Ex-teacher pleads guilty to sex offense with girl

He left county system, then was hired by city

April 04, 2007|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

A former teacher who had been hired by Baltimore City schools after leaving the Baltimore County school system amid questions about his relationship with a 13-year-old student entered a guilty plea yesterday to a charge of committing a sex offense against the girl.

Timothy Nicholas Gounaris, 50, entered an Alford plea, in which a defendant concedes that prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a conviction but does not admit guilt, to a third-degree sex offense charge. In exchange, prosecutors dropped five of the six charges - including second-degree rape and perverted practice - lodged against the former teacher at Pine Grove Middle School in Carney.

Gounaris, who could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, also must pay a still-to-be-determined amount of restitution for the girl's medical expenses. In addition to psychiatric counseling, the girl has been hospitalized twice after suicide attempts, according to her mother.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr. said he would sentence Gounaris within 60 days.

Although Gounaris was not charged until last November, Baltimore County school officials had known of concerns about the teacher since at least January 2006, when they notified police. Gounaris was reassigned to a nonteaching job, and he resigned from the county school system in June. Also that month, a judge issued a temporary restraining order directing him to stay away from the girl, court records show.

In August, as required by state regulations, county school officials asked the Maryland State Department of Education to revoke Gounaris' teaching certificate because he had resigned while under investigation for alleged misconduct with a student. The state did so in late September, meaning he couldn't be hired to teach in any public school in Maryland.

But by then, he had been hired to teach eighth grade at Chinquapin Middle School in Baltimore.

Vanessa Pyatt, a city school system spokeswoman, said Gounaris has remained on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the court proceedings. In the event of a guilty verdict, she said, termination proceedings will begin.

She said the system has not changed its hiring procedures.

The state education department is working with local school systems to come up with a process to ensure that officials seeking to hire a teacher are aware of any suspicions uncovered by another school system, a spokesman said yesterday.

"We're looking at what's doable and what makes the most sense to keep kids safe, and we think we have a workable solution," said the spokesman, William Reinhard.

Gounaris had taught for more than a decade in Harford County public schools, at Magnolia Middle School in Joppa and Fallston Middle School. He began teaching in Baltimore County in 2001 at Sparrows Point Middle School in Edgemere before moving to Pine Grove Middle School.

Several times during the court proceedings yesterday, Gounaris, of the first block of Cardor Court in the Perry Hall area, politely responded, "Yes, sir," to questions. When asked whether he realized the guilty plea would mean he must register as a sex offender, he answered, "I understand that."

The girl's mother, who didn't attend yesterday's hearing, said in an interview that it was important that Gounaris will be required to register as a sex offender. "That, to us, was primary," she said. "We don't want him teaching again. We don't want him around children unsupervised again."

Neither the girl, who is now 14, nor her mother is being named because The Sun does not identify sexual abuse victims.

gina.davis@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Sara Neufeld contributed to this article.

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