DSS probe sought after sex arrests Investigations being questioned

October 19, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writers

A member of the Board of Education and the president of the County Council of PTAs are calling for an independent probe into how well the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services has handled child abuse complaints, now that a fourth teacher has been charged with child sex abuse.

"I'll take it a step further. I think all departments involved in investigating suspected child abuse should be investigated, including the police department," says Jo Ann Tollenger, a school board member. "There were failures on our part. This is not to point the finger. But in a case where we report to proper authorities, and if the ball is dropped somewhere else, then you have to fix the chain."

Ms. Tollenger opened the discussion in an interview Sunday night with WMAR-TV, Channel 2.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs, sent a letter yesterday to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. In her letter, she asks the governor to consider hiring additional child protective service workers to help DSS cope with a record caseload of reports of suspected child abuse.

State Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Annapolis, and others on the Governor's Council on Child Abuse and Neglect asked the governor last month to include at least 50 more child protective service workers in the fiscal 1995 budget.

Mrs. Roeding, who has announced her candidacy for the House of Delegates, also urged the governor to order an investigation into how DSS handled similar reports during the past five years.

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick ordered the schools to hire an independent investigator to look into its handling of such cases. That report is due next month.

Ed Bloom, director of the county's Department of Social Services, says he would not object to such a probe, "if they think an investigation might improve the way children in this county are protected."

He acknowledges the agency may be understaffed. "This month may also go over 300 investigations -- and that would be the second month in a row," he says. "I think it's a temporary phenomenon, but we're doing an analysis. I haven't asked for additional staff yet. We should know more in about two weeks."

The most recent arrest of a county teacher occurred Friday, when Thomas A. Newman was charged with sexually abusing a student at Glen Burnie High School 17 years ago. A teacher at the Center for Applied Technology South, he was suspended without pay yesterday pending further investigation.

Mr. Newman and his union representative met yesterday with Assistant Superintendent for Administration William H. Scott to discuss the charges. Mr. Newman, 44, of the 7900 block of Castle Hedge Drive in Glen Burnie, is charged with sexual child abuse and perverted sex practices.

The technology education teacher has the right to appeal his suspension. If he does, he would be paid pending a hearing but would remain on suspension.

The woman who filed charges, now 33, alleges she had sexual relations with Mr. Newman in a classroom at Glen Burnie High School and at her home during the 1976-1977 school year, when she was 16.

Charles A. Yocum, 30, and Laurie S. Cook, 33, teachers at Northeast High School, were arrested earlier this year and await trial on one count each of child sex abuse.

Ronald Walter Price, 48, the first Northeast High teacher arrested this year, was sentenced last week to 26 years in prison after a conviction on three counts of child sex abuse.

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