Northeast teacher reinstated

August 18, 1994|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Sun Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County school board last night reinstated with back pay a 45-year-old Northeast High School teacher who was accused of sexually abusing a student more than 20 years ago.

Essentially the decision came down to whether the school board believed the testimony of teacher Brandt C. Schanberger or his accuser, said Michael A. Pace, the school board president. Mr. Pace said the school superintendent failed to prove her charges of misconduct and immorality.

Police investigated the accusation but did not press charges. But Superintendent Carol S. Parham ordered a probe by school system personnel, and charged Mr. Schanberger with misconduct and immorality and recommended he be fired.

Mr. Schanberger appealed Dr. Parham's decision and asked for an open hearing.

"Some members having found the testimony of [the accuser] more credible, some members having abstained and some having found the appellant more credible, less than five members voted to sustain" the superintendent's recommendation that Mr. Schanberger be fired, Mr. Pace said.

It takes five votes on the eight-member board to take such action.

The school board ordered Mr. Schanberger, who has been suspended since December, reinstated with back pay. The board's decision is final.

"I'm delighted with the decision," said Mr. Schanberger, when reached at his Pasadena home by telephone late last night. His lawyer, George C. Lantzas, said in a telephone interview from Virginia that he believes "reinstatement" means Mr. Schanberger will return to Northeast, where he taught social studies.

Neither Mr. Schanberger nor Mr. Lantzas attended last night's school board meeting, where the decision was announced.

The allegation surfaced in December in a report by two independent lawyers hired to examine the reasons for the school system's mishandling of suspected child abuse cases. The report cited a claim by a young woman that Mr. Schanberger forced her to engage in a sex act while she was a student at George Fox Middle School in 1973.

Police refused to prosecute the case, citing insufficient evidence, but the school system conducted its own review. After the school system's investigation, Dr. Parham recommended Mr. Schanberger be fired.

In an unusual move, Mr. Schanberger asked for an open appeal hearing.

A transcript of the proceeding shows the young woman testified that during the alleged incident, Mr. Schanberger "grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed me down" onto mats and "was trying to undress me." She testified he "forced me" to perform a sex act.

Mr. Schanberger took the stand at the hearing and maintained his innocence. He testified he had never had sexual contact with the young woman and did not recognize her yearbook picture.

"He decided on an open hearing so those interested in hearing facts rather than rumor and innuendo would have an opportunity to make their own decision," Mr. Lantzas said. "One thing we wanted to make clear by way of the public hearing was that he was no Ron Price."

Price, a social studies teacher at Northeast, was the first of several teachers to be accused of having sex with students. He was the only teacher convicted.

Two other Northeast teachers, Laurie S. Cook and Charles A. Yocum, were each acquitted on a charge of child sex abuse.

Dr. Parham, after an internal investigation, charged Ms. Cook with four counts of misconduct and recommended she be fired.

Thomas A. Newman, a teacher at the Center for Applied Technology South, the fourth teacher to be tried on a child sex abuse charge, also was acquitted. Mr. Newman and Mr. Yocum are awaiting the results of the school system's own investigation into their cases.

* In other action, the school board voted 7-1 to rename Parole Elementary School after Walter S. Mills, the school's former principal whose landmark 1939 court case won equal pay for black principals.

Mr. Mills died last month, and the community had urged the school be renamed before students return to classes Aug. 29. The school board waived the requirement that a person be dead for three years before a building can be named after him or her, and renamed the school Walter S. Mills-Parole Elementary.

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