Employee-student dating ban studied

May 03, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County school board members will get their first official look tomorrow at a proposed policy aimed at barring dating between school workers and students.

The draft policy clearly bans dating and sexual involvement between school workers and students up to age 21 -- including those in evening high school and adult education programs. Punishment for paid employees could be as severe as firing. The proposal also would ban such relationships between volunteers and students.

The proposal is an effort by school officials to address one of the more than two dozen recommendations in what is called the Baron Report, a probe ordered last year by the State Department of Education into the county school system's failure to properly handle allegations that teachers sexually molested students.

The $108,000 study headed by lawyer Alan I. Baron was done after state investigations indicated that school officials knew about Northeast High School teacher Ronald W. Price's sexual liaisons with students but failed to act.

Price was convicted in September of charges connected to three students, and school Superintendent C. Berry Carter II resigned in October.

At the time Mr. Baron made the recommendation, some school officials expressed dismay that employees wouldn't know they are not supposed to have sexual relations with students.

School spokeswoman Jane Doyle said the proposed policy is subject to change. "It will be open for considerations, for possible problems. We will look toward working out those flaws."

Teachers union President Thomas J. Paolino said he already sees pitfalls.

"I know the intent of the policy: They don't want teachers or other employees dating students," he said. "But that's not what it says."

Mr. Paolino mentioned several scenarios that the draft policy covers that may be unintentional, but said he didn't know how to word a policy to be more even-handed.

"What do you do with an 18-year-old senior -- who could be dating a high school junior -- and the senior is doing work-study dTC for the system? If she graduates in May and in June gets hired as a secretary, and if she is dating a junior -- who would now be a senior -- she is now in trouble. That is a real concern," he said.

"Adult education, I think, is a real problem. If you are 20 years old and taking an adult ed course, you can't date or have a relationship with an employee," he said.

The addition of volunteers "is another whole gamut," he said, because the proposal could be read to cover students who earn their community service credits by volunteering in other schools. They could be banned from dating other students.

"I'm sure that's not the intent," said Ms. Doyle, the school spokeswoman.

Board Vice President Joseph Foster said he expects the draft will "be fine-tuned."

The school board also will take up two other policy proposals stemming from Mr. Baron's report.

One explains proper reporting procedures for suspected child abuse and neglect. It states that a school worker who fails to make a report can be fired and lose his or her teacher certification. It further states that anyone who files a report will not be harassed.

The other proposal would expand the regulations covering how the school system handles complaints of alleged sexual harassment to spell out parental involvement.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at Board of Education headquarters on Riva Road in Annapolis.

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