The final verdict on how Anne Arundel schools handled child abuse charges is "guilty" with a capital "G". Guilty of knowingly disobeying the laws regarding child abuse reporting. Guilty of putting the system's reputation above students' welfare. Guilty of denying a problem existed even after their dirty laundry had been aired all over the country.
As blistering as it was, investigator Alan I. Baron's findings came as no surprise. Earlier investigations showed that the schools have been disgracefully lax and deliberately disobedient regarding child abuse laws. This final report shocked only in that it reveals the full extent of their culpability.
The report quotes a 1978 letter from former Anne Arundel Superintendent C. Berry Carter, blasting a principal who did the right thing by not covering up for a teacher charged with assault. It shows that former Northeast High principal Joseph Cardamone ignored repeated complaints about Ronald Walter Price, who was finally convicted this fall of child sex abuse. It condemns current Northeast principal Joseph Carducci, who was so anxious to dismiss the Price scandal that he refused to let distressed teachers and students get counseling.
What are we to learn from all this?
The teachers' unions view Price as an isolated case and the subsequent controversy as mere hysteria. But there is no witch hunt against teachers. We know only a tiny fraction of educators are guilty. The problem is that for years, the system has protected its bad apples, and now it is trying to toss them out. If teachers seem under siege, perhaps it is because two decades' worth of questionable behavior is coming to light all at once. Since the Baron probe, 63 cases of alleged teacher misconduct have been turned over to the authorities -- cases that occurred sporadically over a 16-year period, but which school officials never reported.
hTC The Baron report recommends 10 changes in policies and record-keeping of abuse complaints. The board should adopt them at once -- especially a ban against student-teacher dating. Such relationships ought to be verboten, yet no written policy against them exists. That is true not just here, but in neighboring counties as well.
Anne Arundel is the focal point of this scandal, but it has no monopoly on teacher misconduct. A Baltimore County teacher was just convicted of having sex with a student eight years ago. If other systems are wise, they will look at their classrooms and learn from Anne Arundel's mistakes.