Pupils at Glenwood Middle School were astonished to learn yesterday that a well-liked mentor -- who taught them sex education and not to drink and drive -- has been accused of paying a 15-year-old Baltimore boy to perform sex acts and of driving under the influence.
The teacher, Klaude Krannebitter, 35, of Baltimore, did not report to work this week and submitted his resignation yesterday before being arrested about 10: 30 a.m. as he was leaving the Howard County Department of Education offices on Route 108 in Ellicott City.
Krannebitter had been a health education teacher at Glenwood for 12 years and coached baseball, junior varsity basketball and varsity basketball at Glenelg High School until spring 1996.
Pupils were stunned when they heard the news yesterday afternoon in their classes.
"Everyone had this look of astonishment," said Jamie Beck, 14, an eighth-grader who has been a pupil of Krannebitter's for three years. She said she and many other girls at the school cried when they heard the news -- and afterward, when it began to sink in.
"He was the best teacher," Jamie said. "If you were feeling really bad or down in the dumps, you'd walk into class and he'd make a funny face and you'd be smiling the rest of the day."
She said Krannebitter taught her and her classmates sex education, how to protect themselves against rape, the effects of taking illegal drugs and the dangers of drinking and driving.
"It really makes me question people's moral values because you've got to practice what you preach," she said. "I'm really confused now."
Krannebitter, charged with six crimes yesterday, including fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault, was released on $10,000 bail. He lives in the 700 block of Charing Cross Road in Baltimore.
Krannebitter could not be reached for comment last night.
Patti Caplan, public information officer for Howard County schools, said education officials had no knowledge that Krannebitter engaged in illegal sexual activities, and she said she had not heard of any students complaining about inappropriate behavior.
"That is always a concern, but nothing of that nature has ever come to our attention," she said. "Obviously, you hope that if anything did occur that the child would tell an appropriate person."
Counselors to be at school
She said the school system would have counselors and a crisis intervention team at the school for several days.
Glenwood Principal Daniel J. Michaels sent a letter to parents yesterday informing them why the teacher resigned and reassuring them that officials acted "quickly and effectively." "Students frequently display a variety of reactions; ranging from fear, anger, concern for safety, sadness, and acting-out behavior," he wrote. "All of these are normal responses to a disturbing event."
Arrest was Sunday
Sgt. Steven E. Keller, a public information officer for Howard County police, said Krannebitter was arrested Sunday in the Glenwood area and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
A 15-year-old boy was in the car, Keller said, and the officer became suspicious when Krannebitter said he did not know the boy's last name.
"It became clear that something was going on," Keller said. He said the boy was interviewed Sunday and told officers that he had known Krannebitter for about six months. Police said the boy told them he was paid for sex acts and sexual contact.
Keller said Krannebitter had picked up the boy about 11 a.m. in Baltimore and driven to Glenwood, where the alleged sex offense occurred.
Keller said the teen-ager is not a student of Krannebitter. The Sun is not publishing the name of the youth because he is a minor.
Under Maryland law, Caplan said, public school teachers must not have a criminal record when they are hired. But after they are hired, she said, no annual checks are made.
"That is only as good as the date that it was done, and that does not preclude things happening after he was hired," she said. Caplan also noted that "there may be things going on that were not on his record."
"From what I understand, he was a very popular teacher," she said. "Because of that, it's going to hit this community very hard."
As they picked up their children from school yesterday, parents talked among themselves about the news. Many were surprised, angry and worried.
"I heard it on the radio," said Fran DiFerdinando, father of seventh-grader Rose DiFerdinando. "I'm upset. I didn't know Rose had him for a teacher. That really upsets me. As a father, you want to be protective of your daughter."
Lisa DiFerdinando said her daughter was too embarrassed to talk about the sexual charges and instead said they would have to read the principal's letter.
"It's very scary that it's here at the school with our child in school," she said. "I guess because it's his subject it surprises me more. That's where I'm more upset than anything, because here he is teaching the kids health education and different subjects in this area."
Marleen Beck, Jamie's mother, said she was as stunned and disappointed as her daughter.
"He was an excellent teacher," she said. "Whatever he did in his private life never seemed to have crossed the line."
Pub Date: 3/25/99