Anne Arundel County police say they have received more than a dozen phone calls from potential additional victims of a Northeast High School teacher and softball coach charged last week with sexually abusing one of his students.
Capt. Michael Fitzgibbons said the calls came in over the weekend to the answering machine at the Criminal Investigations Division in Crownsville after news of Ronald Walter Price's arrest was publicized Friday.
Timothy F. Umbreit, Mr. Price's attorney, said in a statement released yesterday that his client does not "deny the factual basis" of the charges against him, but does "deny criminal responsibility." In the statement, he said Mr. Price suffers from an illness that school officials have known about "for some time."
Captain Fitzgibbons said investigators will be interviewing the potential victims to determine if additional charges should be placed.
"We encourage anyone who is a victim to call the Child Abuse Unit," he said.
Mr. Price, 49, of the 200 block of Edgevale Road in Brooklyn Park was charged Thursday with a fourth-degree sex offense, child abuse and performing perverted sex practices after a 16-year-old student told authorities she had engaged in a consensual relationship with Mr. Price since she was 14.
Child abuse is a felony and carries no statute of limitations, Captain Fitzgibbons said. The maximum penalty is 15 years.
Mr. Price, who taught social studies and was a varsity softball, boys soccer and Drama Club coach at the Pasadena school, was placed on administrative leave without pay. He has been with the school system for 25 years.
In an interview with WJZ-TV Channel 13 Saturday, Mr. Price said the incidents were not planned and that they just "happened."
Representatives from both "A Current Affair" and "The Montel Williams Show" were contacting the local media yesterday, jTC inquiring about the case against Mr. Price. Captain Fitzgibbons said he was being interviewed by "A Current Affair," and a representative from the show said yesterday it was being given an "exclusive."
According to Mr. Umbreit's statement, school officials knew of Mr. Price's illness "for some time, but did not offer any assistance to either party for liability and budgetary reasons."
Neither Mr. Umbreit nor Mr. Price could be reached yesterday for further comment.
School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II said he had not been informed of any illness affecting Mr. Price.
"You have to take what his attorney says with a grain of salt," he said.
Mr. Carter refused to discuss the particulars of Mr. Price's case. But in such situations, he said, if there is evidence to back up the allegations, he would recommend to the school board that the person be removed from his position.
"We can't act upon unsubstantiated allegations," Mr. Carter said.
Mr. Price has been married three times. His last two wives were former students.
Mr. Umbreit did not name Mr. Price's illness in the statement, but described it as "both debilitating and treatable."
The statement describes both the 16-year-old and Mr. Price as "courageous" victims and challenges school officials to address the problem and "not to react with hypocrisy and false indignation."
5l Mr. Carter said he is unsure if counselors will be made available to students when they return to class tomorrow.
"We have been through Dr. Emory," he said, referring to Patricia Emory, the former principal of Severna Park Elementary School who was charged with being a drug kingpin in October, only to have prosecutors decline to ask a grand jury to indict her. "Now we have this. This has not been a great year."