Officials find no abuse report

Park School head says Balto. Co. was told in '97

July 26, 2006|By LAURA BARNHARDT AND NICK SHIELDS | LAURA BARNHARDT AND NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTERS

Baltimore County authorities said yesterday that they can find no records of any allegations being raised in 1997 against a private school teacher now charged with sexually abusing a student decades ago.

County police and social services officials said a records search produced no evidence that they had received a report in 1997 from the Park School of allegations against the teacher, who went on to teach in Michigan before his arrest last month.

Stanley Virgil Ashman, who taught at the Park School from 1972 to 1997 and more recently at a private school in Michigan, is accused of having sex with a then-14-year-old girl at his Baltimore home and at the Park School in the 1970s.

The headmaster of the Park School said in a statement that he learned about the allegations in 1997, met with Ashman and immediately contacted social services officials.

The issue could be central to questions about how the teacher was able to move to Michigan and begin teaching at another school, which apparently was unaware of any abuse allegations.

Maryland law requires educators, doctors, nurses, police officers and human-services workers to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities, according to state and county social services officials.

Educators are obligated to notify authorities about suspected child abuse regardless of the accuser's age, said Stephen Berry, a policy specialist at the state Department of Human Resources. "Even if the alleged maltreater is deceased, [educators] still have an obligation to report the abuse," he said.

Maureen Robinson, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County Department of Social Services, said the agency has a database of calls it receives and can trace reports by an alleged victim's name, but no record of the school's call could be found.

"I'm not saying they absolutely didn't call," Robinson said. "But our systems don't reflect that."

A spokeswoman for the Park School said yesterday that David Jackson, head of the school, called the county social services agency in September 1997 when he learned of allegations against Ashman and met with the longtime teacher. As a result of the meeting, Ashman resigned in 1997, Jackson said in the statement, released Monday after police announced Ashman's June arrest.

The county agency "was given the name, address and phone number of Mr. Ashman," said Hillary Jacobs, a Park School spokeswoman. Jacobs said the school did not write a letter to the county, but that Jackson had kept his notes from the phone conversation with the authorities.

Jackson was unavailable for comment, Jacobs said.

Public schools in Baltimore County are required to follow up phone calls to social workers with letters so that there are written records to show the school has met its obligations to report suspected child abuse, Robinson said.

The former student, who is 46 years old, contacted police about the alleged abuse in May, because, police said, she had heard that Ashman returned to teaching. The woman told police that she and Ashman 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 at the school, the court records show.

The woman declined to comment yesterday. The Sun does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

Ashman, 60, was charged in a warrant with child abuse in June, police said this week.

The state keeps a database of the names of people who have been investigated by social workers when allegations of child abuse are substantiated, said Berry, of the state Department of Human Resources. But access to it is limited.

While the state receives hundreds of requests from adoption agencies each month, it is far less common for schools to routinely check the registry in their background checks of potential employees, Berry said.

Officials at the Roeper School, where Ashman taught social studies to gifted students in suburban Detroit, said their background checks on Ashman, including the most recent one in April, had come up clean.

Jacobs, the spokeswoman for the Park School, said school administrators had never received any requests for information about Ashman's teaching record there. And, in the statement released Monday, Jackson said that he had told Ashman that the school would not be a reference for him.

Randall Dunn, head of the Michigan school, said Monday that Ashman taught there for six years without incident. Dunn said that Ashman resigned from his teaching position last month and informed the school that he had been taken into police custody.

Ashman, who was arrested June 9 in Michigan, was extradited to Baltimore County on June 20. He was released on $25,000 bond, police said.

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

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