Grease Paint and a Breach of Trust

July 14, 1995

The recent report that someone costumed as a clown is hiding behind bushes and enticing or frightening children in an East Columbia apartment complex was certainly unnerving. Residents of the Stevens Forest Apartments are left to wonder anxiously, what kind of nut would masquerade in floppy shoes and a green wig? Will he be caught? It's a Batman movie come to life, where the ne'er-do-wells dress in macabre get-ups.

As unnerving as that item, another story yesterday was even more disturbing. The accused wasn't some deranged Emmett Kelly but a person trusted and central to children's lives.

A teacher at Hammond Middle School has admitted to supplying alcohol to six of his students on the final day of school a month ago. According to court documents, he drove them to his home to drink, left the students there alone and returned to find a few of them drunk or hung-over. Todd Keith Greenleaf now faces criminal charges. As for his teaching career, he offered his resignation to the county Board of Education. Prudently, the board did not immediately accept it. However great the temptation to wash its hands of this mess, the board grasped its larger responsibility to await a full investigation and then determine whether it should ask the state to revoke Mr. Greenleaf's teaching certification in Maryland.

Staff and parents at Hammond Middle are, understandably, stunned. The teacher was reputed to have had a good rapport with students, shooting basketballs with them in the schoolyard and progressing in his 2-year-old career teaching social studies. He told his principal he knew he would be fired after the incident, but had no better explanation.

Residents can't make sense of some idiot in a clown suit and may even find the potentially harmful situation laughable because it is so far removed from normality. But a 28-year-old teacher chauffeuring and buying booze for 12- to 15-year-olds and not knowing better? Especially following the barrage of publicity about inappropriate teacher relationships with students in neighboring Anne Arundel County? How is that possible?

We hope the clown mystery is unraveled quickly before harm befalls anyone. As for the school incident, unfortunately, it has already left scars in the community that won't quickly heal.

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