Four Anne Arundel County teachers were fired this year based on allegations of child abuse or related offenses -- as many in one year as in the previous nine years combined, school system records show.
The four teachers, including two substitutes, were among nine employees fired for misconduct against students, said P. Tyson Bennett, a lawyer who represents the county Board of Education.
Of the four teachers, one was accused of "improper touching," while the others were accused of child abuse, an offense which can include both physical and sexual abuse. All cases were turned over to the police or social services departments, records show.
This year, 22 of 31 cases of alleged child abuse by faculty and coaches have been dismissed as unsubstantiated by the school system.
The information was released by the school system following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Capital in Annapolis.
Ronald Walter Price, a former Northeast High School teacher accused of having sex with three young women while they were his students, resigned May 28. Because he resigned before disciplinary action could be taken, he is not included as one of the four teachers who were fired.
"There really has been an explosion of complaints that have come in this year -- I think one obvious reason is the Northeast situation," Mr. Bennett said. "I also think that finding out somebody else has come forward gives others the courage to come forward."
In addition to the teachers, three coaches were fired this year: one for giving alcohol to students and two for using inappropriate language. Also dismissed were two teaching assistants, one for child abuse and another for "inappropriate touching."
Mr. Bennett said School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II deserves some credit for an increased willingness by school personnel to report possible abuse.
"Every administrator knows him, and I think there's been a lot more of 'I'll pick up the phone and ask Berry Carter what does he think of this?' " Mr. Bennett said.
Early in the school year, Mr. Bennett joined officials from the county Department of Social Services in conducting principal workshops on child abuse and the regulations that deal with reporting cases. The number of cases of misconduct toward students reported to school system officials rose from 16 last year to 53 this year.
In the last 10 years, 171 cases of school personnel misconduct toward students have been investigated -- which means that 30 percent of all the complaints occurred this year.
Among the employees accused of misconduct toward students over the past 10 years were 139 teachers, 13 substitutes, four teaching assistants, seven coaches who were not teachers, five coaches who were teachers and one media technician.
Allegations have ranged from pulling a student's hair and taping chewing gum to a student's forehead to using corporal punishment and making racial remarks.
Of the 171 cases, 52 were found to be unsubstantiated. Fifty-one were referred to the county Department of Social Services' child protective services division and 12 to county police.
Twelve cases resulted in dismissal. Other disciplinary actions included reprimands, suspensions and transfers.