Disturbing Aspects of the Price StoryThere are several...


September 18, 1993

Disturbing Aspects of the Price Story

There are several aspects to the Ronald Price story that I find disturbing. These center around the response to the verdict by Price and his wife and the arguments presented by his attorney.

Price reacted to the verdict by saying that ''it doesn't pay to tell the truth.'' Did he expect to receive a medal of honor for abusing not only the children but the trust that both students and parents must have in their teachers? He admitted violating every standard that teachers must maintain, tried through legal farce (the insanity plea) to escape judgment, tried to make himself appear to be a victim with a pre-trial smoke screen about AIDS and has displayed not the slightest hint of remorse.

Although I sympathize with his wife, she, through testimony, demonstrated precisely the opposite of what her statements were trying to support. At the age of 25 she still lacks the maturity to understand that physical development in no fashion implies emotional and intellectual maturity. Most teens, especially in this day of Hollywood fantasized romance, have no clue of how to handle intimate personal relationships and in some cases allow their libido to be a surrogate for emotional bonding.

Her husband preyed on the lack of maturity of his victims just as I suspect he once preyed on her vulnerabilities. Her muttering of obscenities at the victims clearly demonstrates her lack of understanding as does her statement that she sees nothing wrong with a 17-year-old having sex with a 40-year-old teacher (their respective ages when she was a student).

Mr. Timothy Umbreit, Price's attorney, is an ill-cast opportunist. He is a member of the Maryland Bar commissioned to present his client's case in the best possible light. He comes across with a quasi-legal argument that spits on social morality and suggests that existing laws be bent to meet the needs of his client. There is no wonder why Price shows no remorse when he is represented by a man who, in a closing argument, makes irresponsible statements on ''society's changing attitudes about sex'' and implies his clients guilt by hinting that existing laws should not be upheld.

Today's laws are not outdated as Mr. Umbreit states. Both changes that benefit society and traditional values that uphold nondiscriminatory mores of society should be supported. Mr. Umbreit, however, thinks that the laws should redefine the acceptable age for consensual teen sex. Should an acceptable age be 15 or 13 or . . . ?

He says that young ladies dress differently and are more mature. I question this statement. Their dress and attitude is more of a reflection of what they absorb from mass marketing, television and peer pressure than emotional security. It is a facade that masks their lack of mature objectivity and in reality exacerbates their vulnerability. By suggesting that laws be changed to accommodate a morally deteriorating society awash in teen pregnancy, teen suicide, venereal diseases and AIDS, he clearly demonstrates dangerously convoluted logic.

Price should be locked up for a long time, Mr. Umbreit sentenced to take classes in logic, sensitivity and sociology and Mrs. Price should receive counseling in order to try and retrieve a life that has been perverted by a sick but not insane man.

R. Devereux Slingluff


Fairness Doctrine Stifles Diversity

So you think in your editorial (The Sun, Sept. 3) that Rush Limbaugh, Cal Thomas, et al. are indulging a "paranoid fantasy" because they fear that a revived "Fairness Doctrine" will be used to attack conservative broadcasters?

Actually, when one considers how the "old" Fairness Doctrine was applied back in the 1960s, their fears are quite well-founded. The doctrine, in the form of a Federal Communications Commission regulation, was used mainly to force spokespersons for the "religious right" of that era off the air.

The Supreme Court decision you cited dealt with just such a case. During the 1964 presidential campaign, radio station WGCB in Red Lion, Pa., broadcast a syndicated program in which the Rev. Billy James Hargis criticized the book, "Goldwater -- Extremist on the Right" and its author, Fred J. Cook. Mr. Cook, on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee, demanded of WGCB and some 200 other stations free air time to reply to Rev. Hargis' broadcast. When WGCB refused, the case went to the FCC, then to a Federal appeals court and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the Fairness Doctrine.

A year later in 1970, the FCC, citing the Fairness Doctrine, actually revoked the license of a religious broadcaster. In 1965, Faith Theological Seminary had acquired a small (500 watt) radio station in the Philadelphia suburb of Media. When the license came up for renewal the following year, a number of mainline Philadelphia Protestant churches and liberal organizations challenged the renewal on the grounds the station did not offer enough "alternative" programming.

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