School workers urge sanctions

December 27, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The head of the 660-member union that represents Anne Arundel County teaching assistants and secretaries is asking the Board of Education to meet with her to discuss sanctions against students who falsely accuse school workers of abuse.

"I still say somebody has to be accountable," said Dee Zepp, president of the Secretaries and Assistants of Anne Arundel County.

She said frivolous allegations during this school year have dragged through the mud school workers who have done no wrong -- from teachers to bus drivers -- as social workers, police and school officials pursue allegations.

Social workers have said they are getting more reports of suspected abuse, but because they do not keep records based on who is the alleged abuser, they have no way to tell if more school employees have been named.

Ms. Zepp said she sent a letter to school board President Thomas Twombly last week requesting a meeting early next year.

"I will talk to the board after we get back from the break, and we will go from there," Mr. Twombly said.

Ms. Zepp wants the school board to review the number and nature of allegations made since Sept. 1. Students who lie should be punished, she said, with a disciplinary action fitting the age and maturity of the child as well as the circumstances. She would like the school system to consider short suspensions for senior high school students.

Ms. Zepp's remarks echo comments made by teachers. At a recent union forum on what happens if a teacher is suspected of abusing a student, several teachers said they felt professional reputations were harmed even if the allegations against them turned out to be baseless.

But even students who threaten a teacher with allegations of abuse so they can receive a higher, undeserved grade have no sanctions to fear, teachers complained.

Providing sanctions would balance the system and let students know that they will be held accountable for lying, Ms. Zepp said.

Thomas Paolino, president of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, which represents about 3,900 educators, said the climate regarding abuse is such that one male teacher found himself under investigation this fall for embracing a high school cheerleader. The cheerleader was his daughter.

Mr. Paolino said he would back disciplinary measures against children who knowingly make false accusations against teachers.

The increase in accusations started after Northeast High School teacher Ronald W. Price admitted on television last April that he had had sexual trysts with more than a half-dozen students.

He is serving a 26-year prison term for convictions related to three girls.

Northeast teacher Laurie S. Cook remains on paid leave while the school system investigates to see if she violated school policies. She was acquitted of charges that she had a sexual liaison with a student.

Two other county teachers are facing similar charges.

The county school system has been the subject of two inquiries into how it handled charges that teachers were abusing students.

School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II resigned in October amid allegations that he was largely to blame for the school system's poor handling of such cases.

The school system is under a state mandate to make changes in policies and procedures in the areas of abuse and harassment.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.