School board debate over Carter to begin Report on handling of abuse charges is topic

September 24, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writers

What promises to be a raucous debate over the fate of Anne Arundel County school Superintendent C. Berry Carter II will begin tonight at Board of Education headquarters in Annapolis.

An independent investigator has concluded his probe into Mr. Carter's handling of allegations of child abuse by teachers during his tenure as deputy superintendent. With that report in ,, front of them, board members will meet privately to discuss whether Mr. Carter will be permitted to remain as superintendent.

Board members would not speculate on whether they would reach a decision on Mr. Carter's fate tonight.

The superintendent, a 38-year veteran of the school system appointed to head it last year, has been on paid leave since July 31. An earlier state investigation concluded that he took no action in 1987 even though he knew a Northeast High School teacher, Ronald Walter Price, was suspected of having sex with students. Price was convicted this month of having sexual trysts with three students.

Yesterday, not all school board members had seen the report by their hired investigator, Washington lawyer Alan I. Baron. It has not been made public.

The report on Mr. Carter, who was deputy superintendent from 1974 to 1992, is part of a broader study of the school system's handling of child abuse allegations. The entire report is due by the end of November.

"I have no idea what's in the report," said Jo Ann Tollenger, a school board member. "I only know we're meeting to discuss the first leg of the investigation. I assume the report is finished. It's hard to say what's going to happen Friday night."

Ms. Tollenger said she believes the school board owes the public "an honest and forthright investigation and report. We also owe it to every employee -- whether they've been here one day or a hundred years -- to take a situation that is very emotional and make decisions based on facts. This is not an easy situation."

School board members also are expected to debate what, if any, portion of the report should be made public. Generally, personnel matters are confidential.

Debate over the school system's handling of abuse complaints began in April, when Price was arrested on charges of having sex with a 16-year-old girl.

In newspapers, on national television and later in court, he said that school administrators knew of the relationship and other sexual liaisons but did nothing to stop him.

Later in the spring, two other Northeast teachers were charged with sexual abuse of students. Their trials are pending.

State school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick set up the first investigation to check into Price's allegations. Her investigators found that Mr. Carter had failed to act after receiving a memo in 1987 alerting him to Price's activities.

Outraged, Dr. Grasmick ordered the local school board to examine the matter further and review policies.

The school board spent $106,000 to hire Mr. Baron, whose broader investigation must be completed by Nov. 30.

Mr. Baron said Wednesday he has accepted an invitation to meet soon with teachers at Northeast High School.

Mr. Baron said teachers did not specify the purpose of the meeting, but said he expects teachers to question him about the investigation. A date probably will be chosen next week.

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