Transparency is advised in sex case at Glenelg High

January 10, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,sun reporter

Randy Clark had just completed his first year as principal of Carroll County's Francis Scott Key High School in 2001 when the unthinkable happened - two young female substitute teachers were accused of having sex with male students.

For the next week, Clark and his school were under a microscope, and he was peppered with inquiries from the media, concerned parents, staff members and students. Clark said transparency and time were key to getting the school back to normal.

"I think our school system, and we, handled it the way it needs to be handled," Clark said yesterday from his Union Bridge school. "We didn't hide anything. We didn't put anything under the rug. I think our parents and community appreciated the way that we were addressing the situation."

On Monday, students, staff members and parents at Glenelg High School learned that a popular history teacher, Joseph Samuel Ellis, had been charged with several sex crimes in which he is accused of exposing himself to one student in a classroom, sending suggestive computer messages to another and persuading a third to meet him at a park with the promise of alcohol.

Ellis, a 25-year-old Elkridge resident and 1999 graduate of Oakland Mills High School, was arrested Friday night. He is charged with child abuse, two counts of fourth-degree sex offense and two counts of solicitation of a minor. If convicted of all charges, he faces a maximum of 37 years in prison and a $52,000 fine. He was released Saturday and is free on $150,000 bond. He has been placed on administrative leave by the school system.

Yesterday, Sherry Llewellyn, spokeswoman for the Howard County Police Department, said search warrants had been served Friday and Saturday morning at two locations, but she did not identify the locations or say whether if anything was seized. It is unknown when Ellis' first court appearance will occur, said T. Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the office Howard County state's attorney's office. It also is unknown whether Ellias has retained a lawyer.

Ann DeLacy, president of the Howard County Education Association - the union representing 5,500 employees, said she could not comment on whether Ellis had contacted the organization for legal assistance.

"I can't release any of that information," DeLacy said.

DeLacy was Ellis' consumer science teacher at Owen Brown Middle School. "Joey was an excellent student," she said.

She added: "He came from a very nice family. I remember the parents being very involved."

On Monday, students and staff members were informed of the allegations and Ellis' arrest. Members of the school system's Crisis Intervention Team were sent to the school, and parents were informed of the situation via e-mail and a letter from Principal Karl Schindler.

Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the school system, said that Schindler has been advised not to comment on the case.

"Everything went smoothly [Monday]," Caplan said yesterday. "There was a lot of shock and disbelief - the kids and staff both - it was unsettling."

Ellis was arrested Friday night in response to allegations made earlier in the day by three Glenelg High female students.

One, a 17-year-old, said that Ellis had exposed himself to her and tried to force her to touch him while the two were alone in a classroom in December, according to charging documents. She also alleged that Ellis sent sexually explicit text-messages.

Through the course of interviewing the first student, police also discovered two more students who alleged inappropriate behavior by Ellis.

Another accuser, a 16-year-old girl, said she met Ellis at an undisclosed Columbia park last summer - after he promised to provide her with alcohol - and that he committed a sexual offense against her. She also alleged that Ellis sent her text messages of a sexual nature.

A third student reported receiving inappropriate sexual content from Ellis on her computer. Additional charges stemming from the alleged incident could be filed later.

Police and school officials have declined to disclose whether the students were taught by Ellis.

Ellis has not returned several messages from The Sun left on the home number listed in court documents.

Ellis, described by students as a popular, good-looking teacher, has taught at Glenelg since April 2005. He is also an assistant coach for the school's varsity football and boys lacrosse teams.

Clark, the Francis Scott Key administrator who has been a principal in Carroll County for a decade, said the public should understand that the actions of one teacher do not detract from a school.

"It is one individual," Clark said. "It does not reflect all the good things we do for students."

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