Ex-Park teacher accused of abuse

Man, 60, is arrested

student from 1970s alleges incidents

July 25, 2006|By NICHOLAS SHIELDS AND LAURA BARNHARDT | NICHOLAS SHIELDS AND LAURA BARNHARDT,SUN REPORTERS

A former teacher at an elite Baltimore County private school has been accused of sexual abuse by a student who came forward three decades after the alleged incidents because she learned that he had returned to teaching in another state.

Stanley Virgil Ashman, who taught at the Park School from 1972 to 1997 and, more recently at another school in Michigan, is accused of having sex with a then-14-year-old girl at his Baltimore home and at the Park School.

The headmaster of the school issued a statement yesterday saying that officials became aware of the allegation in 1997 and reported it to state social services officials.

The state keeps a database of child abusers that is shared with educators and others conducting background checks, a spokeswoman said yesterday. It was unclear yesterday whether police investigated the allegations against Ashman nine years ago.

Officials at the Roeper School, which educates gifted students in suburban Detroit, said their background checks on the teacher, including the most recent one in April, had come up clean.

Randall Dunn, the head of the Michigan school, issued a statement saying there had been no complaints about Ashman. He said Ashman, a social studies teacher, taught at the school for six years.

Cathy Wilmer, a math and English teacher at the school and mother of two boys who were taught by Ashman there, said she was shocked to hear of the allegations.

"He took great care with everything he did with the kids," she said. "We really have nothing but high regards for the man."

A woman who had been a student of Ashman's in the 1970s at the Park School contacted police in May to say she had been sexually abused, according to court records. The woman told police that as a youngster she sometimes watched Ashman's children while he graded papers at his home in the Pimlico area of Baltimore.

She said they had sex several times a week through her ninth-, 10th- and 11th-grade years, usually at the teacher's house. She also said they had sex in a wooded area at the school and in a closet, the court records show.

In May, police overheard a telephone conversation between the woman and Ashman in which the former teacher admitted to having sex with her when she was 14, and repeatedly apologized, according to court records.

Ashman, 60, was charged in a warrant with child abuse, police said. He was arrested June 9 in Michigan and was extradited to Baltimore County on June 20.

He was released on $25,000 bond, and is staying with friends in the area, police said.

Ashman, who is known as "Butch," is a former Marine and Vietnam veteran.

At Park, Ashman, along with a Vietnam war protester, taught a history course on the ethics of violence and nonviolence. He was also selected to work on a summer research project for the school on how best to teach history, according to news accounts.

In Michigan, members of the Wilmer family said, Ashman imparted his experiences while teaching a military history class at the Roeper School.

"He was the best teacher I ever had," said 17-year-old Nathan Wilmer, who will be a freshman at the University of Chicago. "I've always know him to be somebody of great integrity."

Laura Panek, a biology teacher who said Ashman served as a mentor for her, said, "I've trusted him completely with very personal things and he's never been anything but supportive."

The Park School is a coeducational, prekindergarten-to-grade-12 school of nearly 900 students in Brooklandville. The school emphasizes debate and individual thought and expression, according to its Web site.

In a statement released yesterday, David Jackson, head of the Park School, said he met with Ashman in 1997 after learning of the allegations against him, and the teacher then resigned. He told Ashman that the school would not be a reference for any future employment, and there has been no communication between the teacher and the school since, according to the statement.

Russell P. Butler, executive director of Maryland Crime Victims' Resource Center, says children can be protected by something as simple as a call to check a reference, but it is harder to track down information about potential hires, especially across state lines, when an allegation hasn't resulted in a conviction.

The state of Maryland keeps a database of child abusers that can be used by educators, law enforcement officials and others conducting background checks nationally, said Elyn Jones, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Resources.

The state places a person on the registry when an investigation finds evidence that they have abused a child. The finding would mean that there was evidence to warrant criminal charges against that person, Jones said.

The person's name would remain on the registry even if charges were dropped or a person was found not guilty. A name can be removed from the registry by administrative appeal, Jones said. The state does not keep records when a claim of abuse is found to be unsubstantiated, she said.

In a case such as Ashman's, social services agencies at the county or state level would not investigate because the victim was already an adult when the allegation was made, Jones said. Instead, Jones said, the information would be forwarded to police.

Baltimore County and Baltimore City police were not able to say yesterday whether they had investigated the matter nine years ago.

Baltimore County police yesterday asked anyone with information to call the department's Family Crimes Unit at 410-853-3650.

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

Sun reporters Nicole Fuller and Liz F. Kay contributed to this article.

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