Final verdict on Arundel schools

December 20, 1993

Scathing as it is, the final verdict on how Anne Arundel schools handled child abuse charges comes as no surprise. Investigator Alan I. Baron's finding that the system "stuck its collective head in the sand" for more than two decades has been xTC clear for a while, ever since Ronald Walter Price admitted a long, blatant history of sex with students.

Earlier investigations have revealed that school officials knowingly disobeyed abuse reporting laws, sacrificed students' safety to save the system from embarrassment and denied a problem existed -- even after Price proclaimed on national TV that sexual abuse has been going on for years. This final report shocks only in that it reveals the full extent of the school system's culpability.

It shows that former Northeast High principal Joseph Cardamone ignored complaints about Ronald Walter Price over and over again. It condemns current Northeast principal Joseph Carducci, who was so anxious to dismiss the Price scandal that he refused to let distressed teachers and students get counseling. And it quotes former Superintendent C. Berry Carter in a 1978 letter that is the most damning evidence of all. In the letter, Mr. Carter blasts a principal who did the right thing by refusing to cover up for a teacher charged with assault.

What are we to learn from all of this?

The teachers' unions view Price as an isolated case and the subsequent controversy as mere hysteria. But there is no witch hunt against teachers. We know only a tiny fraction of educators are guilty. The problem is that for years the system has protected its bad apples, and now it is trying to toss them out. If teachers seem under siege, perhaps it is because two decades' worth of questionable behavior is coming to light all at once. Since the Baron probe, 63 cases of alleged teacher misconduct have been turned over to the authorities -- cases that occurred sporadically over a 16-year period, but which school officials never reported.

The Baron report recommends several policy changes, which the board should adopt at once -- especially a ban against student-teacher dating. Unbelievably, no written policy against this exists. That is true in neighboring counties as well.

Which brings us to this: Anne Arundel has no monopoly on teacher misconduct. Last week, a Baltimore County teacher was convicted of having sex with a student eight years ago; the victim came forward after she read about Price. If other school systems are wise, they will look at their own classrooms and learn from Anne Arundel's mistakes.

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