Examiner clears teacher of having sex with teen

March 14, 1995|By Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel | Carol L. Bowers and Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writers

Former Northeast High School teacher Laurie S. Cook should be returned to classroom teaching because the student who claimed he had sex with her lied, a hearing examiner has found.

The examiner's confidential report, obtained by The Sun, said there was no evidence Ms. Cook had sex with a 14-year-old male student during the 1991-1992 school year or that she wrote hall passes to cover up a female student's affair with another Northeast teacher.

Hearing examiner William M. Ferris concluded that the male student "fabricated the story of his sexual activity with [Ms. Cook] and that his mother and sister have simply attempted to support his claims."

He wrote that he "believes that [the student] originally made up the story of his intimacies with Ms. Cook because his very good friend . . . who apparently later recanted them, made claims of engaging in such activities with her."

Ms. Cook was arrested in May 1993 on a charge of child sex abuse and was suspended with pay. In December 1993, she was acquitted in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

Last year, Superintendent Carol S. Parham asked the school board to fire Ms. Cook based on four allegations of professional misconduct. The school board hired Mr. Ferris to hear the case. His 25-page report was distilled from more than 40 hours of testimony over eight hearing dates in December and January.

"We are not commenting on the substance of the report and are surprised it is out there," said M. Cristina Gutierrez, one of Ms. Cook's lawyers.

P. Tyson Bennett, who presented the Board of Education's case against Ms. Cook, said he was under "my client's orders not to comment."

In his report, Mr. Ferris criticized the way Anne Arundel County school officials handled the case. What was lacking, he said, were key documents, such as hall passes, and witnesses, including the male student's father.

A school investigator interviewed 22 people, but her findings were rejected by Mr. Ferris, who faulted the report because it consisted of summaries of statements and did not include verbatim exchanges and sworn statements.

However, Mr. Ferris wrote that he found "extremely convincing" testimony from a female student who claimed Ms. Cook had written hall passes so that she could hide in-school liaisons with another Northeast teacher, Ronald W. Price.

Mr. Ferris said the girl's testimony left him "with the strong impression that Ms. Cook felt that she had done something 'wrong,' " but that there was not enough evidence to show what that might be.

Ms. Cook, assigned since last summer to an administrative job at the Carrie Weedon Science Center, said she wants to return to her position at Northeast.

Typically, the board discusses personnel matters privately before and during its twice-monthly meetings. The next meeting is tomorrow night, and the board could vote then on the recommendation.

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