Probe into school sex scandal defended

March 18, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

The lawyer who investigated Anne Arundel County schools' mishandling of allegations that teachers abused students defended his report, his interviews and recommendations last night before a group that included some of his harshest critics.

"You may disagree with some of the things in here, but it ain't a whitewash," Washington lawyer Alan I. Baron told about 30 people who attended the session at Board of Education headquarters.

The school system hired Mr. Baron from a list of investigators provided by state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. She ordered the investigation of the school system's failure to properly deal with allegations against teachers in the wake of the Ronald Price teacher-student sex scandal at Northeast High School.

The four-month investigation by Mr. Baron, who was paid $106,000 by the county school system, found that former Superintendent C. Berry Carter II had directed that accusations involving teachers be handled internally -- even though state law mandates that all suspicions of child abuse should be reported to police or social workers. Mr. Carter resigned in October.

Since Mr. Baron's report was issued in December, critics, who include parents and school employees, have complained that he was unfair to Northeast in his approach and that he advocated not disciplining administrators who followed Mr. Carter's direction and did not report suspicions of sexual and physical abuse.

Last night, Mr. Baron deflected much of the criticism by saying rTC his task was to focus on what he called an "ugly topic." He said he was not hired to evaluate "the marching band," but rather to report what he found out in "dozens and dozens and dozens" of interviews and in school system records regarding complaints of child abuse.

Several people said the report omitted efforts by the school's Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) to help children at Northeast deal with their emotions after Price's arrest, did not say that the Board of Education rather than Principal Joseph Carducci directed much of what went on during those weeks and failed to strike a balance because school secretaries and other employees were not questioned.

The report, Mr Baron said, "reflects accurately what we were told." He said he was unaware of the PTSA work with students, and he said his finding that there had been chaos at the school resulted from several interviews with psychologists who had been sent there.

Parents disagreed last night over who directed or prevented counseling for students.

Two parents complained that administrators who failed to report suspected abuse are not being disciplined.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the countywide Council of Parent Teacher Associations, reiterated her longstanding argument that if administrators knew the law well enough to report parents suspected of abuse, they knew they should have been reporting teachers as well.

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