PTA head seeks more action against officials in abuse cases

November 02, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Administrators who kept complaints within the school system that teachers abused students instead of making sure those allegations were reported to police or social workers should be disciplined, said the president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs.

Carolyn Roeding said that is one of three PTA concerns, stemming from a special investigator's report, she will present to the Board of Education during a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow at board headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis.

She said administrators who failed to properly report the allegations or make sure they were properly reported should be held accountable for exposing children to possible abuse.

"I see this as willful violation of the law. There should be disciplinary action for them. You discipline the teacher and the superintendent and nobody in between?" Mrs. Roeding said.

The law requires allegations to be reported to police or the Department of Social Services if a school employee has "reason to believe" child abuse has occurred. The individual who has suspicions is the one who is supposed to notify authorities, but a recent probe showed that in at least nine instances, the complaint that a teacher abused a child was handled internally.

The school board indicated Friday it will look to discipline the teachers involved in those cases. C. Berry Carter II resigned his post as schools superintendent after an investigation concluded complaints were handled internally at his direction.

Lawyer Alan I. Baron, who conducted the probe, said mid-level administrators were caught in a situation in which they could either follow the law and disobey their boss, or disregard the law and obey their boss -- if they knew the child abuse reporting requirements at all.

"Once they messed it up at the initial stage, all bets were off," said Thomas Twombly, school board president.

The law does not address the situation of the administrators, he said, but it does speak to the responsibilities of the school workers who first suspect abuse. Mr. Twombly said he would look to see if there are school system policies that address the administrators' responsibilities.

Mrs. Roeding, who is a candidate for the House of Delegates from District 31, also said the school system should review policies and paperwork in light of what she considered a disturbing revelation that could be keeping some documents private.

Mr. Carter said the names of the superintendent and board attorney were placed on all memos from special assistants, who investigated complaints of abuse by teachers, so a claim of attorney-client privilege could be asserted, according to Mr. Baron's report.

The version of Mr. Baron's report made public did not contain names of schools where the incidents took place or individuals involved. Mrs. Roeding reiterated her claim that the board should make the names of the schools public because parents are quite upset.

To keep that secret "further erodes public trust and confidence," she said.

In other action at today's meeting, the school board is scheduled to hear a review of the pilot four-period school day at Chesapeake High School.

Board members also will hear about plans by four schools to send foreign language students on a trip to Quebec.

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