Grasmick lauds changes for handling sex abuse


The head of Maryland's public schools is praising the plan by Anne Arundel County School Superintendent Carol S. Parham to adopt 23 changes designed to prevent a recurrence of last year's teacher-student sex scandal.

In a letter Friday, Nancy S. Grasmick said Dr. Parham's blueprint would serve as a model for other school systems in the state. Some practices begun last year, such as programs on how to recognize and report sexual harassment and child abuse, already have been passed along to other state school systems, Dr. Grasmick noted.

Implementation of the plan would fulfill the last of a series of seven orders Dr. Grasmick issued to the school system last year.

Dr. Parham confirmed tremendous outside interest in several issues raised by last year's sex scandal, in which a teacher at Northeast High School admitted to having sex with some students.

She said Friday that many private schools have contacted her in recent months.

Interest in proper employee discipline and record-keeping -- two areas the county schools are overhauling -- has been so strong that they will be the subject of a May meeting of the Maryland Personnel Association, of which Dr. Parham is president.

County school board members said they were pleased with the plan Dr. Parham unveiled Wednesday night. "I'm happy that the state superintendent, who last July basically put us on notice that we had major problems, is pleased with the progress we are making," board President Thomas Twombly said.

The 23 proposed changes include policies that would ban employee-student dating and prevent power blocs of teachers from forming in schools. The changes also include plans to draft an employee handbook, strengthen disciplinary rules for employees, and safeguard students and workers who report suspected child abuse. Many of the policies have yet to be written or adopted by the school board.

The changes were recommended in December by lawyer Alan I. Baron, whose four-month probe found that the school system often mishandled allegations of child abuse involving teachers. The complaints were dealt with internally, even though state law says such allegations must be reported to police or social workers.

Dr. Grasmick ordered the probe after Ronald W. Price admitted in April that he had sex with more than a half-dozen students at Northeast High School.

He also claimed that teachers and administrators knew what he was doing, but did nothing to stop him.

Superintendent C. Berry Carter II resigned in the wake of Mr. Baron's findings. Price was found guilty of child abuse and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. A Circuit Court judge later took five years off the sentence, saying that Mr. Price had cooperated with police investigating sexual allegations against other teachers.

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