U.S. citizens and as human beings. Concepts such as social responsibility, democratic privilege, justice and fair play were reviewed, discussed and drilled daily by "Instructor" Lentz.

Concurrently, I had the good fortune to play baseball for "Coach" Lentz. The fundamentals of throwing, catching, hitting and base-running were a daily diet . . . and then there were the real lessons of the game. Individual sacrifice for the greater good of the team, respect for opponents, the importance of hard work and fair play and a proper perspective on winning were the daily "mental" diet.

The lessons on the field and in the classroom were remarkably similar. They were the lessons of citizenship and of life. Although I have not seen or spoken to "Coach" in 20 years, I still remember. The lessons stuck; not only for me, but for the majority of those who share this history, our lives and our communities have been enriched.

As the Ron Price media circus continues, Instructor-Coach Lentz has been quietly victimized by the very system which he has preached, praised and passed along to students for countless years. Without due process or public hearing or opportunity to rebuke a 5-year-old "sexual harassment" charge, he has been transferred after more than 20 years at Northeast.

This fact in itself may have damaged his reputation beyond repair in that it implies guilt. By imposing in this fashion what for Harry Lentz is the harshest of punishments the school board has ignored the time-honored principle of "innocent until proven guilty."

No one, least of all this man, should be treated so unfairly. At the very least, this decision exhibits poor judgment; at worst, it is self-serving and unethical.

Harry Lentz is a virtual institution at Northeast and in the community. This fact has little to do with coaching prowess, but much to do with personality, principle and performance. Now, through short-sighted, knee-jerk expediency, he has been eliminated from the picture . . . all bets are off, all past performance discounted and all due process bypassed. Those who know Harry Lentz will understand why he is crushed by these events. His former students and players feel the loss and this community absorbs one more unnecessary blow.

The ordered transfer of Harry Lentz and Roger Stitt is a politically expedient act, poorly conceived and patently unfair. It simply diverts the focus from the uglier issues. Both are victims of

timing, circumstance and more bad judgment by those to whom we entrust our children's future, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Once again, the wrong signal is sent to a student body that is already reeling from poor decisions, error and oversight.

Carl Hackman

Riviera Beach

The writer is president of the Riviera Beach Parent-Teacher Association and secretary of the Riviera Beach Improvement Association.

I was distressed to read in your article on Charles Allen Yocum, the Northeast High School teacher indicted on charges of sex abuse, that you referred to him as the "Teacher of the Year." As the coordinator of the Teacher of the Year program in Maryland, I want to state that Mr. Yocum has never been an Anne Arundel County or Maryland State Teacher of the Year. He was recognized as a good educator by the students of Northeast High School, but was never part of Maryland's official Teacher of the Year Program.

The Maryland Teacher of the Year recognition is part of the National Teacher of the Year Awards and is a highly prestigious program with the purpose of calling public attention to the important role of teachers in the future of our state and our nation. . . .

The Maryland State Department of Education along with its partners . . . administer and sponsor the "Maryland Teacher of the Year program" and through it, have come a long way in calling attention to the many excellent and dedicated teachers who "go that extra mile" each and every day to enrich the lives of their students. Our ultimate goal is to encourage the best and brightest to enter the teaching profession.

Darla Strouse

Baltimore

The writer is state coordinator of the Maryland Teacher of the Year program for the state Department of Education.

I have just read a letter from Linda Tetrault, president of the Northeast High School PTSA, in the newspaper.

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