Rule against student-teacher dating OK'd after struggle

June 16, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

A little more than a year after the first of four teachers was charged for having sex with a student, the Anne Arundel County Board of Education approved last night a policy designed to keep employees and school volunteers from dating or having sexual relations with students.

The policy, approved by a 7-1 vote, states employees and adult volunteers in schools may not kiss students, make phone calls or tapes or write letters of a sexual nature or have sex with students among other offenses.

Possible disciplinary action for doing so includes a written reprimand, suspension or dismissal.

Board member Thomas E. Florestano cast the sole vote against the policy because it grants exceptions for adult students attending evening high school or in other adult education programs.

"Absolutely no exceptions," said Mr. Florestano.

But board members Joseph Foster and Maureen Carr-York insisted on having a way to handle unusual situations, such as when a school system employee's spouse or "significant other" attended night school.

Specifically, the policy would allow an employee or volunteer in that situation to apply in writing to Superintendent Carol S. Parham for a waiver.

The policy also means that if student board member Desira St. Pierre's 19-year-old boyfriend, who already graduated from high school, wants to volunteer at a school car wash, he would need a waiver.

Board members spent about 40 minutes debating the language of the policy -- their third try in the past few months -- while audience members snickered as the policy became more difficult to interpret.

At one point, an impatient Carolyn Roeding, president of the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, chastised the board.

"This is ridiculous," she said. "Employees and students should not be dating. This is the third time this has come back. It's incredible that adults have to spend this much time on a common sense issue. Employees and adult volunteers should not date students."

But Ken Lawson, associate superintendent for instruction and student services, said even with the exception, the policy "is on the cutting edge."

He said Carroll County, and a few colleges and universities, were the only educational systems in Maryland with similar policies.

The issue came to the fore in April of last year when Ronald W. Price, a teacher at Northeast High School, was arrested for, and confessed to, having sex with a 16-year-old student. He was convicted and is serving a 21-year sentence.

Three other teachers -- including two at the same school -- also were charged last year with child abuse for alleged relationships with students. They were acquitted by juries.

But when an investigator hired by the board found that many teachers interviewed didn't believe it was child abuse for a teacher to date an older student, they recommended enacting a no-dating policy in their December report.

In other business, several parents raised the issue of whether racial discrimination occurred in the suspensions and expulsions of seven black students after fights on two days in March at Severna Park High School.

"The administration may not admit it, but there are racial problems at Severna Park High," said Marjorie Jones, whose son was not involved in the fight, but was expelled. "My son had nothing to do with that fight, but on somebody else's say-so, he was expelled and now he's being prosecuted."

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