Penalties for false reports of abuse opposed by PTA


Anne Arundel County's school board should be trying to protect students who allege they are being abused by teachers, not threaten sanctions against those who may be lying, said the president of the County Council of PTAs.

PTA council President Carolyn Roeding's statement echoes concerns raised last month by two independent lawyers who investigated the school system's handling of child abuse cases dating to the 1970s.

Alan I. Baron and Eleanor M. Carey, the investigators, expressed outrage that two Northeast High School students who had accused teachers of sexual abuse were made so uncomfortable that they had to transfer even before the teachers' trials.

One of the students had her story passed around the school on paper, in the form of a dirty ditty written to the tune of "The Brady Bunch" theme.

"The system's failure to address this harassment must be addressed," Mrs. Roeding said. "Procedures must be developed for administrators to follow in dealing with incidents involving abuse of students by employees."

Mrs. Roeding said the PTA council believes that threatening to punish students who falsely accuse teachers would deter students from reporting good-faith allegations as well.

"And who is going to determine whether the allegation is false?" asked Mrs. Roeding.

One of the Northeast High School teachers accused of child abuse, Ronald W. Price, admitted he had been sexually involved with students and was convicted on three counts of child sex abuse.

A second Northeast teacher, Laurie S. Cook, was acquitted by a jury whose members said there were discrepancies in statements made by some of the prosecution witnesses. But prosecutors have said they will not press charges of perjury against any of the witnesses.

"Only 1 percent of the 528 complaints filed with the Department of Social Services last month were complaints by students against teachers," Mrs. Roeding said. "But 42 percent of the cases were made by teachers reporting suspected child abuse in students' homes. What about sanctions against school employees who falsely accuse parents?"

A spokesman for the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County has said that the union keeps no statistics on students who falsely accuse teachers.

Neither does the county Department of Social Services.

But in the current atmosphere, representatives of the teachers union say many teachers are reporting threats by students to file child abuse complaints against them in response to discipline or a low grade.

TC Mrs. Roeding said the PTA council is calling once more for punishment of school employees who in the past have failed to report child abuse.

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