Board says Carter failed to report 9 abuse charges

October 28, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writers

Anne Arundel County School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II failed to report nine possible cases of child abuse by teachers, according to a review made public yesterday by the county Board of Education.

The report, by lawyers Alan I. Baron and Eleanor M. Carey, says all nine occurred since 1985, even though then-Deputy Superintendent Carter had promised to turn over such cases to the authorities.

"Investigation of such cases is a delicate matter for professionals, not amateur sleuths," the investigators wrote. "Even now, however, there are occasional instances when school officials delay reporting in favor of their own investigation."

Mr. Carter resigned unexpectedly Tuesday night, effective Monday. He declined to comment yesterday, but in a 47-page rebuttal, he said he relied on special assistants and other administrators to judge when to refer allegations to the Department of Social Services and police.

The probe was initiated after Northeast High School teacher Ronald Walter Price went on national television claiming school officials knew he was having sexual relations with his students but did nothing about it.

He was convicted on three counts of child sexual abuse and sentenced to 26 years in prison.

According to the report, Mr. Carter allowed a married coach who was sleeping with a student to resign instead of turning the case over to police or social workers and transferred to another school a teacher who was the subject of a series of complaints over seven years.

Only Northeast High is named in the version of the report made public yesterday; all other names of schools and individuals were deleted.

The nine cases cited in the report are:

* In 1985, a 13-year-old girl accused her teacher of grabbing her genitals. When the principal called Mr. Carter to see whether social services should be notified, he sent a special assistant to investigate. The girl's mother called social services on her own.

* In 1987, two teachers approached the principal of Northeast High with allegations that two male teachers "were having relationships with students." The principal told the teachers to write down their suspicions but to "be quiet about it." The special assistant who investigated the case told Mr. Carter in a memo that "no further action would be taken unless the principal decided it was necessary."

* In 1991, the wife of a high school track coach told another coach that her husband was sexually involved with a 17-year-old junior. The allegations were not reported to social workers or police, but were investigated by an assistant principal after discussions with Mr. Carter and two other administration officials. The coach, who was not a teacher, resigned the day after he was confronted.

* In 1991, a former principal acting as a substitute teacher slammed a fifth-grader against a locker for "acting silly in line." The principal investigated, then asked for a special assistant to look into the matter. The report says no further evidence of an investigation or calls to social services was found.

* A high school science teacher had become "notorious" for touching students, making suggestive remarks and "undressing

them with his eyes." Nothing was done about the complaints in 1984 and 1987, but in 1992 the principal asked a special assistant to investigate. Mr. Carter suspended the teacher for a week without pay and moved him to a different school. Social workers were never called.

* In January and February 1993, a teacher and student were seen publicly hugging and kissing at a high school. The teacher was placed on unpaid leave. Police, who were not called until August, said they should have been informed immediately and that the school system should not have investigated.

* In 1989, two fifth-graders told their mothers that a teacher touched another female student's breast and appeared to be drunk. Charges were not referred to police or social services, but were investigated internally and found to be unsubstantiated. Mr. Carter received reports on three incidents involving the teacher.

* In 1985, a sixth-grade student reported that an elementary teacher "removed her blouse and bra" and asked another student for a back rub. After a special assistant investigated the incident, Mr. Carter gave the teacher a written reprimand.

* In March 1985, two elementary students accused a fourth-grade teacher of "rubbing them" in front of the class. The matter was investigated internally, and closed after the boys said they lied.

In his rebuttal, Mr. Carter cited county regulations that say school personnel must have "reason to believe" an incident occurred before contacting authorities. He said that is what he did through his investigations.

On several occasions, he noted, the complaints were withdrawn or the parent accepted a compromise action.

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