Arrest of teacher shocks Arundel school Students, co-workers are stunned by charge of child pornography

April 20, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang and TaNoah V. Sterling | Dan Thanh Dang and TaNoah V. Sterling,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

The arrest of an Arundel High School teacher charged with possession of child pornography has deeply shaken and divided students, who knew him as a leader in youth theater and the writer of a highly praised play on child abuse.

Bruce Edward McDade, a 24-year speech and drama teacher, is being held without bond at the Prince George's County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro, awaiting a bail hearing at 9 a.m. Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge James E. Kenkel.

A raid on his Greenbelt home Thursday uncovered computer images of boys engaging in "sexual intercourse, masturbation, and other sexually explicit conduct," according to an affidavit written by Postal Inspector Thomas E. Boyle filed in the U. S. District Court.

The affidavit said that Mr. McDade was trading child pornography on America Online, a computerized information network.

The arrest was the culmination of a five-week investigation into a tip received by the U.S. Customs Office and the U.S. Postal Service. Officials expect to charge him with illegal trafficking and importation of pornography next week, according to Customs spokesman Timothy J. Holloran.

Word spread rapidly throughout Arundel High yesterday as morning announcements over the intercom system informed the school about Mr. McDade's arrest and announced that another teacher would take over his five classes, students said.

Throughout the day, students whispered of the charges against Mr. McDade to each other in the hallway. Some said he was innocent. Others walked by his class and screamed "molester," said Nicole Tesch, 17, a junior at Arundel.

A heartbroken group of drama students said they stood fast in their support of their teacher, who friends described as a computer buff.

"To us, he was a role model, hero and mentor," said junior Danny Byrnes, 17, a member of the drama club who was visibly distraught yesterday afternoon. "For me, personally, he was a father figure. Anything I have in my life with any structure to it, I owe to him. He's changed my life."

"He has not let us down, and we feel that we're better people for what he's done for us," Danny said as his friends and fellow drama club members nodded in agreement. "We don't want to be associated with anything negative about him at all."

Wrote anti-abuse play

A 1995 Arundel High Yearbook showed pages and pages of theater productions he directed, including "Charlotte's Web" and Arsenic and Old Lace." It also praised him for such ideas as the Arundel Caravan Traveling Troupe, which put on play performances at area elementary schools.

Students and colleagues also mentioned an anti-child abuse play written by Mr. McDade called "My Own Little Boy." It was widely praised this year at the state Thespian Festival when his ++ students performed it in Montgomery County.

Authorities are not alleging any link between the charges and the school computer network or to any Arundel students.

"When he is released, he will be reassigned to a position in the central office" pending resolution of the case and of a school system probe, said Jane Doyle, schools spokeswoman. Mr. McDade's neighbors said police scaled the fences in their adjacent back yards to surround his two-bedroom townhouse in a complex off Research Road, before agents broke out the windows on his front door.

Built drama program

Mr. Boyle's affidavit also said there were "a large amount of toys, games and videos despite the fact that there are no children living at McDade's residence and he claims not to have children."

L Neighbors said they never saw children in Mr. McDade's home.

Barbara Zucco, a drama coach at Meade Senior High School, said the toys and videos were for his "niece and nephew who used to visit often."

Mrs. Zucco said her friend was a devoted teacher who supported his students and was responsible for building one of the county's strongest drama programs.

"Arundel probably has the most complete drama program out of any other school in the county and I have no doubt that that is because of Mr. McDade," said Mrs. Zucco, who has known him for 10 years. "He expected the best from his students. He's their anchor when it comes to drama."

School officials said they learned of the arrest from television broadcasts Thursday night.

"I was shocked," said Assistant Principal Davidson Watts, who came back from visiting his brother at the hospital to hear of the news. "I had no idea that there would be any reason . . . or suspect that anything like that was happening."

"He was a good teacher," Mr. Watts said. "One who worked well with his students. You don't stay [24 years] in one place unless things are working out well there."

Pub Date: 4/20/96

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