The final verdict on how Anne Arundel County schools have handled child abuse charges is "guilty" with a capital "G". Guilty of ignoring child abuse laws. Guilty of putting the system above students' welfare. Guilty of denying a problem existed even after their dirty laundry had been aired all over the country.
Investigator Alan I. Baron's blistering findings came as no surprise, considering earlier investigations showed the schools have been disgracefully lax and deliberately disobedient regarding child abuse laws. This final report shocked only in that it revealed the full extent of their reprehensibility.
The report quotes a 1978 letter from former 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 repeatedly ignored complaints about Ronald Walter Price, who was finally convicted last fall of child sexual 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 this 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 root 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.
The Baron report makes a number of policy recommendations, which the board should adopt at once -- especially a ban on student-teacher dating. Unbelievably, no written policy against this exists. That is true in neighboring counties as well.
Anne Arundel has no monopoly on teacher misconduct. A VTC Baltimore County teacher was just convicted of having sex with a student eight years ago. If these other systems are wise, they will learn from Anne Arundel's mistakes.