Northeast High baseball coach Harry Lentz has been vindicated.
The cloud that has hung over his head since June, when a former colleague accused him of sexually harassing her, dissipated the moment she chose not to testify against him at a school administrative hearing earlier this month. Annapolis High teacher Marlene Ramey's decision to back down from her accusations poses the inevitable question of why she did so. Was she afraid of retribution from the school system? Suddenly queasy about putting herself in the limelight? Or did she just not have a case against the coach?
As far as Mr. Lentz is concerned, the answers do not matter. Mrs. Ramey's silence amounts to total vindication, a fact the Anne Arundel County Board of Education promptly and properly acknowledged by returning him from a temporary desk assignment to his Social Studies classroom.
Sometimes charges of wrongdoing can leave a stain even after they have been removed, but, happily, that seems unlikely in this case, considering that parents, students and former students have taken the coach's part from the beginning. After 26 years at Northeast, Mr. Lentz is something of a local legend; the general feeling was that he could not have, would never have, done what Mrs. Ramey said he did. To his supporters, Mr. Lentz's exoneration before the board merely confirms what they knew all along.
Indeed, more than one of them believes school officials owe Mr. Lentz an apology for taking Mrs. Ramey's charges seriously in the first place, causing him embarrassment and upset.
But school leaders, having suffered richly deserved criticism for failing to act on signs of other employee wrongdoing (i.e. Ronald W. Price), cannot be faulted for promptly investigating the charges against Mr. Lentz. Because Mrs. Ramey confided her complaints to them privately, it would have been easy for officials to keep the matter quiet and do nothing; the coach's popularity surely made that an attractive option.
But dismissing potentially embarrassing complaints on the assumption that they're groundless or ignoring them in hopes that they'll disappear is the very mistake they made with Price. They were right not to repeat it with Harry Lentz.