Parkville school drops molester from work on play He had volunteered as lighting consultant

March 07, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Parkville Middle School's production of the musical "Annie" will go on as planned this weekend without its volunteer lighting designer -- a convicted child molester who is awaiting sentencing in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Principal Stephen A. Edgar said yesterday he has reversed his decision that allowed Charles William Danforth III to be in the school to set the lights in recent weeks, calling it "the worst mistake I ever made."

The lighting will be handled by teachers and parents, Edgar said.

Danforth, who listed his residence as Essex when charged in August, pleaded guilty in January to a third-degree sex offense on charges of fondling three boys in the lighting booth of F. Scott Black's Towson Dinner Theatre between December 1995 and August, said Assistant State's Attorney John P. Cox.

Danforth, 33, is to be sentenced Thursday. Cox said Danforth is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with children.

Edgar said he agreed several months ago to let Danforth into Parkville Middle on the condition that he always work in the presence of another adult and only after children had left the school.

But Edgar said Danforth worked on the lights this week during two evening rehearsals with the cast of 120 students.

"When it became evident to us that [Danforth] was around children on these two instances, we decided this was not appropriate, and as of [Wednesday] this individual will not be associated with our play," Edgar said.

The school also received an anonymous call this week complaining about a child molester being at the school, Edgar said.

One teacher, who asked not to be identified, said several teachers were upset about Danforth.

"When I heard this I was a little astonished," the teacher said. "He has no business being in a school."

Edgar said he takes full responsibility for the decision to allow Danforth to set up the lights.

"I believe it has caused a stir, and we are very concerned about the error I made," Edgar said.

Valerie Kuzniarski, president of the school PTA, defended Edgar yesterday, saying, "It could be a very dangerous situation, but he handled everything properly."

"The gentleman was there because he had skills in lighting that no one in school knew," said Kuzniarski, whose 13-year-old daughter plays an orphan in the musical. "He was working side by side with several other people."

Edgar told the PTA executive council about Danforth last night.

"They were very concerned," said Edgar, who plays Franklin D. Roosevelt in the musical. "I apologized to them."

Danforth could not be reached for comment yesterday. Directory assistance had no listing for him. A man and a woman answering the telephone at the home of Charles Danforth Jr. said Charles Danforth III was not home and would have no comment.

Show times for "Annie" are 8 p.m. today and tomorrow at the school, 8711 Avondale Road.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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